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Dear Washington Mutual,
I am a long time user of your banks. I signed up at one of your Westwood branches because of your witty advertising and I stayed loyal because of your Grade-A customer service, most notably your people working the phones.
Because I am headed for a short summer vacation next week I checked out my online statement a few nights ago and saw two charges onto my debit MasterCard that I didn't recognize, so i clicked the little envelope icon to the right of dollar amount and wrote a message in the appropriate box. "I don't know what this is. I don't think it's right."
I saw the same dollar amount, $9.99, charged the month before and I sent a little message on that one too.
The next day I got an email saying that you had received my messages and my bank card would be closed and another one would be arriving in 7-10 business days.
That's right, because I reported something suspicious my bank was shutting ME off from being able to get to my money in the typical way people do things these days: via a debit card that doubles as a credit card.
Basically, my vacation would be ruined because I honestly communicated over a mere $20.
So I called the customer service number, was routed to India - something new with Washington Mutual - and the very polite person said that they could "try" to expedite the debit card reaching me before my vacation started, but they couldn't guarantee it.
That's cool, I said, I will just, you know, walk to the freaking bank and get a debit card made there.
No can do, the Indian woman said, not in those words, but pretty much. The banks do not make those cards, she told me, they come from a central office somewhere secret.
But I got my card originally from the bank, I told her.
Yeah but no, she said.
I explained that all of this was only about $20, and that my airplane tickets were already purchased, a house-sitter had been scheduled, everything for once was set, there had to be a way that I could get something as simple as a MasterCard sent to Los Angeles in a matter of two days.
She said, no. So I asked her to re-direct me to a supervisor because I wanted to complain about this practice.
The representative misunderstood and thought I was going to complain about her, but she was fine, it was the practice of a) decentralizing local banking to the point that it became an huge inconvenience to normal customers b) punishing people for reporting suspicious activity c) not warning people of the consequences or honest communication d) taking jobs away from Americans to handle the details of some of the most important parts of daily life and e) having no alternative for emergency situations.
I was transfered to a supervisor who had a distinctive southern African-American dialect, which made me feel much better, who listened to my grievance, claimed that she would "try" to up the speed of the card being sent to me, but told me that she had no control over the new PIN number that would arrive under separate cover.
I politely told her that that too was unacceptable and if I wanted that sort of treatment I would go back to banking at Bank of America and enjoy their greater number of ATMs in LA.
The next day I went to the bank to withdraw money the old fashioned way, and while I was there with the teller I asked her if it was true that I could not get an ATM card right there at the bank. I pointed at a young man opening a new account who seemed to be receiving a new debit card. He was swiping his card and creating a PIN number.
She said no. It wasn't possible.
I told her that she was very pretty. My mother had taught me that if I had nothing good to say I should say nothing, or find something nice to say.
Yesterday, Washington Mutual, I received a Fed Ex from you. Inside was my new bank card.
Bravo. You went above and beyond what was promised, but exactly what was proper.
You have restored faith in this very cynical and bitter man.
And because I was going to write a post deriding you, it's only fair that I write this post praising you and telling the whole story.
Now let's bring back those jobs to the US.
photo by jrmyst via flickr