Mother Saves Family From WaMu Foreclosure With Consumerist's Executive Contact Info

Arlene got behind on her mortgage payments and had been trying for 6 months to contact her lender, Washington Mutual, to see if they could work out a deal. All she found was disconnections, non-returned phone calls, contradictory information, and no answers. After reading my article in Reader’s Digest about ways to get customer satisfaction she sent me an email. She was ready to try the “town crier” method, where you stand outside the business passing out copies of your complaint letter, but we gave her some executive contact info to try first before wasting any money at Kinko’s. Arlene says that thanks to the phone numbers we gave her, “They are going to suspend the foreclosure for 60 days and work with me on the payments for a set period of time which is all I ever wanted them to do.” Once again, the almighty power of executive customer service has been revealed. Arlene’s original email, inside…

Dear Mr. Popken,

I recently read with great interest your article entitled Satisfaction Guaranteed in the recent May edition of the reader’s Digest.

Since November I have been living a nightmare in trying to contact someone in a position of authority at the Washington Mutual Bank in regard to my mortgage, to no avail. Apparently you can go into any of their branches and fill out paperwork to get a mortgage but if you run into a problem you are just out of luck.

Over the past six months I have been disconnected more times than I can count while navigating their 866 “customer service” number. No one in their company has the presence of character to sign a name to any form letter correspondence never mind give a direct phone number to personally speak to. I have written letters to the members of their Board of Directors without any response. I have contacted officials, Senator Frank Lautenberg and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen whose attempt to contact the bank on my behalf have also gone ignored. Correspondence I have received from Washington Mutual is sporadic and schizophrenic at best.

I received a request to inform them of any hardship I may be experiencing and promptly replied with an explanation and a proposal that would benefit us both only to receive a denial of my request (in a timeframe too short for them to have properly reviewed it) one day and literally another letter the next day asking for additional information because they want to work with me.

After six months, I recently received a phone message with a first name and extension to call. Upon calling the number (you STILL have to navigate the 866 “customer service” AND the probability of being disconnected is high) I reached an answering machine with a message that says you can ONLY leave one message and you will receive a call back within 24 hours…not so. I have found myself going back and forth waiting for a reply call to actually talk to a human only to receive another denial of the proposal I resent. This latest letter (received today, Friday) was dated BEFORE the recent phone call.

After finally getting through the “customer service” for Wa PU I spoke to a loan person who basically told me my file was closed in Feb. and everything I had sent after that was for nothing and oh by the way they are selling my house in June……. I guess that was supposed to be a surprise…..

I understand that Washington Mutual is on very shaky financial ground (AND SO IT SHOULD BE!) and it is my hope they receive NO outside financial support because their business practices are DEPLORABLE.

…I truly appreciate your help. I am at my wits end, it has been a VERY stressful six months…If it was just me to worry about it would be one thing but I do have three children who will also be affected.

If bombarding their board members has no results, I may type up my complaint and stand outside one of their busiest branch offices and bring my plight to their entering customers. How can they not want to work with people to find a solution?

Thank you for your article and some direction.

Here’s the contact info we gave her:

Executive Response Team
Customer Relations Manager
Washington Mutual Bank
(800) 225-5497 Opt. 1 Ext. 467
Fax (206) 965-3082

There’s also (206) 377-8196, (206) 461-2000, (206) 461-6414, or (206) 461-8779. Try asking for Ms Cindy Modica, VP of Quality Service Management.
Also check out this post for additional tips for dealing with executive customer service: http://consumerist.com/consumer/howto/be-a-customer-service-ninja-177811.php

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. savvy9999 says:

    nice job Ben. Does it feel good to know that your site/work can sometimes have a profound effect upon real people and families?

    ***warm fuzzies for Consumerist!***

  2. geekpdx says:

    wait a minute…

    “I understand that Washington Mutual is on very shaky financial ground (AND SO IT SHOULD BE!) and it is my hope they receive NO outside financial support because their business practices are DEPLORABLE.”

    I have no idea why Arlene fell behind on her mortgage payments. Maybe she signed up for a loan she couldn’t afford, maybe something happened to her financially beyond her control. Doesn’t matter to me – but it does strike me as very hypocritical to suggest that WaMu doesn’t deserve any help, when she’s asking for help – from WaMu!

    I really wish that people would understand what would happen to our economy if all these big bad corporations all vaporized at once because we wanted to spite them for our own mistakes.

    Disclosure:
    WaMu holds my mortgage. A 30 year fixed mortgage – that I can afford. Their mortgage folks have always been nice to me.

  3. sega8800 says:

    yep, cheers for consumerist!

  4. cheera says:

    @geekpdx: I think she was expecting, at the very least, to get a response from the company. Arlene sounds like a reasonable woman, I’m sure she understands that WaMu cannot stop everyone from drowning, but she wanted the dignity of a response from the company that was, so shortly ago, gladly taking her money.

  5. sega8800 says:

    @geekpdx: it might be her own fault, but i think if she can try to pay for her mortgage is better than the house being foreclosed and won’t be able to sell.

  6. SadSam says:

    Why do these banks operate like this. I know we should all be hating on these folks who are behind on their mortgage but it benefits all of us if they can get on a payment plan and stay in their house.

    We have two foreclosures on either side of a property we own. Who do you think is cleaning up those properties and mowing the lawns and trying to get the Dept. of Health to address the pool (a/k/a health haz) in the bank yards? We are, my husband doing the heavy lifting and me making the calls, the expense (boarding up the properties to keep the homeless out) out of our bank account. The bank isn’t even trying to sell one of the two properties.

  7. mike says:

    This is deplorable. This woman should stand in front of the branch anyway. It shouldn’t take CEO action to get a mortgage figured out.

    Me thinks that the bank *WANTS* the house to default. Maybe they know something she doesn’t.

  8. zentex says:

    @SadSam: perhaps you should invoice the bank for the work you are doing…or just stir up some shit with the local authorities about code violations.

  9. mike says:

    @SadSam & @zentex: I’ve always found “It looks like a brothel” works really well.

    But I agree with cheera. It sounds like this woman was trying to do something outside of the help the government is doing. This is the attitude that banks should embrace. At least she didn’t just walk out and leave.

  10. Wormfather says:

    @geekpdx: Or, I could explain what happens when the fed mortgages America to save these companies. Meet me at the local Exxon station at 5PM.

    P.S. It wont take long.

    More direct, no these companies do not deserve bail outs. They made very unsound decisions and the weakest banks deserve to be bought out or have its pieces sold in a fire sale. They arnt even trying to help them selves, instead of restructuring loans with clients they are going buisness as usal 90 days late, bye bye house.

    That activity would be fine and well but they cant even sell the houses that they are forclosing on. What eventually, happens is that they sell a $300K house for $150 and then the property value all around crumbles. They’re just screwing themselves more but they dont care, Bernanke is waiting to save them. And then when the fed cant possibly drop the rates anymore without the not just American but global economy colapsing, the get their panties in a bunch, sell off 3% of the dow and line there coffers with the profits made during the recent gains. Leaving the the oh so important american people to foot the bill even further. So yeah, let the big finance companies get themselves out of this mess the same way they got into it.

    I am however very happy that this lady was able to keep her house. The idea of a family being displaced makes me sad. Maybe this is the begiing of saying hey, maybe its better to work with people than with the Sheriff’s office.

  11. geekpdx says:

    @ cheera and sega8800:

    Whether or not she was treated politely and properly by a bank struggling to stay afloat should have no bearing on whether a bank deserves financial help. Well, actually, in a perfect world it should. Until we get there though, we have to rely on financial viability.

    Getting an agreement to refi or work with her on payments is indeed advantageous to both parties (and the rest of the economy). It’s obviously the best outcome. If WaMu had a hard time getting it’s act together – but finally did… shouldn’t that be as forgivable as a homeowner who can’t make their payments but wants to work something out?

    My point is saying that WaMu deserves no help after asking WaMu for help (and finally getting it) seems hypocritical and short sighted.

    Forgot this bit in my first post:
    Kudos to the Consumerist for helping people get their problems resolved.

  12. Wormfather says:

    Oh and to be more clear, great job Ben, keep up the good work. Now go get to the bottom of this tomato problem, chop, chop!

  13. LiC says:

    I think everyone’s missing the point of this article. That is that the Kinko’s brand name CANNOT die, mwuahahaha.

  14. LosersHaveCreditCardDebt says:

    Another fiscal fool that bit off more than she can chew. I don’t believe her story. I think Washington Mutual told her they can’t help her. No equity, upside down, ect. She either doesn’t understand english or won’t take no for an answer. Lady, did you read your mortgage note? Probably not.

  15. Burgandy says:

    @Wormfather: Now go get to the bottom of this tomato problem, chop, chop!
    Its comments like this that get me strange looks from people here at work.

  16. sodden says:

    @geekpdx: “but it does strike me as very hypocritical to suggest that WaMu doesn’t deserve any help, when she’s asking for help – from WaMu!”

    The difference is that WaMu won’t have any trouble asking for help and probably getting it, whereas she can’t even reach someone in a position to listen to her request.

    It doesn’t strike me as hypocritical if I were trying to ask for help from someone who refused to listen to me, and then for me to wish that person could never get help either. In fact, it seems to be the exact opposite of hypocracy.

  17. gibbersome says:

    Yay! Keep up the good work!

  18. sodden says:

    @geekpdx:”My point is saying that WaMu deserves no help after asking WaMu for help (and finally getting it) seems hypocritical and short sighted.”

    But she said it when she was finding herself unable to get help from WaMu. Please re-read the letter. She was told her house was being sold in June and everything she’d sent since Feb was for nothing. At THAT point she wished WaMu receives no help, and then goes on to say she’ll go out and hand out complaint letters outside their busiest office.

  19. Gopher bond says:

    @SadSam: What are the laws about treating a piece of property as your own, maintaining it for a certain period of time and it becomes legally yours. Sure, it might take several years but with the way the economy is going, you might be able to triple your property portfolio.

  20. @LosersHaveCreditCardDebt: You don’t know her circumstances, so keep your yapper shut. It’s clear from the article that she’s much more responsible about her obligations than certain other folks we read about here (*cough*Canseco*cough*)

    There are a number ways people can fall behind mortgage payments that are out of their control. Illness, loss of job, divorce, death in the family, etc. etc.

  21. FatLynn says:

    Everyone please take note that *THIS* is what executive customer service is for. Please don’t abuse it with whining about a $30 late fee, because then people like Arlene can’t get through.

  22. Wormfather says:

    @FatLynn: It’s all relative, there was a time in my life that I would have walked into the CEO’s office with a gun in my hand for $30. Assuming I could afford to get there and afford a gun. You add in an endless line of unhelpful and arrogant CSRs and you get to the exec may in fact need to be called.

    Also, so if my bank steals $30 from me and I’ve exahsted all resources to get it back, am I supposed to give up instead of bringing it to “the man”. How is that fair?

  23. cmac says:

    In all likelihood, WaMu doesn’t own the actual debt portion of the mortgage. It was likely sold as part of a massive CDO. WaMu likely only owns the servicing portion to collect payments, late fees, etc. (Yes, these two items can be separated.) In this common scenario, WaMu makes more money by her being late than by helping her work out a payment plant.

  24. cmac says:

    @cmac:
    plan…payment plan.

  25. coren says:

    @LosersHaveCreditCardDebt: UNLEASH THE TROLLS!

    But Pixelantes makes a good point. What if she suffered some sort of injury preventing her from working – banks would foreclose for that. just ask everyone’s favorite Carson sidekick.

  26. Kajj says:

    @Pixelantes Anonymous: @coren: Loser is just a shitty person who swoops in to insult anyone who writes in about anything relating to debt of any kind.

    Clearly Loser is a millionaire who throws down cash for everything. We should be thankful that Loser is too busy hot-tubbing with supermodels to post more often.

  27. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Nah. Loser is probably just mad that his black and white TV gets such lousy reception in his parents’ basement, and that they won’t up his allowance. Or he’s an angry McCain supporter. Or both.

  28. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @LosersHaveCreditCardDebt: You are a sad, pathetic person. Please troll elsewhere.

    Awesome job, Ben! I hope everything work out for you, Arlene.

  29. ShanghaiLil says:

    @geekpdx: @

  30. craptastico says:

    Arlene is right, WaMu does deserve to be on shaky ground for lending to deadbeats like herself. she signed to a contract, and then when she’s unable to meet her end, she acts like a victim. I agree with her about the telephone menus, as they’re designed to resolve most problems by attrition, rather than actually helping, but let’s not make it out as though she was wronged

  31. Nytmare says:

    @craptastico: “she signed to a contract”.

    A contract for large stakes always needs room for a little error, especially one between unequal parties.

  32. Burgandy says:

    So when do we get a button to ignore a certain poster?

  33. ImCrying says:

    Glad that she gets to keep her home.

    On the foreclosure subject, [www.somethingawful.com] just had a wonderful piece.

    Who do you blame for the current recession?

    Rudy Guliani – Immigran

    “Are you having trouble making your mortgage payment? Do you have the same salary you had when you bought the house? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of those then it’s you. I blame you.”

  34. raisitup says:

    “I understand that Washington Mutual is on very shaky financial ground (AND SO IT SHOULD BE!) and it is my hope they receive NO outside financial support because their business practices are DEPLORABLE.”

    it would be nice to know how OP got into her situation so i can decide whether or not to scoff at this comment.

  35. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @Burgandy: Seriously. I was begging for that months ago.

  36. cashmerewhore says:

    @geekpdx:

    Despite all the annoying voice prompts, Countrywide is nice to me when I get a human on the phone. I’ve had to call them three times since they purchased my mortgage three years ago. That’s a decent track record….

  37. Faerie says:

    Seeing as I was in a similar situation with my own mortgage company, I do feel for Arlene. When bad things happen and you are trying to work out a plan that would be beneficial to both parties, the mortgage companies are simply dropping the ball. I’ve been trying to work with my mortgage company since December on my house/loan and they’ve managed to lose the paperwork more times than I can count. After sending something in and confirming that they’ve received it, I’ll follow up in a few days to check on the status and they’ll tell me it was never received. I’ve had more than one phone call where the company can’t even tell me if I’m still in review with the short sale department, if it’s in foreclosure or if I need to talk to collections. I’m bounced around from department to department and no one can provide me with answers or tell me what I need to do next. 6 months later and I still don’t have any answers, despite being told in mid-February that they’d have it settled in 3 weeks. These mortgage companies are a disaster right now and seem to want to do very little to try to work with people, despite it being in their own best interest to not foreclose on the homes and have more inventory that they can’t sell.

  38. Wow, Ben. That’s such a heartwarming and great story.

  39. FatLynn says:

    @Wormfather: Well, each situation is unique. “WaMu took $30 for no reason” is really different from “WaMu took $30 because I bounced a check but I have a heartbreaking story about why I did that”. My point is simply that we should collectively choose our battles.

  40. Parting says:

    @geekpdx: Stop acting as holy ass.

    It’s in WaMu best interest to renegotiate a deal, that way they will continue to make money off this customer. If they sell the house, they definitely won’t cover the morgage amount. So from cynical capitalist view, it’s a win/win situation for everyone.

  41. Parting says:

    @Faerie: Too much internal bureaucracy is as bad for the company, as general mortgage crisis.

    Good organization can make a difference between loosing a couple of billions, or a couple of millions.

  42. @linus: Yes, they want the house to foreclose so they can either short sell it or re-write the mortgage, and they will drag their feet because all these folks are waiting for the big gov’t bailout that will never come.

  43. drjayphd says:

    @Imaginary_Friend, @coren, aaaaand @Pixelantes Anonymous: All right, who was the last one to use the Banhammer and where’d you leave it?

  44. sean77 says:

    @drjayphd: yes, let’s ban people who don’t want to hear from!

  45. Silversmok3 says:

    Unfortuantely its in the banks better interest to foreclose on a property then to work with the borrower.

    Its simple. Working with the borrower maintains the status quo, versus forclosing first and asking questions later, as once the process is done the bank gains the property, and can pursue the borrower for the difference via a judgement.

    Because the bank doesn’t profit on modifying the loan, but does with foreclosure, guess what they prefer? And why paperwork and records are ‘lost’ whenever the borrower needs to contact the bank?

  46. ChuckECheese says:

    This is a pleasant story. And I would feel better if, in the caption photo, Arlene and her child were safely inside her house, rather than outside it.

  47. amason1945 says:

    You haven’t made a mortgage payment in six months and you need The Consumerist to help you contact your lender? I’m sorry but I am just not buying this. Trust me, lady, your mortgage lender DOES NOT want to foreclose on your property! It costs them anywhere between 50-75,000 USD. Did you try going into a Washington Mutual branch? Are you unable to navigate automated phone systems? I’m sorry to not be jumping on the “bash the mortgage company” bandwagon here, but there is definitley more to this story.

    FYI, once you are officially in foreclosure, it is very difficult for your lender to work with you. They can’t just snap their fingers and make everything okay, especially when you aren’t making payments.

    “Apparently you can go into any of their branches and fill out paperwork to get a mortgage but if you run into a problem you are just out of luck.” That’s kind of how mortgages work, right? You don’t make payments, you are out of luck. Sorry, everyone, but I have a hard time believing that in 6 months this individual has not been able to speak to someone knowledgeable at her mortgage company. They may not have been telling her what she wanted to hear………..which is, “oh, it’s okay, you can stay in your house without making payments, because you are such a good person.”
    When our friends went into foreclosure, the mortgage company was calling almost every day. Believe me, they know where you are.

    Tired of this particular complaint, folks. Have to call BS on this one.