Wachovia Doesn't Give You Your Money, Then Yells At You

Reader G writes:

On Saturday 3/8/08 at approximately 4pm I went to a drive-up ATM at the Wachovia Bank branch located at 951 South George Mason Drive, Arlington, VA 22204. I put my card in and asked to withdraw $80. The machine was acting normally until it was supposed to dispense the money.

The screen flashed “please take your card” and gave me my card back, but no money came out. I waited, and suddenly the ATM’s screen went blank for a moment, then came back on, still on the flashing “please take your card” screen. I parked my car and went to the ATM to wait for it to do something – my card information was still in the machine, and my money had never come out, and I was afraid it might start working again and give other people access to my account, or just give other people my money.

Standing next to the ATM I called the Wachovia customer service number. A man answered after a few minutes on hold and told me that there information showed that I had received the money, and that I would have to be transferred to the Disputes department. Standing outside next to the ATM in 50 degree rainy weather (with no coat because it had been warm earlier when I went out), I waited on hold about 10 minutes before my call rang through to someone’s desk, and without ever getting to talk to that person, I was immediately dumped back into the general queue.

After waiting ANOTHER 10 minutes my call rang through again, and someone picked up without saying a thing and just hung up the phone.

At this point I was very upset, and the ATM screen had frozen on the “please take your card” screen (it had stopped the flashing graphic entirely). Right after that in my frustration I locked myself out of my car, so I had the privilege of standing outside the closed bank until about 6pm when my car with unlocked. I can confirm that the screen stayed frozen the entire time, it would not take other peoples cards nor did pressing any buttons affect it. At 6:15 I went to the walk-up ATM next to the frozen drive-up ATM and requested $80 again because I needed the money for a piece of furniture I was receiving that evening.

I went home. The next day I called the customer service line for Wachovia again, was transferred to the Disputes department again, and someone actually picked up the phone. This woman was very rude. She did not listen to anything I said, got all of my information AGAIN that the other customer service woman had requested, and then said that even though the 2 requests I made for $80 that day had been on different ATMs and 2 hours apart, they couldn’t tell the difference between them.

She said that unless I could find the receipt for the second successful ATM transaction she would just have to pick one of the transactions randomly and if it was the wrong one my request would be denied and I wouldn’t get my money back. She acted as if it was my fault for not having my receipt and that it was my responsibility to fix this issue, not her’s or the bank’s. I asked her how this could be possible, that they would just take my money because THEIR machine broke, and she got extremely defensive and even ruder, starting talking louder and talking over me saying that I was out of line.

I had written down the serial number of the broken ATM but she said she couldn’t use that information. Thank god after searching through my trash I found the receipt of the successful transaction so she could put through the request for a dispute on the unsuccessful one. She said that in 3-5 days I would be mailed a letter and asked to provide even more information to an investigator, AFTER they received my reply the investigation would proceed, and then the bank would “balance” their ATM machine whenever they usually did so and they didn’t know when that would be (nothing would be hurried on my account), and that IF they saw this “alleged” discrepancy then and ONLY THEN would I get my money back.

How many people actually get their receipts when they go to the ATM? How many people keep a hold of those receipts? Why would you think that you had to keep a receipt from a separate and successful transaction when complaining about one that didn’t work and didn’t give you a receipt? When you call their disputes department it says over and over again that you can file a dispute online. If you go to that page it’s just a form with a couple drop down menus that doesn’t allow for any comments, and aside from being able to choose “ATM” as the thing you had a problem with, the entire drop down menu asking what your problem actually was has no choice that even comes close to “ATM broke” or “ATM did not dispense funds.” By the time someone had seen that online form and called me back my ATM receipt that I needed to do their jobs for them would have been long gone in the trash, and I would have been SOL. Now I still have to go through their little investigation and maybe in a couple of WEEKS it will be fixed.

What if I had requested enough money that I couldn’t ask for it again? Would they have cared if it had been a few hundred dollars and I couldn’t pay bills or my rent? I doubt it. In fact, I’m sure they would be even less likely to help because the amount was higher. I can assure you that I will cancel my account at that time because this bank’s customer service is nothing short of horrible. How can they even legally pseudo-threaten to keep my money that I requested and never got unless I can provide information I had no way of knowing I would ever need?

We suggested that G launch an EECB (Executive Email Carpet Bomb) on Wachovia using this contact information, but honestly, we’d cancel this account as well. (Well, after we got our 80 bucks back!) We’ve had an ATM swallow our cash before and our bank did not yell at us or make us produce a receipt from a different transaction. How strange and rude.

If you don’t end up getting your money from Wachovia, you should file a complaint with their regulating agency. The agency will investigate whether or not Wachovia broke any banking regulations by not correcting the ATM error.

Here’s how to do that:
1) Contact your lender with a formal complaint. You can do this in writing, or by email. Keep a copy of this complaint for your records.

2) If your lender doesn’t respond in a way that makes you happy, you can file a complaint with the bank’s regulatory agency. This may be the FTC, The Department of Thrift Supervision, The Comptroller of Currency…or a few more.

You’ll need to figure out which agency regulates your lender by calling or using FDIC’s Bank Find.

3) Write a formal complaint letter to the bank’s regulatory agency. Follow the FTC’s instructions for writing a complaint. This document also has the correct contact information for the various regulatory agencies. Keep a copy of this complaint for your records.

For more information about how to learn to launch your own EECB, click here.