Son Keeps Retired Mother From Boiling In Atlanta By Beseeching WaMu Executive Customer Service For Overdraft Mercy

“I’m not quite sure how my almost-septuagenarian, fastidious, wheelchair-bound, Social Security Disability-stipend mother did it, but she forgot to list a large utilities check in her register and managed to spend over $400 that she didn’t have. For a total of TWENTY overdraft and NSF charges (at $32 a charge). Between the overdrafts, the unpaid checks (and the bounce fees on the payee side of the equation), she’s managed to tally up more than $1800 in unforeseen debt in the last two weeks. She only gets about $1000 a month, and her last check was deposited before we knew how much trouble she was in, paying this emergency debt down to about $-330 in her checking account and $500 in outstanding bounced checks and fees, and leaving her no money for utilities and no friends or relatives to beg for help from…”

Through this financial fiasco she has managed to bounce two consecutive electricity bills and her next SS check isn’t due for another two weeks. She has received written notice that her power will be turned off in the next couple days. Did I mention she’s in Atlanta, where the high today is something like 105 degrees (not counting the heat index)? I had to go to the bank and try to beg the capitalists for some mercy. I had to keep the power on.

We visited the local branch this morning, and the local WaMU branch officer we spoke to offered to remove two charges, but no more, as my mother freely admits all this is her own fault. A very generous offer, I thought, but not good enough.

It turns out that if we could get ALL of those 20 NSF charges reversed, she’d have about four dollars left over after paying the minimum to keep her air conditioner going, and could get current (pardon the pun) when her next disability check comes. I knew I was aiming high, but I was desperate – I’d spent the last of my own money
to pay for her prescription medications and right now I’m just an unemployed tech support geek. We’re both living on peanut butter and bananas right now.

Enter Rosie Alvarez of the WaMu Executive Response team, courtesy of the Consumerist post here (“Contact WaMu Executive Customer Service“). It turns out that extension 467 is Ms. (Mrs?) Alzarez’s direct line. I called her from the branch office and left her a desperate message, and she called me back in less than an hour.

I want to give Ms. Alvarez a wet, sloppy internet kiss and Washington Mutual a big Above and Beyond shoutout. No, they didn’t credit my mom all 20 of the charges, but WaMu has promised to reverse ten of them in the next 24 hours, leaving my mom with basically a zero balance in her account. She’s probably going to be without electricity for what
may be one of the hottest weeks in local history, but when her check comes she’ll be able to safely pay down her power bill and get her expenses back on track.

And for that I am overwhelmingly grateful.


Joe A.

If you choose to post this above and beyond, I have one optional part: I have a paypal address,, that could be used to accept donations to go towards paying her power bill. I have documentation to prove her financial trouble, but I also have no desire to insult you, your readers or your business policies/ practices by soliciting. I just want to keep her power on.

Thank you for considering this post and for all the valuable information you’ve shared with the world.

And that, folks, is why executive customer service shall always and forever be, for the win.

Oh, and please don’t overdraft. You’re just buying yourself a one-way ticket on the nonstop train to ImpecunioCity.

Joe, we also want you to try these numbers for groups in your area that provide emergency funds for seniors struggling to meet energy payments (via Georgia Natural Gas). Some of them may just be for heating but others may work for electricity or be able to point you in the direction of the right relief agencies:

Statewide Assistance

o Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), administered by the Georgia Department of Human Resources – 404-657-3426 or 404-657-3427 (inside metro Atlanta); 1-800-869-1150 (outside Atlanta)
o Project Share of the Salvation Army – 770-441-6200
o United Way Referral Program – Dial 211

Metro Atlanta-Based Assistance

o Atlanta Regional Commission, Aging Services – 404-463-3333
o Buckhead Christian Ministry – 404-239-0038 (serves these ZIP codes: 30305, 30309, 30311, 30318, 30319, 30324, 30326, 30327, 30329, 30340, 30341, 30342, 30345, 30360, and 30363)
o Midtown Assistance Center – 404-681-5777
o Resource Service Ministries – 404-352-5440
o St. Vincent DePaul Society – 770-458-9607
o Senior Connections – 770-455-7602, ext. 151
o The Sullivan Center – 404-753-0535


Edit Your Comment

  1. Black Bellamy says:

    Oh how nice of the predator to stop predating for two minutes. Huzzah huzzah. Maybe if WaMu wasn’t completely composed of assholes they would have just bounced the check back to her instead of getting all wet about the $35 overdraft fee.

  2. lawnmowerdeth says:

    I thought it was illegal to turn the power off during the summer. Must be different state laws.

  3. Hanke says:

    Just contact your local power company and inform them of the frail condition, necessary medical equipment, etc. They CANNOT then turn off your power.

  4. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: I know it is in Winter but I don’t think they care about heat cause it can only cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke…death you know nothing as bad as freezing to death.

  5. Cowboys_fan says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: Where I live its illegal in the winter.
    Wamu did not have to budge at all here, but they did. Good for them.
    So you don’t want to insult me by soliciting, but still solicit? AND you have documentation to prove its her fault? That’s great. For the record, I too can prove financial difficulties of my own doing so I will gladly accept donations to!

  6. SybilDisobedience says:

    Oh, and please don’t overdraft. You’re just buying yourself a one-way ticket on the nonstop train to Impecuniosity City.
    Yeah, avoid that if you can. We’re overcrowded enough here already.

  7. brennie says:

    It’s good, I guess. . . If it’s a first offense shouldn’t all the circumstances be taken into account? What would it have cost WaMu to reverse ALL the charges on their end? Michael Moore did a piece on bounced check charges years ago on TV Nation and none of the banks could break down their charges or explain why they were so high. We are so far gone now we are grateful when they show any mercy at all.

    And of course, it’s common knowledge that when posting checks at the end of a shift the employees are instructed to deduct the largest checks first to increase the odds of bounced charges.

  8. Instead of bitching and complaining to the bank when it is too late, how about learn a thing or two about finanical responsibility?!

    After all, it is the customers who choose which bank to do business with and how much money they spend on things.


  9. ingridc says:

    GAHHH, there really needs to be a change in law here. I know all the overdrafts were her fault, but I’d like to see a max overdraft charge law. For example, 3 max overdraft charges, and then after that some sort of probation period – the customer cannot overdraft for six months or else his or her account is cut off. OR… the overdraft charge is incrementally aligned with the amount overdrafted–the higher the overdraft, the higher the fee. E.g.: $1-5 overdraft = $1 fee. $5-10 overdraft = $5 fee. $10-30 = $10 fee. Anything over $30 = $30 flat fee. OR… raise the fees per days overdrafted; 1-7 days = $20. 7-14 days =$30, etc.

    Entirely unrealistic, I know, but just a thought.

    On the other hand, on what did she spend the $400 that she didn’t have? If it’s something like food or other bills, I’m sympathetic to the Paypal solicitation. But if it was a “luxury” item, I’m not as inclined toward sympathy. No offense.

  10. gorckat says:

    Doh! Ben already posted some numbers :P Glad I scrolled up before posting, but here’s a few websites for Atlanta services I found via Google, anyway.

    I work at a non-profit administering Energy Assistance to low-income families- here’s a couple places to go for your mother in Atlanta (assuming you haven’t already):


  11. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @ingridc: I doubt it was a luxury item, come on have a heart everyone shes old and in a wheelchair. I mean I forget stuff all the time and I am still young. Yeah its her fault but WaMu and every other bank just drools at the thought og an overdraft.

  12. CaptainSemantics says:

    I have to throw in a big thumbs-up for listing those Atlanta-area help lines. There are a lot of organizations down here helping people out with the heat.

    And yes, this week we may see some temps around 105. But we’ll probably top out at 101 or 102. What’s scary is that this would be where I say that I miss Illinois. But it’s almost the same temps up there!

  13. mermaidshoes says:

    while i can understand the need for them, i still kind of think overdraft fees are the most hilarious things ever. “hey, we can see that you don’t have any money, so we’re going to try & TAKE MORE of something that DOESN’T EXIST.” haha! silly banks.

  14. jmschn says:

    When i worked at Wells Fargo as a banker, i was never this stingy on reversing overdraft fees…i’ve easily reversed more than 20 for one customer.

  15. Jaysyn was banned for: says:

    @CaptainSemantics: Nice, we’re cooler than that down here in Florida. Not much, but 10 degrees can be the difference between uncomfortable & dangerous heat.

  16. boandmichele says:


    how about reading the post and getting the point, instead of a making some generic response just so you can link to your site?

    did you miss the fact that a huge multibillion dollar corporations willingly took over a thousand dollars from a 90+ year old woman?

  17. Jean Naimard says:

    Personal (fiscal) responsibility is a very convenient device used by the rich to blame the poor for their plight.

    The fact is that banks **DO** use byzantine rules on their self-cleaning accounts so that the poor are easily trapped, the idea being that the banks do not want to deal with the poor but are outright banned from not dealing with them by law.

  18. bohemian says:

    A smaller bank where the branch manager can actually make an executive decision would help. Trying to navigate the bloated system of a huge bank on top of the actual problem just makes it worse.

    Something else to consider are financial management services. There are businesses that will manage and pay bills for the disabled or elderly who can’t always deal with remembering or doing it correctly. They allot them a spending account of their personal funds after rent and utilities etc. are paid. It might be extremely helpful for someone with a family member living far away.

    You could also contact the public utilities commission in that state. Sometimes they will step in if it is a situation where someone old, ill or children are going to have utilities shut off. The PUC makes those rules, I would guess the deep south has some laws about turning off an old womans air conditioning in the middle of summer.

  19. Youthier says:

    Well, that was nice of WaMu but if you’re solicting me for money, you damn well better have typed that email from the library.

  20. bohemian says:


    Personal (fiscal) responsibility is a very convenient device used by the rich to blame the poor for their plight.

    The fact is that banks **DO** use byzantine rules on their self-cleaning accounts so that the poor are easily trapped, the idea being that the banks do not want to deal with the poor but are outright banned from not dealing with them by law.”

    That is the core of the whole banking industry tactics. Our bank adopted these kind of policies over the years. They did away with youth savings accounts because they weren’t making enough money off of them. Then they started to restructure all of their banking practices to highly favor those with huge account balances and did away with most of their basic offerings.
    They want to cater more to those with huge amounts of money and do everything possible to deter everyone else.
    Maybe it is time for small community banks and credit unions to make a big time resurgence.

  21. BillyMumphry says:

    How about this, no overdraft fees. No money in the acct, no payment. So check bounces. So she never could have spent 400 she did not have. Banks allow overdraft for the same reason they give people car loans. It’s a way to make money off people who (by mistake or otherwise) spend more than they have. Overdraft came by way of demand; don’t fuck up and you won’t have to worry about fees.

    There would be zero sympathy here if the person involved wasn’t the most stereotypical financial “victim” one could imagine.

  22. floofy says:

    I can’t believe he was soliciting for donations!! Instead of begging for money, why doesn’t the “unemployed tech geek” get any kind of job to help his mother instead of expecting total strangers to do so? sheesh!

  23. scoobydoo says:

    One thing I don’t get; why would her son let them cut off her power? Is he too poor to help his mom with a single bill? If my mom were in the heat and power was going to be cut off you can rest assured I’d do everything in my power to prevent it from happening.

  24. K-Bo says:

    I don’t know how far he lives from his mom, but my mom would be coming to stay with me until the power was back on, unless it’s far enough that she would have to fly, and it would cost more than paying the utilities.

  25. gorckat says:

    @floofy: I’ve seen power bills for a single summer month hit as $700. Low income seniors depend on A/C (perhaps more than medically necessary- I doubt a doctor will say you have to have it at 68-70 degrees when 78-80 should be just fine) and it can run a bill sky high in a heartbeat.

  26. Sidecutter says:

    @ingridc: Says right in there that it was a large utilities check she forgot to enter in her checklog.
    @scoobydoo: He also points out that he has already exhausted his available money trying to help her.

    Reading comprehension is a valuable skill we seem to be failing to teach anymore…

  27. techseaport says:

    I’m the guy who submitted this above and beyond. I wanted to respond to some of the comments that have been made.

    First, the donations part of my post was strictly optional to even be posted, based on whether or not that part of the post would violate this site’s policy – my goal was to thank Ms. Alvarez and Washington Mutual, not beg for money. If someone has donated or will, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Second, I do not know what this electric company’s policy is regarding summer/heat, but she did receive notice of impending disconnection, hand delivered and left on her screen door. I do know through a family friend that they have a policy that only prevents turn-offs if they have a signed document from a doctor on file. I’m working on that.

    Third, the bounced checks were for things like water, gas, supermarkets and the like. Not cable tv or booze or late night HSN knife auctions or whatever.

    I’m not sure if this takes away from the above and beyond, but she’s still getting WaMu letters about checks bouncing. The local branch refused to lock or close her account since it has a non-zero balance, and I don’t know if these new NSF letters are ones already accounted for or checks being resubmitted and NSF’d a second time.

    In this day and age, a company going out of their way at all for a customer, I think, deserves a hat’s off. I think that’s just a measure of today’s business world, like it or lump it. WaMu went more than just a little out of their way. They could have taken my mother for a lot more than they did, but they didn’t. I’m in debt to them (again, pardon the pun) for that, even if my mother did just single-handedly pay someone’s salary for a week.

  28. LisaLives says:

    Good for you for helping your mom out! My parents are seniors as well, and it’s so frustrating to me when they have to go through some confusing customer service issue on their own (we live on different coasts).

    She’s lucky to have you right there with her to go to the bank and help her out. Sorry you’re both going through rough times and good luck on your job search and getting off the peanut butter banana diet.

  29. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I’m sort of abhorred that this guy is virtually pan-handling, and moreso that you here at Consumerist allowed him to do so.

    It’s called call the power company and apply for financial assistance. Try it.

    I seriously am so irritated that any sort of solicitation was even showcased on here! Am I the only one??

  30. Sidecutter says:

    @ingridc: Says right in there that it was a large utilities check she forgot to enter in her checklog.
    @scoobydoo: Did you read at all? says right in the story he’s exhaused his own money helping her already.

    Reading comprehension is clearly a skill in danger of vanishing.

  31. The Bigger Unit says:

    What, no comments about how the old lady should’ve saved more for her retirement 20 years ago so she wouldn’t be in this predicament?

    But anyway, yeah, I’m quite confident my mom would live with me (even if there was no space for her) if it was 105F and she had no power. For an elderly person, that’s flat-out asking to die.

  32. The Bigger Unit says:

    @Sidecutter: Yeah, we got it.

  33. gibsonic says:


    ding! ding! ding! We have a winner!

  34. Sidecutter says:

    @The Bigger Unit:
    Unintentional doublepost. First attempt wasn’t showing here, but stuff that is clearly “after” the first one was. *shrug*

  35. enm4r says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers: No, but I think you were fooling yourself if you expected any higher standards.

    I’m somewhat surprised more weren’t overturned, especially since they all stemmed from one (series of) event(s). Usually a story half this good will be enough for them to overturn the overdrafts.

    I’m also surprised the son is letting her go through this alone, perhaps there are some circumstances not accounted for (there always are) but really, seems unlikely that he’d just let her sit at home with no power in the middle of August.

  36. K-Bo says:

    @Sidecutter: I think the point people are trying to make when they ask why he’s not helping is has he given up cable ect, or is he saying but but but? I would max out my credit cards/ give up cable & cell phone and anything else I could to keep my parents alive. I think the question being asked is if he REALLY did all he could. And if between them they are living basically less than $1000 from this type of situation, something really needs to be done. Take a job at Mc Donald’s or something. I know it’s hard to dig yourself out, I’ve been there. But living within one minor problem of being broke just doesn’t work unless you have rich relatives willing to dig you out.

  37. Yourhero88 says:

    The thing that I find interesting is the amount of transactions she made after forgetting the $400 bill. 20 transactions (equaling $400, so about $20 average per transaction) without checking her bank account balance, that we can only assume were made on credit or check. I’m sorry but anyone who willfully makes that many transactions without checking their levels deserves a little slap on the wrist.

    Like the common sentiment that the elderly should be tested in their old age to be able to handle an automobile, similarly shouldn’t some sort of financial guidance be administered? This falls solely on the son’s shoulders. If i had a mother as invalid as the one he describes who is truly only taking in 1 grand a month, I would make damn sure to monitor her bank account since she obviously can’t handle it herself.

    Irresponsible son and careless old lady notwithstanding however, over 1 grand in overdraft fees is ludicrously excessive (as the whole damn system is corrupt to begin with, but that’s a rant for another day.)

  38. houseofdanie says:

    Oh, people who are wailing about financial responsibility and whatnot, have you never made a mistake? It’s very easy in the land o’ banking to make a little mistake that snowballs into something much, much larger. I’d like to express horror instead that our elderly citizens have to worry so much about medications versus electricity. These are matters of survival.

  39. Christy says:

    Ben- Okay, yeah, so the internet panhandling was a little tacky. But seriously, thanks for posting this. More people than you know are left with the responsibility of caring for aging parents, and a ridiculous percentage of the elderly live in poverty. You’ve also brought up the importance of helping older people figure out their bills and accounts and all that. It’s easy for us to sit around and read blogs like Consumerist that tell us how not to screw ourselves over or be screwed over, but most older people don’t have that luxury.

  40. K-Bo says:

    @Yourhero88: Most people her age aren’t aware of online and phone banking. They were taught to balance their account. Since she forgot the large payment, by her calculations she had money. My grandmother wouldn’t be able to hear her balance on a phone, and thinks computers are just fancy big picture frames my Brother and I bring over to show her pictures. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

  41. ativadelor says:

    She needs to belong to a credit union.

    And I think the customer made a mistake by accepting the bank’s premise that it was all her fault. In truth, it may not have been the customer’s fault at all.

    This is because banks often use a strategy designed to purposefully maximise the number of bounced checks. They do this by debiting checks from largest amount to smallest amount, not the order in which they reached the bank. This ensures the bank receives a maximum number of penalty fees.

    In the case above, had the customer’s small checks been cashed before the large utility check, she may have have only bounced a single check!

    When banks are shown that the smaller checks should actually have been debited first, they will sometimes (often) reverse most or all of the charges.

    As the poster found out, all fees are negotiable, it only depends on how nice you are, how persistent you are, and whom you speak with. He had 10 of the fees rescinded, I think he had (and may still have) a good chance of having 19 or 20 of them rescinded,

    That said, the vast majority of Credit Unions don’t use these sleazy tactics. Join a credit union and stop being used by the banking industry.

  42. Buran says:

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: You are correct, at least here in MO, and the same is true in IL. Utilities may not turn off power if the temp drops below a certain level — but they’re free to cut you off if you stop padding their profits, even in the middle of the worst heat wave in quite a while (102-103 lately).

    There’s action begun every year to change this, but every year the bills fail to pass. How many people have to die before something is done?

  43. Buran says:

    @K-Bo: OK, so what’s his whole situation? You must know, if you’re posting that kind of criticism.

  44. ThirtyWhat says:

    Let me play devil’s advocate here …

    My mother is in her mid-60’s and (thankfully) is in good health. She’s put my name as co-owner on her checking and savings and told me that she’s depending on me to intervene if it looks like she’s starting to go a little flakey.

    But look at the situation above … this was Ben’s mother’s first financial mistake. Ben isn’t an irresponsible son … he’s just now seeing that his mother needs help with her bookkeeping and such.

    So, even though my Mom’s put my name on her account, this post has shown me that by the time I *discover* she’s gone flakey, she could be in *way* over her head. One mistake can equal hundreds (if not thousands) in fees and bank charges.

  45. The Walking Eye says:


    You must give your entire life story, no matter how inane the detail, including a detailed medical and financial history so that we, the Consumerist commenters, can fully rip you a new asshole for having any sort of problem occur.

  46. scoobydoo says:

    @Sidecutter: I read it just fine thank you very much. I just don’t understand how it is possible in this day and age to have ZERO access to money. I’m guessing his mom is in her 60’s, so he’s what? 25? 30?

    A 30 year old who doesn’t have access to any money to keep his mom’s power on is a bigger problem than the mom that made a mistake. I’d be selling off all my crap to keep her cool if I ever got in his situation.

  47. nightshadowon says:

    @K-Bo: Right on K-Bo.

    Now for my 2 cents. He stated they are still getting hit with NSFs? Ask the bank to return checks as NSF after the first try. Most banks will allow the same check to come through a second time (say next batch cycle or next day) and you are hit with more fees for the exact same problem. I currently have this on my Credit Union account because I had a problem about 10 years ago. I forgot all about it until I opened a new account with them and they asked if I wanted to have the same note attached to my new account.

  48. The Walking Eye says:

    @floofy: Who says he’s not trying to find work? Good lord, not everyone can snap their fingers and get a job. Lord knows I’ve gone through many years of job searching before, with the crummy low wage jobs not bringing me on cause they know I’ll leave as soon as I find something in my career line. (apologies if you were making a funny)

  49. CaptainSemantics says:

    @The Walking Eye: I am currently picking out pieces of potato chip that got lodged in the keyboard because I laughed so hard. I currently blame you for my inability to type the last letter of the alphabet. That *so* made my day.

  50. raybury says:

    When I helped my brother with a large electric bill, he apparently used just enough of my money to get the power turned back on and the rest on who knows what, quite possibly marijuana. So when I saw Techseaport’s plea, I was reminded of what I wanted then: A contribution system that is capped (in this case at a zero balance on the electric bill) and that is not refundable to the recipient. That is, if a hundred of us wished to give $10 each to help someone with their $600 electric bill, the money would be accepted from the first 60, but bounced after that. Contributing to a Paypal account for this is, I’m sorry, just too fungible.

    Techseaport, if you contact FPL and find they will accept contributions to your mom’s bill, she will have my $10; contact me with any needed info at the reverse of moc.liamgyrubyar.

  51. niteflytes says:

    What is with all the “blame the victim” comments? Are you all so perfect that you never made one mistake in your perfect lives? You know absoulutely nothing about this guy and his mother beyond what has been posted so stop making assumptions. So the guy asked for donations to help his mom. Big deal. He wants her to have A/C and food to eat. Wow. What a horrible son for reaching out to strangers and asking for a little help. I hope all of you “perfect” posters get arthritis and have to live on social security, if it’s still around by then. If not, I’ll wave to to you as I drive over the bridge you’re living under.

  52. gibsonic says:

    on thing to note about the way banks process checks… (I’m not a banker, so i could be off here)

    imagine you did bills and sent out checks for the following (est)

    – House Note $1000
    – Car Note $350
    – Utilities $150
    – Medical Bill $50
    – Grandkids birthday check $10

    I don’t know about you, but I am much more concerned about my house payment bouncing vs a birthday check bouncing. Though embarrassing as having a check bounce to a family member, at least it won’t go against my credit score for having a late house payment and any fees that may be assessed for a bounced check by the mortgage company.

    Obviously, all of the bills are important to be paid, but overall I would say it is good to clear the bigger ticket items first for both the account holder and banks financial interest.


  53. synergy says:

    Y’all beat me to it. I was just wondering where this dude lives. Is he unemployed and living with mom and both of them are going to boil or is he just going to let her boil alone? Because if he was a good son living somewhat near by that he can go and plead with her bank, he can sure well take his mother home with him.

  54. beyond says:

    @gibsonic: That only makes sense if they would actually bounce. The bank orders them so that the bigger amount goes first, allowing smaller ones to incur more overdraft fees. It is purely for profit, and has nothing to do with the banks concern that larger checks go through.

    After all, with that logic the big check should go through and the smaller ones should bounce. But they don’t because banks want the fee. If they processed them

    – Car Note $350
    – Utilities $150
    – Medical Bill $50
    – House Note $1000
    – Grandkids birthday check $10

    All get cashed, all incur fees. The difference is that in your case you have 5 fees and in this above case you have 2 fees. Do banks even bounce checks anymore?

  55. ThirtyWhat says:


    That’s just not fair. Unless you’re independently wealthy, most people only have access to a finate amount of money. Once you’ve gone through your checking and savings … that’s it. You can max out your credit cards … but then what?

    Yes, I’d have my mom stay at my house until the heat wave passed or until her check came through. Yes, I’d try to sell whatever I had to help her. But it sounds as though Ben has gone over and above to try to help his Mom through this difficult time.

  56. ativadelor says:

    @ Gibsonic

    NO, it’s not good for customers when a bank clears larger checks first. Banks should clear checks in the order they are received. I view any other practice as highly unethical.

    In the example you’ve given, you, personally, “may” find some perceived benefit. The thing is, banks do not prioritize clearing of checks to the customer’s order of importance. Ethical banks clear checks in the order received, unethical banks clear larger checks first to maximize penalty fees.

    In your scenario, if you had only $1000 in the bank, you’d pay at least 4, perhaps as many as 8 penalty fees. At $35 per bounce, with each check posted twice, this would cost you $280 in fees.

    But had the checks been cashed from smallest amount to largest amount, your penalty fee would be $70. If you had a no-repost request in your account, your total penalty would be $35.

    You’re saying you’d rather suffer $280 in penalty fees than $70. . . I don’t think there are many people who would agree with your decision. Well, other than the large banks who make a lot of money off of people like you.

    BTW, Join a credit union and you’ll be abused a lot less frequently.

  57. gibsonic says:


    i personally don’t have a problem with over drafting my account. not because i have tons of money but because i properly manage my money.

    i agree, checks should be processed in the order they were received…period. I’m just saying if for some reason they chose a priority, i would won’t the most important ones paid first, which for me is largest to smallest….personal preference i guess.

    in my earlier years before i figured out how to manage my finances properly and I had less income, the couple of times i did get overdrawn weren’t a big deal as my bank forgave them without much to-do.

  58. Amelie says:

    Asking for money could be construed as inappropriate, but it is certainly less annoying than posts where people just skim and hate.

    Btw, can I donate to this site to prevent people like xian from hawking his website in his replies?

  59. @boandmichele: I have no problem of a multimillion dollar corporation taking money from a 90+ woman as long as it was stated in the original contract which both parties have agreed upon. Especially it is not like she was born yesterday and did not know how our economic system work. She had 90+ years to get familiar with it. Ha!

  60. drjayphd says:

    @Tian: Probably not worth the effort to respond to your comment, but if you’d bothered to read the post (gee, there’s a concept) she paid everything and simply forgot to put one payment in her register. Irresponsible? Hardly.

    By the way, how many hits have you gotten from linking to your site in every comment? Three? Four?

  61. mac-phisto says:

    @techseaport: dude, turn off your computer & call the power company RIGHT NOW! 100+ degree weather is not just uncomfortable for seniors, IT’S LIFE THREATENING.

    power companies will work with you to keep the power from getting cut off. simply explain your predicament & ask to establish payment arrangements to keep the power on. the worst thing you can do is nothing.

  62. @drjayphd: Apparently learning about finanical responsibility is not needed in today’s world.

    Everytime we run into finanical troubles, let’s all just cry to our banks, credit unions, or mommies & daddies, because it is not our fault of how to manage money.


  63. astrochimp says:

    @Tian: The point isn’t whether or not it’s her fault. The point is whether or not it’s an anti-consumer move on behalf of WaMu to charge $1800 for something that (as far as my calculations go) likely didn’t cost them 0.1% of that.

    I do stuff that’s my fault all the time. But if someone kicks me in the balls for doing it, I’m going to kick right back.

  64. Buran says:

    @ingridc: I guess you missed the words “utilities check”.

    It’s not like she had a choice.

  65. bearymore says:


    Having worked in marketing research at a bank, I can break down the fees for you. In the words of a Senior Vice President, “make them as high as you can, fees go right to the bottom line.” We used to do research to determine what competitors were charging and what the market would bear and then charge the maximum possible.

    My son has a small account at U.S. Bank to cover his daily expenses at college. He doesn’t use it during the summer. A few weeks ago, a bogus “non-PIN ATM withdrawl” (non-PIN?????) appeared on his account. They took all the money in the account plus about $4.00. About a week later, he received an e-mail telling him he was overdrawn. He immediately went into the account, found all his money gone, an overdraft fee of $35, plus a fee of $2 per day for being overdrawn. By this time, the fees were up to $73. He immediately called to report the fraud, and was told that the fees would be rescinded only after “investigation” proved that the transaction was fraudulent. In the mean time, unless he made a deposit to cover the overdraft and the fees, he was told that more fees would accrue at the rate of $2 per day.

    He also was informed that the investigation would take about two weeks (why?) and he would be informed of their determination at that time. We wait with baited breath…

  66. TomK says:

    it isn’t great service when they are raping you for thousands of dollars and agree to only rape you for hundreds of dollars so your mom doesnt die and cause bad publicity.

    There is a system of government that balances out the power of having alot of money by letting everyone vote. Its called democracy. If we had that here banks wouldnt be able to pull this crap. They made over 14 billion bucks in one year raping poor people with these fees. Why do we allow it to happen?

  67. ingridc says:

    For goodness sakes, you’d think from the responses to my comment that I was advocating killing the woman or something.

    @Sidecutter & Buran:: No need to get snarky about “reading comprehension”. I read it fine, TYVM; I was unclear about how her money was budgeted. I.e. was the utility bill in her budget but she spent $400 on something else? Or was the utility bill the $400? Apparently it’s been plenty clarified it was merely for the utilities, so thanks for that.

    @Nemesis_Enforcer: I do have a heart, which is why I made a case for max overdraft fees. In fact, I feel WaMu could have taken off way more of the charges, if not all. I merely speculated that if it wasn’t a utility bill she spent the $400 on, I wouldn’t be as sympathetic to a Paypal solicitation. Emphasis on “IF“.

  68. ingridc says:

    I should add that the main reason I was unclear about the origin of the $400 was because she was charged for TWENTY overdrafted transactions. It seemed like there might have been transactions in there that weren’t for bills. OK that’s all.

  69. clickable says:


    That reminds me, one of the utilities in my state or city (New York, New York) once asked me to add my name as a contact on my parent’s account. They said they do that routinely for elderly/disabled customers, so in case of a problem with a bill or service, if they can’t contact the customer or communicate with them for some reason, they can call the contact person before the account gets cut off. I was very grateful for it, actually.

    LW might ask all his local utilities if they could set that up for his mother’s accounts so he will have enough advance notice to make arrangements if anything unexpected happens.

  70. madconsumer says:

    This happened to me once last year by accident.

    I went in the red for about $200, using my debit card freely for a couple of days until I realized it..

    I got a fee of $35 for each of the six items:

    – spending $10 at the supermarket: $10 PLUS $35 fee

    – renting a movie: $3 PLUS $35 fee


    I was mad at the bank for charging me such extravagant fees.

    I called them and complained. They said that since it was the first time this had happened to me, they would reverse half of the fees. I think that this is a standard reaction on their part. So I ended up being charged an extra $105 for the privilege of having had the bank loan me $200 for a few days.

    It may be legal according to the rules, but I find it abusive.

    In the place of the man writing the story, I would not be particularly thankful: the bank effectively lent his mother $400 at an interest rate of 87% per month!!!

  71. Graciela says:

    I can only hope that when my parents are advanced in age, I will not resort to paypal donations from strangers to keep their power on. (I’m sure they’d be disappointed if I did that and they found out.) The story and the comments provided a lot of good, useful info, but the panhandling was definitely a turnoff.

  72. Havok154 says:

    I think it may be time to start taking care of your mothers money responsibilities. It’s quite painfully obvious that it will benefit all of you if you control the money from now on and give her an allowance for any “extras” she wants.

  73. chalicechick says:

    @Havok154: Umm… Actually, I don’t know that there would be much benefit to letting a guy who can’t even help his mom pay a power bill control the money.

    Much less someone who rights to Consumerist and begs BEFORE pleading Mom’s case to the power company.

    All Mom did was bounce a check. At this point, I would be ok with letting Mom control HIS money.

  74. ThirtyWhat says:

    Damn, Havok … the man said “I’d spent the last of my own money to pay for her prescription medications and right now I’m just an unemployed tech support geek.”

    Do you have any idea how much prescriptions can run for elderly people? We’re talking into the *hundreds* of dollars. He’s already spent the LAST of his own money to get her by … he’s not homeless and on crack … he’s a responsible, loving son who is TRYING to get his mother out of a bind.

  75. rorqualmaru says:

    An important element is being missed during all this discussion of how and when banks debit checks. They not only debit the largest check first instead of in order but all credits are honored -after- debits are taken for the day. Thus even if a deposit was in line to cover the amount of debits from the account the account holder would still be charged overdraft fees for drafts that should never have gone negative in the first place. I’ve had this happen to me at almost every bank I’ve done business with. Of course, I’m a low income, no equity customer.

  76. swvaboy says:

    @Cowboys_fan: How rude and uncompassionate. I wish that was your Pay Pal address so I could have someone send some you money and then dispute it after you spent it and let you clean up the mess.

    It is a shame that WE cannot help and take care of senior citizens, choosing between prescriptions, utilities, and food is a position no one should be in. Far to many Americans are in this position.

    I went bankrupt helping my Grandmother with her medicine that she could not afford on her Social Security – My Grandfather’s pension went bust and no the government did not bail it out. I would go bankrupt again and again for anyone in my family.

    F the system and well you, Cowboys_fan, will get yours.

  77. Cowboys_fan says:

    @swvaboy: Its not that I lack sympathy, its that I take offence to how the guy went about all this. First, being a tech geek, he can make his own website and instead of outright soliciting, he can post a link to that site, where he can solitic all he wants. Is there nowhere in this world/internet where one can go without people wanting money? If I WANT to give them money, I’ll email consumerist and arrange through them if I can’t find another way. I’m sure by posting this, some people may seek him out anyway to donate, so you don’t need to solicit us. Would you really keep coming here if every post conatined solicitation? Before I do something, I ask myself, what would life be like if everybody made the same decision. I am an altruist, I think we should take care of each other and if you read previous comments you would see that. However, that does not give me, nor anyone the right to solicit money on a consumer website.
    And then for TECHSEAPORT to come back and put it on the consumerist is completely inappropriate. If I sent a post to them, I would expect they post the entire email, and not edit parts they don’t like/want.
    We ALL have grandparents, and I’m sure most of us would do anything they can for them, but there is a line, and IMO, this guy crossed it.

  78. SoupNazzi says:

    Some of you people would make great CSRs. Cold, heartless, and just plain jerks.

  79. jitterpup says:

    For all those questioning why the guy doesn’t have his mother move in
    with him: he mentioned that she’s in a wheelchair. Did you ever stop to
    think that just maybe his living quarters are not wheel chair
    accessible? Maybe he’s renting a room from someone. Kinda tough to have
    Mom move in with you there.

    And as far as ragging on the guy to get a job–it’s not that easy. I
    was laid off and out of work for six months. I’m a graphic designer but
    I applied for anything. Fast food, mall jobs, retail. Want to know how
    many responses I got? None. Potential employers figured that I wouldn’t
    stick around very long, so why bother hiring me.

    Sheesh, people.

  80. swvaboy says:

    So, cut on line out of the story and replace it with: I have a website you can visit to help out? For someone to ask for help does not offend me, as I said it is only one line. Why focus on that line when there is so much more to the story?

    What difference does that line make?

    According to Lysander Spooner, who writes, in Natural Law: “Man, no doubt, owes many other moral duties to his fellow men; such as to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, protect the defenseless, assist the weak, and enlighten the ignorant. But these are simply moral duties, of which each man must be his own judge, in each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will, perform them.” FROM WIKI

    You are correct COWBOYS_FAN It is up to each of us.

  81. techseaport says:

    A hopefully last post from me on this.

    First, I want to thank everyone who donated.

    All $285 of it went to keeping her power on, and I found a Cobb/Fulton county charity who provides food baskets to the poor and am in contact with them. I’ve also started the process of getting my mother on a couple of state programs, and you wouldn’t believe how difficult these processes are, especially for someone who does not have experience with “the system.”

    I won’t comment on the negative posts here except to say that I firmly believe everyone is welcome to their own opinions, even if I don’t agree with them or how they were stated.