Bank of America Calls Customer a Liar

“If someone claimed you ran over their foot and asked you to pay them money, would you give it to them?”

That’s what Bank of America asked Jesse when he tried to get overdraft fees returned that resulted from the bank’s mistake and not his.

Really, the analogy is more like Bank of America runs over Jesse’s foot and then takes money out of his wallet.

Jesse’s vent, after the jump…

Jesse writes:

    “I’ve had to call Bank of America on several occasions and always found their customer service people to be generally friendly and helpful. The call I just had — my hands are still shaking in anger — was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I’m always extremely friendly to customer service folks; I know defending stupid policies to angry people is a bad enough job as it is, and I try not to make it any worse. The fact that this person made me angry enough to raise my voice really says something.

    For about two years, I’ve had BofA automatically paying my Verizon phone bills. Every month, Verizon sends BofA the bill, BofA pays it, and I do nothing but write it down in my checkbook when I see the charge online.

    For some reason, earlier this year, BofA didn’t get the bills from Verizon, and my phone bill went unpaid for several months. (I had stupidly also told Verizon to stop sending me paper bills, which would have alerted me to the problem.) Verizon finally sent me a letter saying that I owed $216 and I should pay soon if I wanted to continue having a working phone and Internet service. No problem; I paid the bill using BofA’s online banking. A week later I got another bill for that month and paid it, as well. The two payments totaled $295.

    Suddenly, BofA started getting the old bills from Verizon. It didn’t pay the older bills, as the due date had already passed, but it eventually got a bill for the total $295 that I had just paid with a due date in the future, so it paid it automatically.

    I noticed this about a day or two later when I was checking my online banking. I called Bank of America to try and cancel the payment. They couldn’t, because it was already sent to Verizon, which would have to refund me the money. (That’s another story, still in progress.) I had other payments that were about to go through, and because of the extra $295 I had paid, my account would be overdrawn. I asked if they could make sure I wasn’t charged overdraft fees and they said to call back once the fees were charged. Everyone involved was very pleasant and understanding.

    Today I checked my online banking and there were overdraft fees. So I called BofA, and thus began the worst customer service call of my life. I was connected with someone in online banking, and I explained to her the source of overdraft charges and asked that the fees be waived. She looked at my account and then told me that the $295 payment was not an automatic payment, but had been made by someone at 2:07 a.m.

    Now, I suffer from a little insomnia now and then, but when I do, I don’t usually pay my phone bill. She INSISTED that someone with access to my computer had made the payment. I told her no one had. I think that if someone with access to my computer and bank account password got into my account, there would be many more interesting things they could do then pay a phone bill.

    She insisted that she must be right because Bank of America has very good security, and if they didn’t “someone would try to sue us.” I tried to explain to her that this wasn’t a security issue, that BofA had been paying this bill automatically for more than a year and that this was just another automatic payment — one that paid a bill I had already paid manually. She could see the earlier payments I had made, as well.

    But she said she had “access to the system” and could see I had made the payment from my computer. I asked if she said that I was lying. She wasn’t accusing me of lying, she explained, but my story wasn’t true. She said that if I called and just said that I had made this payment by mistake and needed the overdraft fees waived, then it wouldn’t have been a problem.

    Now I was pissed. I told her (voice finally raised) that everything I told her was true, that I wasn’t going to make up a story just to get my money back, and that I wanted to speak to another agent. She said that any other agent would do the same thing, and she knew my story wasn’t true because she could see that I had tried to get the payment cancelled. “Yes!” I said. I had tried to cancel the payment, and they couldn’t do it, which is why I was on the phone with her now. I told her I wanted to speak to someone else, and she said she would try to talk to a supervisor and put me on hold.

    She comes back after a few minutes and tells me she couldn’t get a supervisor. She then tells me again that my story isn’t true, very strangely asking me, “If someone claimed you ran over their foot and asked you to pay them money, would you give it to them?”

    She tells me she’s going to refer the problem to the research department. I know that’s likely to be a black hole, so I ask her not to. I ask her if she can please just do nothing, so I can call back and get another customer service agent who will be more helpful. She calls me “hyper” (probably true at this point), and refuses to answer my repeated, simple question, “can you simply do nothing at this point, so I can start over with someone else?”

    She keeps interrupting me, and finally offers to start over. Fine, I say, let’s start over, pretending that nothing has ever happened. So I try to start the story over again, and she interrupts again to tell me she will see if she can get the charges waived. (No, really.) So she puts me on hold again and comes back to tell me the charges are waived and I should see the credit in my account Monday or Tuesday.

    But she didn’t say she believed me. So I ended the call saying, “Look, I appreciate that you got my money back, but I want you to understand something. Everything I told you on this call was the truth. I don’t know why you don’t believe me. I don’t know why you think I made this payment, when Bank of America had made these automatic payments for a long time. But every word I said was the truth.” And I wished her a good day, and hung up.

    Thanks for the opportunity to write up the story; it’s very cathartic. And thanks for the site — I love it!”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bubba Barney says:

    Watched a documentary on the Great San Francisco fire in 1906 and learned this tidbit of info about Bank of America:

    ‘Amadeo Giannini was the founder of the modern day Bank of America NT&SA.

    After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake his Bank of Italy became a leader of the San Francisco banking community by providing loans to those struck by the disaster.

    In the late 1920’s, Giannini approached Orra E. Monnette, President and founder of the Los Angeles based Bank of America, Los Angeles about a potential merger between the two entities.

    The Los Angeles based bank exhibited strong growth throughout the 1920s, due in part to its success in developing an advanced bank branching system.

    The merger of the two institutions was completed in early 1929 and took the name Bank of America. The combined company was headed by Giannini with Monnette serving as co-Chair.’

  2. slungsolow says:

    I had a similar situation with Verizon and Suntrust. In the end I got back $90 in overdraft fees from Suntrust, and Verizon gave me a years worth of credit.

  3. Drinker Nisti says:

    Ugh… This is why I’m very wary of automatic bill pay…

  4. Jesse says:

    Yeah, I’ve turned off automatic bill pay. It’s just dumb to use it. Also, don’t tell anyone to stop sending you paper bills. Fuck the trees; it’s good to get the reminder.

    Thanks for posting the story!

  5. Special K says:

    I’m not going to bother reading this tremendously long article but once I got screwed by Wachovia for an overdraft fee that was more their fault than mine- I threatened to close my account (thru an email) and within hours, they gave me my fee credit back. They are great! =)

  6. Jesse says:

    A reader sent me an interesting email with some information about the BillPay system. I posted it here on my blog.

  7. billhelm says:

    If someone is going to do any kind of automatic bill pay, it’s better to setup a monthly ACH payement with the biller than use these services from banks, exactly because of this.

    I have trouble feeling sorry for this guy – his experience with BOA customer service was unfortunate, but he A) didn’t pay attention to his bills or the fact that they were not getting withdrawn from his account and B) in the end, he got what he wanted…