BC hit a hiccup on his African safari honeymoon. When he went to pay the adventure company with $100s his wife took out their WaMu bank in ATM, three of the Franklins turned out to be counterfeit.
Back stateside, the WaMu branch manager was unhelpful, claiming, “there was no way to prove” that the $100s came from WaMu and regardless, the cash, “comes straight from the Federal Reserve.”
Uncle Sam may be well into his cups these days, but we’re willing to put good money that the US Mint is not slipping in faked bills to banks.
Rightly, BC rightly closed his account. Though we understand the frustration that led him to it, he should have turboed his issue up the corporate ladder instead of giving up on the first lanky WaMu manager he encountered.
Washington Mutual wears its heart of darkness on its sleeve, in BC’s letter, after the jump.
UPDATE: Limiter brings up a really good point in the comments… based on the timeline, the African safari could have slipped him the counterfeits too!
- “Hey, if you’re interested in another story about how Washington Mutual is the worst bank in the world, how about this one: they hand out fake bills and weasel out of refunding you.
I got married in May, and had only two days between coming back from the wedding and leaving on my honeymoon (Africa: safari and beach). The day before my wife and I left town, we both got a bunch of cash and travelers checks. She went to Washington Mutual, and got a bunch of hundreds; I went to Chase, and got checks and fifties.
Cut to a week later, when we attempt to pay for our excellent 5-day safari with a bunch of the American cash, which we had set aside. The safari company owner took our cash, gave it a funny kind of look, walked out of the room, came back and said “I’m sorry, but these bills are fake.” And he pulled 3 $100 bills out of the bunch that were slightly off-color and of a subtly different paper weight. I’ve been stuck with a couple fake bills in my day — one time I had to go to three dark bars in a row to get rid of a photocopied $50 — but these were the best that I had ever seen. Three-color printing and decently crisp, slightly fabric-y paper. We were obviously surprised and flummoxed. We apologized, he apologized, I cashed some checks at the bureau d’exchange next door and all ended well. [Africa's full of counterfeit bills, apparently, and I don't think it's the first time they had seen this problem.] Next day, we contacted Washington Mutual through their website and let them know the problem, and they seemed considerate and helpful, if somewhat non-committal.
Now it’s another week later, we’re back from Africa and eager to get our money back. Probably not all of it, since one of the fake bills appeared to have been stolen from our hotel room in the interim, but at least we’d like to get a refund on the 2 fakes that we still have. [It’s tempting to say “Joke’s on you” to the thief/ves, but as I noted, fake bills are everywhere in Africa, so I’m guessing that they were used w/o problem).
So we head to the Washington Mutual on 13th and Broadway [NYC], where my wife got her bad bills, and ask for the manager. This young kid comes up, and after hearing our problem immediately starts berating us. “Oh, these are so fake,” he says, “they’re obviously fake, we can’t refund these. These are the worst I’ve ever seen.”
If they’re so fake, we ask, what the hell were they doing in your bank?
After protesting that there’s no way that we can prove they came from his bank, we inform him that, in fact, we basically can, since there were no other big bills in our possession except for my fifties. So after a few minutes, he relents, and says “We don’t check the bills, they come directly from the Federal Reserve,” and he points to the WaMu Cash Dispenser in the middle of the room. “We don’t do anything with the bills, they just come to us and we put them in the machine.” [For those who don't know - when you get money from a WaMu branch, the tellers don't actually hand you the cash, they give you a receipt and then you go to the Cash Dispenser to get your scratch.]
And then he says that perhaps if we had found them on the day of the withdrawal, we could have gotten our money back, but the scorn in his voice betrays that this is obviously a lie — his way of ducking behind the bank’s regulations and ending the conversation. So we leave and pledge to get out of WaMu for good. [I had hated them for a long time due to their awful customer service, their love of dropping random fees on me, and their incredibly long check-cashing hangtime, but this converted my wife to a hater, she had never had a problem with them.]
Now, because you have to go to your primary bank to make changes [which I assumed includes closing the account], and I no longer live anywhere near there, it takes me a while to close out, but I’ve pulled all my cash and automatic bills from there in the meantime. So it’s a long empty account by the time I finally make it to the Grand and Graham branch in Brooklyn [BTW, at one time I believe this was the 2nd or 3rd most robbed bank in the entire city of New York.]
Closing the account was easy. Incredibly, remarkably, suspiciously easy. Not one but two people asked my reason for leaving WaMu, and I told them both the truth. “My wife got fake bills.” Not a single eye was batted! They just pointed me to the right line, and processed my my request w/o further question or concern. Which led me to believe — they’d heard this all before, and they couldn’t give a shit.
So, to sum up: Washington Mutual is run by uncaring, snarky children, they offer *no assurances* that the money you get will be legit, and if it isn’t, you will not get any reparation.
Guess I now know the real price of all those free checking accounts. I mean, can it really be true that there are banks operating today that can’t and won’t vouch for their own cash? I used to bank with Bank of New York, or as it’s known outside of Manhattan, “the Russian Mafia,” and they were bad — but they never pulled this sort of crap. I mean, seriously — does WaMu use those Cash Dispenser machines solely to avoid personal or institutional responsibility for their own cash?”