I want to share with you a Kafka-esque conversation I had today with a representative at Wells Fargo Bank.
But first, some background.
Back in December, my accountant pointed out that I'm apparently paying twice, through automatic withdrawals, for online banking each month. One payment is for $14.95 and is clearly listed as a Wells Fargo online banking fee…the other fee for $15.95 and is listed as an "Online Bill Payment Services Fee."
I called the bank and questioned them about the charges. They said that the ""Online Bill Payment Services Fee" wasn't from them. When they called the number associated with the account, they got "middle eastern music." So I had them put a stop payment on the withdrawal, effective immediately. They did that, said they would investigate the matter, and told me to call back in a couple of weeks for more details on who was taking my money.
So that's what I did. But when I called back, with my claim number and everything, the agent had no idea what I was calling about. I gave him the back story.
"Some entity calling itself 'Online Bill Payment Services" has been withdrawing fifteen dollars a month from my account," I said.
"That is correct. We have stopped that transaction. It won't happen again."
"That's great. Who are they?"
"A bank," he said.
"Your bank?" I asked.
"I can't tell you that information," he said.
"I can't answer that question," he said.
"Because that's not my department," he said. "You will need to speak to another department."
"The department that answers questions?"
"I don't appreciate the tone of your voice," he said. "I will send the department a request. They will get back to you in three days. Or maybe more."
"With the name of the bank," I said.
"They might," he said. "Or they might not. They may not know, either."
I took a deep breath. "Okay. Is there anything stopping this other bank from just withdrawing a different amount of money from my account next month? Say, $15.97 or $1500?"
"No, there isn't"
"Can't you put a stop to any automatic withdrawals from my account from that other bank?"
"No, because it's not the bank that is withdrawing the money, but rather a person or business who has an account with them."
"Okay, now we're getting somewhere," I said. "Can you tell me the person or business that is that is taking my money?"
"No," he said.
"So how do I stop this person or business from making withdrawals from my account?
"You have to call Wells Fargo customer service and ask them to put a stop payment on all withdrawals from the person or business."
"But you won't tell me the name of the bank or the person or the business that is taking my money!"
"That is correct," he said. "You don't have to yell."
"I am closing my account," I said.
"It would be easier to put a stop payment on the person or business that is withdrawing your money."
"BUT YOU WON'T TELL ME WHO THEY ARE!"
"That is correct. Can I be of any more service to you today?"
UPDATE 1/25/2011: After that infuriating call, I took a "time out" and called Wells Fargo again. I spoke to a different representative, who was only slightly more helpful.
She was pleased to tell me they were reversing $47 in charges paid to whoever was taking my money. That's only a fraction of what I've lost, but okay, it's a step forward.
She went on to say that the withdrawal is coming from New York Clearing House on behalf of Mid-Peninsula Bank (which a quick web searched revealed was taken over by Wells Fargo in 2007).
She said that, short of me closing down my account, there was nothing they could do to help me prevent future unauthorized withdrawals from Mid-Peninsula Bank. Nor were they willing to help me figure out who at Mid-Peninsula Bank was withdrawing my money, nor were they willing to give me any information I could take to law enforcement to try to figure out who was taking my money.
So I closed my checking account and opened a new one. But because all of our other accounts are at Wells Fargo, and I didn't want the hassle of starting anew at another bank, I ended up staying there.
I went down to my local branch and had a new checking account in about ten minutes. Even so, I am not happy customer.