Wells Fargo Thinks USPS Is Fastest Way To Tell Me About Bounced Check

When you think of the fastest, most-efficient way for a business to contact a customer about a problem, you obviously think of an antiquated, bloated, nearly insolvent government-operated organization that is synonymous with sloth. Oh wait — you don’t? Well, Wells Fargo apparently does.

Consumerist reader Lisa recently deposited a $500 check from a company with which she does business.

Hold on — there’s more to this story.

A little while later she’s looking online at her Wells Fargo account and sees that the check has been returned for insufficient funds and she’s been dinged with a $12 fee for her troubles.

Nice of someone to mention this to me, thought Lisa:

When I called Wells, I spoke with a rep named Susie, who first thought it was because I didn’t have an alert set up for it. After checking, she acknowledged that there is no such alert. So she transferred me to Nikki, who informed me that because returned checks like this are a “timely matter,” and not everyone checks their email, they only send such notifications by postal mail.

She said they are not permitted to send notifications such as these electronically. When I repeated that back to her for confirmation, she clarified that she wasn’t claiming they aren’t permitted *legally,” but that they aren’t permitted according to corporate policy. She asserted that Wells is in complete compliance with the law.

That may be the case, but it’s not exactly good customer service.

Making matters worse, says Lisa, is that in spite of Wells Fargo’s insistence that the best way to deal with this timely matter is to send a letter via USPS, she still has yet to receive a single notice in the mail about the bounced check.

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  1. az123 says:

    Well they are going to need to mail you something, standard practice in this (and perhaps legal requirement) is that the check is returned to the depositor. This would be proof if you needed to take legal action against the issuer of the check etc…. You can also attempt to re-deposit the check later if you want to as well (which for stop payments can be useful since they are generally only good for a few months).

    I do agree with the that it would make sense for the bank to email or text alert you that it happened, in addition to sending you the written mail notification. The first could be a non-official notice where the mailed letter is their CYA.

    • Alan says:

      I worked for a small bank in the back offices that dealt with this type of stuff. We used to call up the customers (at least the business customers) to let them know and mail out the notice, but because of the timing of the phone call vs getting the letter in the mail, the customers thought that it bounced for a 2nd time and tried to redeposit it again. It was more trouble than it was worth so we dropped the calls.

      • Lyn Torden says:

        What should have been done is:

        1. Give the customer a choice on what notification method they want to have used.
        2. Use the notification method the customer chose.
        3. Send them the written info, including a statement what notification was sent, and this is a “copy for your records or legal needs”.

        Of course, you were just a worker there. Bosses don’t like workers with good ideas because it makes the boss look bad. So I can understand you were just protecting your job by not saying anything.

  2. cosmotic says:

    I had a similar situation with National City (now PNC) a few years ago. They claimed they don’t call me, email me, or text me because it would be too costly. The public library has had machines that automatically call me when my book is available for a decade. The real reason they send via USPS: they know it will take a long time and that they can get more in per-day fees.

  3. framitz says:

    I would only expect an email alert if the bounced check drove the balance near zero as that’s what the alert is for, not to advise of a bounced check.

  4. CubeRat says:

    So, is the OP asking for electronic notice of bad checks? Or is she just wanting to complain because she got a fee at her bank? She doesn’t say. I would think to claim the fee from the issuer of the check, she would need something from her bank proving that she was charged, and I don’t know if an e-mail would be sufficient, as all my bank e-mails just say – you have something new, please check your messages.

    Don’t really know what to say, except, check your account often.

    • Lisa says:

      CubeRat, I understand that they need to send snail mail. But there’s no reason for them to not send an electronic notice as well.

      I look at my statements once a month. They seem to think I should be doing it daily.

      And NoWin, of course I’ve already followed up with the company that originally issued the check. But when I deposit a check and it shows up on my statement, I should not have to check daily to see whether it comes back. That’s ridiculous.

      • RedOryx says:

        I check my account daily. On the off chance that fraud happens, I’ll know within 24 hours.

        Once I overdrew because PNC/National City (I think it was still National at the time) did that BS where they rearranged the order of items going in and out. Because I check my account often, I was able to know almost immedietly and was on the phone with them with time stamped receipts and had the charge reversed.

        • SideshowCrono says:

          I don’t understand why so many here seem to indicate that checking accounts daily is some huge hassle.

          I check pretty much every account I have every day and it takes like 5 minutes tops. I do most banking through BoA (yeah yeah, flame on, never gotten a fee in 10 years) and my credit cards are through Amex. So in essence, I login to two accounts and do a quick check that everything is the way I think it should be. Plus I do it while the TV is on or during lunch at work so its a win-win all around.

          I don’t get it. Why is it so hard for people to keep on top of accounts in this modern day and age?

  5. dulcinea47 says:

    That reminds me of the time my doctor’s office sent me a letter to say they needed to get ahold of me regarding some test results and didn’t have my contact information. The letter arrived three months after the tests, and at my correct address which they obviously had.

  6. crashfrog says:

    Say what you will about the Post Office, but at least they’re required to deliver your packages to your actual address or to a place where you can pick it up. That’s more than I can say for FedEx, UPS, and especially “Lasership” who twice last week delivered my Amazon.com order to a completely different person at an unknown address.

    • poco says:

      Agreed. I’ve had plenty of bad experiences with private carriers, especially FedEx, but my USPS packages, save one, have arrived intact and at the correct address. The package that failed to show up intact was packed stupidly by the sender, so I won’t fault the post office for that one.

  7. NoWin says:

    Ah Lisa, never mind the bank at the moment, get on the horn to the company that gave you a Bad Check! ….just sayin’.

    And the bank can not e-mail her a notice, unless they have that option on their online system….must be done by postal mail. (see your Federal account disclosures)

  8. Eremis77 says:

    Banks are very fond of sending you notices in the mail for things they really ought to call or email you for.

    I get called by my bank offering me a loan, call them back and apply for a loan…and yet rather than the loan person calling me back, I get a letter a week or two later saying I was turned down.

  9. raphaeladidas says:

    This is stupid. There’s no reason why an electronic notification can’t be sent so you know about the problem right away and then the appropriate notice sent USPS afterwards.

    I check my email constantly but the ONLY time I open my mailbox is when I know I’m getting discs from Netflix–if it weren’t for Netflix I wouldn’t even have a need for a mailbox.

  10. Jevia says:

    Having alerts set up, when you can, is really important. Its how I found out a certain credit card of mine suddenly had my credit limit slashed to within $100 of my balance, because I installed an alert to advise me if/when I had less than $500 credit remaining (not that I ever expected to charge so much, it was a pure cya in case someone hacked my account or something). It helped prevent a pre-arranged monthly charge from being denied, since I was able to change the payment method in time. A week later, I finally got the snail mail notice (although my sister across the country gets my birthday card in 2 days).

    Seriously, if its so “timely” email should definitely be used. I mean, come on, who doesn’t check their email at least once a day?

  11. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    10 comments in and no one has chided Lisa for not using a credit union!?!?!

    • tbax929 says:

      Credit unions suck. I’m leaving mine and looking for another local bank. This is the third CU I’ve tried, and the service is horrible. Their website is laughably antiquated. None of them I’ve tried has lived up to the standard USAA set for me.

      So I’m going back to a bank for my local banking.

  12. winnabago says:

    Most email I get from my bank is a notice that I have “A new message in my secure inbox!” or some such nonsense. Sometimes these notices are important, but I can’t always remember my login for little-used accounts. If they are going to decide to use email, then just email me what the problem is already! Don’t make it a multi-step process.

  13. canaguy says:

    This just happened to me last Saturday……got a call from my bank to note that the check deposit from 8 days earlier had been returned…. ($2200) so I should correct it and make good the overdraft (excess) amount asap………so she advised that the next banking business day (MONDAY) would suffice. On Monday I met with the cheque source, and he quickly verified with his bank and re-wrote a NEW cheque ………when I got home, the Monday mail had the notice and reason for the returned item…….(closed account)……..Apparently the man has several accounts and used an old and out-dated cheque that was returned….! Problem solved…. Note: My Bank
    is in CANADA…… they made a phone call and mailed the notice !

  14. HalOfBorg says:

    Several people I know have told me “Oh! You EMAILED me? I haven’t checked that in a long time. I use my facebook for everything.” so mailing makes some sense. But c’mon – EMAIL it as well.

  15. pot_roast says:

    Lovely. Some fool writes YOU a check, it bounced, and then you get hit with a $12 fee because someone else wrote you a crappy check.

    I hate checks.

  16. kent909 says:

    Well certainly a good point is being made here about the service you can expect to get from a big bank. My local small bank calls me all the time regarding even small things that they consider a potential problem. Seems overly cautious but that is their idea of customer service. Having said that, at this point in time anyone who is still doing business with any of the big banks, they deserve all corrupt and greedy treatment they get. I still have not determined if Americans are stupid or just too lazy to switch to a small bank or CU.

  17. KyBash says:

    How do you e-mail a physical object? The bank had to return the check to her. They can only do that by mail.

  18. amuro98 says:

    For everyone saying that the bank should just send email/text/electronic notifications, keep in mind that there are very strict laws (SOX) in place to protect consumer privacy regarding what sorts of information can and cannot be transmitted in an unsecured manner.

    The same goes for health care providers and patient information (HIPAA).

    Both of these require such information to be encrypted and can only be sent to other mail servers that are certified to be in compliance with these privacy standards. Yahoo, Gmail, or your ISP’s mail server most likely does not meet these standards.

    My health care provider will send me email to notify me that there is a message for me on their website. From the website I can send messages to my doctor, get test results, etc. This is only possible because I’m logged into their website where they can control everything. None of this data can be emailed to me. The only other way to contact me is by US mail.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      The notification does not need to include the details. It can merely say that you should log in to your bank account and see what is up.

      The REAL trouble with this is that scammers will format their scam mail exactly the same way, except, of course, they will provide the convenience of a link to their own site so they can capture your account and password. So many people will think the bank is being SO HELPFUL by providing that link, and will use it.

      My guess is that this is the REAL reason behind the banks not wanting to use email.

    • JeremieNX says:

      +1000. We have a winner. I work at a credit union and this is why we have the “secure mailbox” within online banking.

  19. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    “…you obviously think of an antiquated, bloated, nearly insolvent government-operated organization that is synonymous with sloth.”

    Yeah, I sent Christmas cards to CA that make it there in two days, and ones to Denmark that made it there in under a week for less than $1. I don’t consider them slow. Mail from a bank might even be faster, as their systems usually pump out a nice clear address and sometimes even the USPS bar code for faster sorting.

    • msbask says:

      I was thinking the same thing. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with the USPS. Ever. In like 40+ years.

  20. Thorzdad says:

    I have an even better one. Star Financial Bank sends you an email with a password-protected PDF attached. No other information in the email about that it’s about. No “Notice of Insufficient Funds” in the subject. Just, “Important Information”. The only thing the email says is that you need to use your account password to open the PDF. This, of course, makes the email look and smell like a phishing scam, and not a genuine communication from your bank.

    • msbask says:

      So they can’t win then, can they? Emails look fake, if they text people think it’s a scam, and apparently the USPS is too slow for the OP.

      [[ Although, I can't even figure out how slow is too slow. The whole article uses words like "recently", "a little while later", and "has yet to receive". For all we know, "recently" was 2 days ago, "a little while later" was yesterday, and "has yet to receive" only covers today. ]]

      I deposited a check once that bounced and Citibank sent me a notice by mail. I’m not sure I would have expected the notification any other way, and not sure I would have even paid attention to any electronic notification since they all look like phishing schemes.

      • George4478 says:

        >>So they can’t win then, can they? Emails look fake, if they text people think it’s a scam, and apparently the USPS is too slow for the OP.

        Sure they can win; emails don’t have to look fake. Emails that inform you of a problem and direct you to a secure message on their website — these are very useful.

        Emails that ask for your bank account password in order to open the email look fake. That’s a big red flag — Scam Awareness 101.

  21. sven.kirk says:

    Hate to admit that I know about this, but most banks still notify by USPS. I know this because my wife WAS really bad about overdrafting. I didn’t even have to open the letter to know what it was.

  22. DanKelley98 says:

    My bank does the same thing. Don’t we live in the age of email? (Perhaps asking for a courtesy phone call is something too modern for some of these institutions.

    Amazingly (or not), my ISP AT&T), who has my email address, uses email to send me promotions. But when it comes to account alerts (like “your payment is late”), they resort to the U.S. Postal Service. Grossly idiotic

  23. evilpete says:

    BofA takes up to 24 hours even with electronic notification.

  24. Lisa W says:

    Hi, it‚Äôs Lisa W. from Wells Fargo. Sorry our customer Lisa had this experience. We are always looking for ways to improve how we communicate with our customers. Hearing about Lisa’s experience is important to us. Wells Fargo customers have the ability to monitor their account activity in real time through online and mobile banking. In addition, we offer many alerts related to deposits and checks posting. We also offer balance alerts that notify our customers when their balance falls below an amount that they have pre-set. Although some notices must still be sent via mail, we continue to migrate paper notices to electronic formats.

  25. SoCalGNX says:

    WF will also give you people to help with a loan mod. This will consist of a person who talks down to you, tells you that you cannot use your income on the mod (nevermind you have had three pay raises in less than a year from your company) and does not return your calls. This person will talk over you when you try to talk to them, you will not be able to replace them with someone else and their supervisor will never return calls to you. WF is almost as swell a bank as B of A.

  26. soj4life says:

    I worked for a bank that at one time would have a rep from each branch call anyone on the OD list for $100 dollars or less, minus any fees. It was a crab shoot because we needed to have a cash deposit by noon, but sometimes the list was so long that the last call would be at 11am. They changed the policy that we would only call businesses, but it was still hectic and created problems. I can understand the argument from both sides. Really large banks can do this by having the staff hired to at a regional call center.