Check Fraud Leads To Kafkaesque Nightmare For Wachovia Customer

What do you do when you have tried every possible tactic you can think of to resolve a situation, and you can still make no progress? Michael, a 20-year Wachovia customer, now finds himself in just this situation with the bank. No one at Wachovia has the power to straighten out his customer service nightmare that began when someone forged a check on his account back in June.

On June 21, someone went into a Walmart and proffered a fake check. Having seen the image of the check as provided by Wachovia, it is clearly not one of mine. Nothing about that check is correct. Fake name. Fake address. Fake drivers license number. Fake check number. The ONLY thing on that check that has any relevance to my account is the routing and checking account number at the bottom. And apparently, that’s all it takes.

My story starts off pretty great. I was on a business trip to NY and while there, I got a call from Wachovia fraud detection saying that my account appeared to have been accessed. I quickly checked my account and found that indeed there were two transactions against my account that were not mine. My old account was closed and I was given a nice new one. I worked with the assigned fraud person to get my account credited. $486.13-TWICE. I was telling friends the story of how Wachovia caught it quickly and how great they were.

Then, things went wrong. They only credited one transaction, not both. That was when I learned about ACH transactions. These are the electronic checks that are processed from trusted vendors like Walmart. In the case of an ACH transaction, a copy of the original check is not kept. In order to get the ACH transaction removed from my account, I need to simply fill out an affidavit saying I did not authorize he withdrawal and fax it to their department. I faxed the form on 6/28 with the OLD Checking account number. I faxed it again on the 6/29 with the New one.

7/7 I received a letter stating that Wachovia got my ACH dispute but the transaction did not post to that account. (It referenced the old account. The one where the fraud had actually occured.) I called Wachovia back and was told to fax the form again but with the NEW account number. I faxed it.

7/13 I received a letter stating they received my claim of an unauthorized transaction and I needed to FAX the form.

7/14 I faxed the form AGAIN.

7/23 I received a letter saying that they are provisionally crediting my account. CELEBRATION!

9/8 I received a letter saying that they have not received my fax and the credit will be withdrawn in 10 days.

9/9 I called Wachovia and spoke to a customer service rep who assured me that was sent in error.

9/22 486.13 was removed from my account.

9/24 I went to a branch office thinking that surely a person in a bank can fix this. The local
Branch Customer Service Rep was able to look at my accounts see the problem, but do nothing to fix them. She was on the phone for an hour, and SHE WORKS FOR WACHOVIA! Oh, and she faxed the form. She assured me someone would contact me in 3-5 business days.

9/30 Not having heard a peep from Wachovia in 5 business days, I went back to the bank and requested someone who could fix this. I was welcomed by a Personal Banker. She looked at my account. Saw the problem, but again she could not fix it. Guess what. She faxed the form.

I have now spent the better part of 30 HOURS dealing with this over 4 months. In between each of the letters, I have made phone calls. Long, time consuming phone calls. I have spoken to the Loss Management division, the Customer Service department, a Personal Banker, and even contacted Wachovia on Twitter (That was the most useless). I have faxed the stupid, and completely useless, ACH Dispute form SIX TIMES. No one has been able to fix this even though they all can clearly see the problem. Along the way, I have even threatened to close my account. On that occasion, I was transferred to that department and they asked how I would like my money, check or wired to a new account. Heck, even the cable company asks, “Why?”

I’m sure I’m missing some calls and faxes. Early on, I thought this issue was resolved, so I threw away a majority of the paperwork. But, if there’s a date on it above, I have that piece of paper and the documentation to prove it.

What I’ve found is a hole in Wachovia’s customer service system so large you could send the Goodyear Blimp through it sideways.

How is it that every person I’ve spoken to at Wachovia can IMMEDIATELY see the problem but NONE of them can fix it?

How is it that there is NO escalation path? None. I’ve tried nice. I’ve tried mean. I’ve tried in person.

I’ve already opened accounts at another bank. At this point, all I want is my money from Wachovia.

All Consumerist can meekly offer is our last known contact information for Wachovia executive customer service. Wells Fargo now owns Wachovia, so maybe Wells Fargo higher-ups could help with the situation, too.

Comments

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  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Holy crap. If you needed any other excuse to never, ever send a check through the mail, this is it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      It was a frauded check.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Yeah, but they got the checking info somehow.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Why assume it was through the mail? There are plenty of ways to obtain that information.

          • FacebookAppMaker says:

            There sure is! I went into my local TD bank, where both me and my girlfriend opened our accounts, with her debit card, and asked to deposit money into her account, as i owed her about $100.

            They wouldn’t swipe her card, and put the money in the account. Instead, they swiped MY card, put the money in MY account, then transfered the money from my account to her account instantly.

            To top it all off they said “Yeah, we know this is a time waster. So, next time, heres her account number for next time”.

            Again, i opened my account at that bank. So i had her transit # and routing # already. What’s to stop me from opening a paypal account with her banking information (i also know her PIN as i run errands for her often), and siphon money from her account? Or, i could easily forge a cheque with her information on it.

    • AllanG54 says:

      You ever think that maybe someone in the bank passed along a number or that someone went dumpster diving. Or maybe someone in the mailroom where the check was sent copied the number. Even if the check was sent online there would still be a record of the account and routing numbers. I have been mailing checks for nearly 40 years and not in has been lost or stolen.

  2. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Keep trying. Seriously, keep trying. There is one single person, or a couple people acting together, who are holding all the cards here, and nobody in the company will act to take the matter out of those fools’ hands because “it isn’t MY job.” Concentrate on finding who is holding up the works.

    In my case, the problem was with USAA, that so-called MAHVELOUS bastion of FABULOUS customer service that everyone here has screaming orgasms over. One of their flunkies decided that my account was “compromised” because of the transfer that THEY screwed up, and decided to cut me off at the knees and keep my money. The idiot must have had six subordinates and three superiors trying to fix the issue, and she would not listen to any of them because it was HER decision and she was NOT going to change it. Finally someone who I think was the supervisor three levels above her “had a conversation with her” and told her that the proper way to handle the matter was to request additional identity documentation, not treat me like a criminal, refuse to return my phone calls, and make me plead for weeks to access my own money

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Even the best of organizations can mistakenly hire a fuckup. It happens. I wouldn’t’ blame the “so-called MAHVELOUS bastion of FABULOUS customer service that everyone here has screaming orgasms over” for one person’s ignorance.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        Really? Funny how ready you are to jump to their defense. They blamed THEMSELVES. Even before they finally addressed the issue in a sane fashion, I had three or four people say this sort of thing was “common.” Their word, not mine.

    • BBBB says:

      Contact the executive office of Wells Fargo. Give them a couple of days to fix it. Then file a complaint with the bank’s regulatory agency. Then call them again and tell them about the complaint. Then call every two days to inquire about the progress.

      I did this and the tone of the executive office instantly changed from an insincere “we will investigate…” to serious. After over a month of excuses and no information, they had a response letter in two days (I called two days after the complaint to see what was happening and they read the letter to me – the physical letter showed up two days after that. I also got a letter a few weeks later from the regulatory agency asking if the issue was resolved.)

      You can find the regulatory agency at:
      http://www2.fdic.gov/idasp/main_bankfind.asp

  3. zifnab0 says:

    “Every possible tactic?” I don’t believe it.

    1 – File a police report against the fraudster
    2 – Tell the bank to fix your account
    3 – Have a lawyer friend send them a letter threatening legal action
    4 – File a police report against the bank for theft
    5 – Sue in small claims court

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      This. “Theft of funds” is probably appropriate (depending on your jurisdiction), or “conversion”. Ask a lawyer. Small claims court is totally appropriate for this.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        I fully agree, with all you’ve tried, it’s lawyer time now. Chances are, with all the time and energy you’ve spent trying to resolve this you can get them for more than you’re owed too.

        • apd09 says:

          not in small claims court, you are not allowed any type of pain and suffering. The best you can do it go after the amount and add interest to it. Small claims will get their attention but you are only gonna get the amount in dispute.

          /just went to small claims court against Coldwell Bank and settled out of court.

          • DanC922 says:

            Many states allow you to claim a reasonable per-hour rate for time consumed.

          • nakkypoo says:

            You’re wrong, at least as far as it goes in California. I sued someone in small claims last month, and the person up to the judge prior to my case was suing their auto insurance company for pain and suffering and got a $7,500 judgement. You can also get treble damages in small claims.

  4. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    In order to get the ACH transaction removed from my account, I need to simply fill out an affidavit saying I did not authorize he withdrawal and fax it to their department.

    Oh lord, a relative of mine went through this.

    I want to hear from someone who has successfully challenged one of these things.

    • maggiemerc says:

      I successfully did one of these but it was seven years ago and with BoA. Had to fill out that form and fax it. They said they were pulling the money, so I went into a local branch and they fixed it immediately.

      I’m not sure if it was the time or the bank that helped me out that time. Money’s on the time.

    • travel_nut says:

      I actually have. I bank with a wonderful credit union. Last year, a box of checks was stolen while we were moving. Some were processed as checks, others as ACH. The largest check–for $3,500–was returned unpaid due to NSF, but around $1,000 of transactions went through. I went to my branch, filled out a “Stolen Check” form, filled out an “ACH dispute form”, and had the money credited to my account 24 hours later. The dispute was closed and I never heard another word about it after 3 business days.

      Now, the merchant who received the $3,500 NSF check, on the other hand…that was a hellish nightmare. I sent the merchant a police report as well as a letter from the bank stating that the checks were fraudulent. The merchant said tough shit and turned it over to collections. I spent 6 months disputing the charge with collections and that one ended in a letter from a lawyer.

      But, the short of it is, it is possible to successfully dispute an ACH transaction. Maybe it’s because I had a police report, or maybe it’s because my bank is just plain awesome…either way, it does happen.

  5. sleze69 says:

    sounds low enough for

    SMALL
    CLAIMS
    COURT

  6. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    Have you tried faxing them an ACH dispute?

    • quijote says:

      lol!

    • P41 says:

      There should be a law that large organizations need to have a system that gives a return receipt for fax/electronic document with dispute number…

      “Your honor, prior to foreclosure of my house/closing my account/etc, the defendant six times denied receiving my legal paperwork. However, please view the following receipts, showing a clear image of the document sent, listing it as document #ZYX in reference to dispute #ABC. I rest my case.”

      • repeater says:

        Yes!

        A few years back when banks were swallowing up smaller banks and were trading assets around like crazy my IRA kept getting bounced all around to different companies two to three times a year.

        Every single time that happened the process of faxing in the paperwork to the new company was a complete nightmare. For six months I would fax over the documents 2-3 times per week only to get a letter or phone call in return scolding me for not faxing it over.

        Finally someone somewhere in the company would grab the fax and actually enter it in to their systems, and I would be able to enjoy accessing my account. For about a week. Right in time for that company to sell it off and put me through the same process all over again with a totally different bank.

        All of the customer service people at each place admitted it was messed up, and stayed on the phone with me while I faxed it over and confirmed fax numbers and all that. But none of them had access to or even knew anyone in the departments that received the faxes, nor could they explain why nobody ever processed the faxes.

        It makes me nervous that at like five different banks there are piles of my faxes. Just sitting in a corner. With my photo id, social security number and banking history right there. Take one and pass em out to all your friends!

        • rekoil says:

          To be fair, almost all big companies now use software fax systems that don’t actually print to paper, they just store them into a database or ticketing system.

      • Griking says:

        When you fax something you can always get a confirmation that it was transmitted successfully. Of course it won’t show what you faxed but it would be sufficient that you faxed something to a certain number at a certain time.

        • wrjohnston91283 says:

          Those aren’t always accurate. I’ve gotten a sent confirmation and the person who I sent to (who I trust) never got the fax. Granted, it does prove that I attempted to fax in the document, but it doesn’t prove it was received.

  7. Beeker26 says:

    Pretty much my experience with Wachovia. Dumped them 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. The people at the branches are both clueless and powerless, even the managers.

    One thing you can try tho, see if you can email a scan of the document to someone. At least you know this way they get it.

    • jessjj347 says:

      I would not recommend that for security reasons.

      • Beeker26 says:

        Is it tinfoil hat time already? There is no reason to think your emails are any less secure than a fax, especially considering you have absolutely no idea who is manning the machine on the other end.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      I was thinking of dumping them and now they’re Wells Fargo. I’ll stick with this new bank for now.

  8. Jerry Vandesic says:

    The only thing that Wachovia fears is the OCC. They regulate Wachovia. File a complaint with the OCC. Once for each problem. Send a copy of the complaint to their CEO, head of compliance, and head of regulatory affairs.

  9. Woodside Park Bob says:

    Once when I deposited 3 checks at a Wachovia ATM, they credited only one of them. Fortunately it was the large one and the other two totaled only about $20.00. Repeated tries to get them to credit me for the two checks resulted in repeated rejections. Finally someone at my local branch simply issued a credit to my account calling it a “check printing fee refund.” Apparently he had the authority to refund check printing costs but not to correct errors! I didn’t want to continue banking where where I am at the mercy of employees who have to “beat the system” to correct errors, so I now bank elsewhere.

  10. UberGeek says:

    Perhaps the OP needed to send originals, not faxes…

    • larrycl says:

      OMG, I love that dilbert comic. I had this exact problem in real life:

      I was on a business trip, and due to schedule had to check out of the hotel very early in the morning. There was a problem with the printer at the front desk, so the hotel asked if they could fax me a receipt, to which I said sure.

      I later submitted this faxed receipt to accounting for reimbursement, but they wouldn’t take it as they said they needed “the original”. I tried to point out that the original was spit out of a laser printer, and I could easily submit a photocopy without their knowledge, and really a fax was just a low-quality photocopy. Boy, they didn’t like this and got very angry with me, saying ‘how dare I question their policies!”

      Long and the sort of it, I had the hotel mail me a copy of the bill, which I then successfully submitted for reimbursement.

  11. ShruggingGalt says:

    Trying to see where the OP mailed in a dispute, in writing, via first class and certified mail.

    Umm, anyone?

    Once the faxing/calling doesn’t work, you have to write a letter. Then the paper trail will start for a possible legal action…..

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      Exactly. You have to make it their problem for some of these bozos to really, um, “take it seriously”.

  12. SexCpotatoes says:

    Sue them. Small claims court. $25-ish filing fee around here, last I checked. Sue them for the $486.13 + your wages at 30 hours,+ your preparation for the case and $25 or whatever filing fee.

    With your documentation, you will win. This is the only way to go about it.

    • AntiNorm says:

      Do they have mandatory arbitration clauses in their checking account agreements? If so, you’re going to hear Nelson Muntz laughing at you as soon as they receive the lawsuit.

      • gman863 says:

        Mandatory arbitration clauses often have a loophole excluding lawsuits filed in Small Claims Court.

        Even if it doesn’t, some states have outlawed mandatory arbitration regardless of what the fine print states.

  13. LastError says:

    This is why nobody should ever use a check for anything.

    All someone needs to do this kind of fraud is the account number and the routing number, and those are printed on every one of your checks. The very account number you would not give out to anyone is RIGHT THERE. So when you pay at the store or restaurant or pay a bill, all someone has to do is write down that info or text it to someone else and off they go.

    When you use a check, you have NO WAY of knowing who sees the check, how many people handle it or copy the info from it, what happens to the actual paper check, and so on.

    Don’t risk it. Don’t do it. Ever.

    • tbax929 says:

      If you can convince my apartment complex to take another form of payment, I’d happily never write another check.

      • Vandil says:

        Most reputable landlords accept money orders as well.

        • colorisnteverything says:

          Which cost money.

          • jesirose says:

            They’re 60 cents at walmart. The maximum is 1000, so for my rent we have to get two, so it costs us $1.20. That’s worth it. I love using money orders over checks because the apartment complex takes up to two weeks to process a check, and it can make it harder to balance your account. With the MO, the money is gone immediately from my checking account when I use debit. (My BF does his share in cash, so it’s even better for him.)

            So in the year we’ve spent here, we’ve spent $14.40 on money orders. Less than the $35 NSF fee my bank charged on the one bounced rent check the old apartment complex held for 3 weeks before depositing.

    • mharris127 says:

      That may work in your area, but in mine you either write a check or (in some cases) charge it to your credit card. I think in my area only Detroit Edison (the natural gas company) will take payment by ACH transaction (complicated speak for taking the money out of your account). Consumers Energy will accept a credit card or check/money order. The phone company (Frontier), the cable company, the garbage company, the guy I rent my mobile home lot from, and one of my credit cards only accept checks, paystation payments (the local druggist in my case) or money orders. My cell phones are prepaid as I don’t use a cell phone enough to justify a postpaid account (the PlatinumTel dealer I use will take payment for refill time via ACH, surprisingly) so I don’t know about the postpaid cell phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      But the same is true of credit card data.

  14. evnmorlo says:

    Got to love the government that paid for the consolidation of those banks into a headless monster and regulated checks out of existence without adding safeguards.

  15. BETH says:

    Why do you keep faxing the document when that obviously is useless? Send an original by certified mail. I hope you saved the names of the phone numbers of the people you spoke to in the fraud department.

    I wouldn’t bother getting getting a lawyer. It would cost you $1000 to get back your $486.

  16. zekebullseye says:

    They want a fax? Give them a fax. Lots of them, over and over again. Hundreds and hundreds of them every day until it’s fixed. Jam their machine, waste their paper and toner, waste tons of their time. They’ll give up and fix your problem to get you and your faxes off their ass. Keep the fax logs and shame Wachovia with them in court if the problem still isnt fixed by the time you go to court.

    • PunditGuy says:

      I like this suggestion. Have a cover letter that states that your faxes have been misplaced by the bank repeatedly, so you’re going to keep faxing the document until someone in the correct department acknowledges receipt of the document by some certifiable means. Fax every five minutes until acknowledgment.

    • rekoil says:

      You know almost all large companies have moved to electronic fax storage by now, right? They show up as an email or in a ticketing system, not printed out in a machine.

  17. bumblefoot2004 says:

    You should have added at the end of the fax, is very small print, “BTW, I’m going to blow up your bank.” Guaranteed they would “get the fax” then.

    • menty666 says:

      I’m not offering it as a suggestion, but I totally understand why otherwise rational people do snap and wind up mowing down a bank full of people. It’s crap like this.

      Sue ‘em.

  18. Jasen says:

    Wachovia was impossible to work with for me as well. They had purchased my previous mortgage from the original servicer, Chase Bank, and somewhere in the process, made a mundane mistake with a decimal point, changing the PMI from $27.00 per month to $270 per month.
    It took a year of useless phone calls and letters, where no one could figure out how it happened nor how to fix it. Every month I’d be told my mortgage was “late” and every month a customer service rep would tell me to ignore that and just pay what I was supposed to. Eventually, they stopped accepting my payments, and threw them into a suspense account. Then came the letter stating I was $8000 behind.
    I responded with a RESPA qualified written request that was copied to HUD, and at the end hinted I would be filing suit if I found errors in the account.

    A week later I got a letter telling me the mortgage was current, and that Wachovia was giving the entire account back to Chase. ;)

  19. Zoe9906 says:

    Never ever ever ever throw out any paperwork when you have something happen with a bank.

    I learned this a hard way when back a number of years ago I had a small checking account with Wachovia when I was in high school. It wasn’t a free checking account back then and as I was in college I moved on to another bank, but forgot to close the Wachovia account.

    A small fee was charged and then after a few months of being overdrawn the account was closed and I got a collection notice for the overdrawn balance. I paid it off and thought that was the end of it and then threw the paperwork away.

    Fast forward a couple of years and I wanted to move banks again. I walk in and am told that no you can’t open an account with us (or anyone) because it says here in chexsystems that you still owe money on a closed account to Wachovia. (Though the way they it was said to me was more like “No we can’t open accounts for deadbeat criminals. Go away you debt owing deadbeat loser”).

    I go back to the branch to resolve it and of course the files have been shifted around, and the receipt has been lost. It was marked in the banks computer as paid and closed, but no one would take any action because they couldn’t find the hard copy of the payment. I get bounced around between the local branch and the area HQ branch and the general consensus of the people is, “Man, our bad, it will come off the report in 10 years, lolz”.

    On my last try I walked into the area HQ branch and asked to speak to the manager and politely said that I’ve spoken to an attorney and I’m going to retain legal counsel and file a lawsuit against you if this doesn’t get fixed. Less than 24 hours later it’s off chexsysems (With the added bonus that when the manager fixed it she also went one step further and made it so the entire entry about ever having a closed overdrawn account went away) and I’ve moved banks.

    So, never through out paper work when it’s dealing with a bank. And don’t be afraid to tell them that you’ve obtained a lawyer.

  20. Torchwood says:

    I think I will stick with good credit unions.

  21. JuanHunt says:

    Wells Fargo seems to be worse. I had an account at Southtrust, which was bought by Wachovia just a few years ago. That assimilation went smoothly and invisibly. I had a seemingly small problem with WF, and 4 CS reps could not solve it in 30 minutes. I finally closed my business and personal accounts and moved to a credit union, a move I should have made long ago, but just needed the right motivation.

  22. StrangeEmily says:

    Hmm… I just closed my Wachovia account the other day.
    No serious problems really… I needed my tax return check cashed, one that my family had mailed to me from England.

    I was showed the door from Regions. Well, actually they forced me to open an account before they told me “NO” then started charging me monthly fee’s on an account with zero balance, so I ended up negative $5. A phone call got that account closed so that was nice.
    Lets not get into the fact I hate Regions with a passion because I was stupid enough to overdraft $350 because I was using their online website to monitor my bank balance and their website didn’t have a minus character. So when I thought I had $10 it was actually -$10, then buy several lunches during the week at only a $1 or so at a time and it ended up over $300 in NSF Fees. Still they said it was my fault, wouldn’t compromise, and when I got paid the week after I closed my account. The Clerk who refused me the week before had to personally close the account for me…Heaven.

    After other banks and credit unions showed me the door, I went to Wachovia, they said I had to open an account, and then have my check mailed to their International department, no problem I thought, filled out all the proper paperwork… a month or so later I get a letter back along with my tax check telling me “no”. They wouldn’t give me a reason.

    So in the end, I had to mail the check back to England, have my parents cash it on my behalf and have them send me the money. Then I get an email from my sister bitching at me for taking advantage of my parents too much. So in the end… at least I remembered why I added my sister to the spam section of my email.

    Never had a problem with a Credit Union. : )
    (Unless you count the time an old man somehow managed to give me his entire social security disability money because he was one digit off… I never got a “thank you” I should have kept that $13,000 and ran back to England… but with the conversion rates, what would be the bloody point?)

  23. hardcle says:

    Bank locally. You’ll help employ your friends and neighbors and if you have a problem someone at a branch can actually help you.

  24. magus_melchior says:

    Yes, they WILL lose faxes, because hardly anyone is checking. They’re all checking the faxes for mortgage modification stuff, and doubtless the ACH dispute form is getting chucked into the trash.

    Keep faxing the form, and contact your local news. They love “ha ha stoopid bizness” stories.

  25. prjctfish says:

    SUE Them. I did this very successfully with Verizon where I had phone service that was on the frtiz for 18 months because the problem was switched from one engineer to another. I sued them in New York State Civil Court for my time in solving THEIR issues and the not only settled with me almost immediately and paid me, but also put a large team on the problem and FIXED it very quickly.

    legal action is the only thing that will wake up Sr. management

  26. italianbaby says:

    help is on it’s way…
    write a letter to the “office of the controller” they helped me get my $450.00 that BOA would not release, and held my money hostage. they help consumers with banking issues.
    http://www.occ.treas.gov/customer.htm

  27. italianbaby says:

    help is on it’s way…
    contact: office of the controller. they oversee banking and consumer issues with banks.
    they helped me recover $450.00 from BOA, which held my money hostage.
    http://www.occ.treas.gov/customer.htm

  28. jeffile says:

    All you need to do is to fax the form. The bank will contact you in 3 – 5 days.

  29. morehalcyondays says:

    Get a local bank.

  30. SoCalGNX says:

    Once upon a time, a credit report for my spouse showed very negative info about him from Wachovia. The only problem was that he had never had an account with them. When quizzed about it, they took their time remedying the situation and gave the excuse that the records were not available because they had been destroyed. Thanks so much!