How I Got Commerce To Refund $45 In Cycle Service Charge Fees

Yesterday I walked away from Commerce Bank victorious: my entire balance in my wallet, my fees reversed, and my account closed. I had an account there that I just sort of kept as a “money in a book” account. You know, you hide money in a book on your shelf so you forget about it and one day when you really need some extra scratch you realize, hey wait, I’ve got that money in a book. Except this way I wouldn’t run the risk of forgetting which book it was. In retrospect I realize that was kind of a half-stupid, half-smart idea. That’s how I roll. Another way I roll is a little policy called, “You don’t get to steal my money.”

I was told that after Commerce merged with TD Banknorth, they inherited TD’s policy of a $100 minimum balance on checking accounts. If you go under that, you get a $15 cycle service charge. About 3 months ago they started assessing it on my account. I went in. Commerce swears they sent me a notice about the change and I swear just as hard that I never got one. I get $30 back. Four days later I deposit enough to bring the account over $100. Safe, right? This month I got hit with another cycle service charge. Ready photon torpedoes.

I go in to the branch and ask the customer service rep to reverse the charge. She says she can’t because I already got the other fees waived and their policy is to only waive one. The customer service rep informs me that if your account goes under $100, even for a second, you will get charged a $15 fee. This is a many-layered fee onion, it seems.

I insist on the fee reversal. She says she’ll ask her manager. I see her stick her head in the back door from which up to now intermittent laughter has been emanating. She comes back and says he says no. I ask to speak to the manager. He comes over and I ask for the fee to be waived again. Naturally, he resists and go through the same thing about how they sent me the letter and it was my fault for not monitoring things and keeping the balance over $100.

I tell him, “I don’t have a problem keeping up with the account or with putting enough money in it. I have $135 in my wallet from depositing my piggy bank in your Penny Arcade. What I have a problem with is getting hit with fees I never heard about.” I then push the point that the last time we went through the fee reversal song and dance would have been a great time to tell me that unless I deposited more money right that second I was going to get hit with yet another cycle service charge. “Why didn’t anyone tell me this,” I ask. “Where is the consideration for customer service? All I’m getting is indifference on the part of Commerce and your employees. Is this a bank, or just a fee processing center?”

“We’re not a fee processing center,” the manager says, slightly taken aback. He tiptaps at the account, ruminating, “…I don’t understand why they didn’t tell you about this the last time you were here…”

Seeing my opening, an admission of fallibility, I lunge for it and say, “Me neither! Now we are one the same page! Now you see my problem with your customer service failure.”

He says, “Ok, we can refund the fee, but I have to warn you, because your account went under this month, you’re going to get another fee next billing cycle,” he says. “Why don’t you move it into the blah blah blah account? This way you only pay $3 a month instead of getting the cycle service charges.”

That does it. I’ve had it with Commerce. “A book doesn’t charge me $3 a month,” I reply, “for the favor it is doing me of letting me give it my money which increases its capital reserves and it can use to make loans off of. No, I tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to refund this fee, and then we’re going to close the account and I’m taking all my money out.”

“I don’t understand don’t you just get the blah blah blah account…”

“And who knows what other fee you’ll come up with tomorrow. No. It’s over. We had a good run, and now it’s over and I want my money back and I will put it in one of my many other accounts which don’t charge me fees just to put money in a box.”

“Ok, we can do that,” he says.

After I get my envelope from the customer service rep and get up to leave she shrugs her shoulders and says, “Sorry.” “That’s ok,” I say, “it’s just a business transaction.” Total time, 15 minutes. Definitely worth the $15 and avoiding getting charged yet another $15 and who knows what other fees down the line. On the way out, I have one of their lollipops, glad to be eating the sucker instead of being one. My only regret is that the hidden camera I was using this as a test run for didn’t work.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

  • Examine each statement and bill you get each month for new fees and policy changes.
  • If the level one person says no, ask for a manager.
  • Even if they say the manager says no, ask to speak to the manager personally.
  • When negotiating your position, insist, restate, and hold firm. Victory goes to the persistent.

(Photo: the prodigal untitled13)