The Most Reasonable Letter We've Ever Received From A Guy Whose Bank Misplaced $14,000

Meet Matt. He’s is the writer of the most reasonable, calm, thoughtful letter we’ve ever gotten from someone whose bank misplaced a check for $14,000. That bank is Bank of America, and they’ve lost a customer. Was it because their ATM ate the check? Not really. It was because they couldn’t even bother to act concerned about it. Matt is ready for a bank that thinks $14,000 is important.

Matt says:

Earlier this week I deposited a check for just under $14,000 at a Bank of America ATM. It sucked up my check, went “clickety clack click,” said “This ATM is temporarily unable to accept deposits,” and then returned my card – but not the check.

I walked into the bank, explained what happened, and the rep helpfully directed me to the customer support line. This I found baffling – the problem and its solution were right there in the branch, and I would have expected a bit more concern and hands-on engagement regarding a malfunctioning ATM and a fairly large deposit. Anyway, the white glove service consisted of dialing the number for me, letting me use their phone for free, and wandering off.

So, I spent a bit of time on hold, then explained the situation once to the front-line rep, and again to the claims department. They informed me that they had no record of the transaction, but that they would investigate the situation and mail me a letter within the next ten days. (A letter? How quaint.)

A few days later I called back, and the front-line rep had no record of the claim – she collected all my information again, then forwarded me to the claims department, which collected all my information one more time, then located the claim. “We’re still looking into it.” “How long will it take for you to figure this out?” “We can’t say. We’ll mail you a letter with the results of the claim.”

It’s now been six days and the money has not appeared in my account, nor have I received a letter, phone call or even a telegram regarding the situation.

In their defense, they haven’t yet done anything outright wrong or fraudulent. I’m guessing that there are reasonable processes and policies that would prevent a bank employee from just cracking open an ATM and rummaging around inside. And I know that ATM deposits can be risky, although I’ve been making similar deposits every month for many years now, without incident. And I’m fairly certain the deposit would turn up eventually. Fingers crossed.

What bugs me about the situation is the bank’s rather lackadaisical attitude about the fact that they have misplaced a fairly large amount of my money, and their lethargic, stone-age approach to customer service. Direct me to a telephone? Promise to mail me a letter at some point? Lame.

If you publish this note, I might get a very friendly and contrite email or phone call from someone at the bank and the situation might get resolved a smidge faster. Who knows, maybe they’ll give me a free plastic check wallet for my trouble.

But that’s not the point. I shouldn’t have to write things like this in order to provoke my bank into at least pretending they give a crap that they’ve lost a bunch of my money. I have entrusted Bank of America with my day to day finances since 1993. They claim their business is built on maintaining that trust. Their Web site is littered with words like “secure,” “trust,” “confidence” and so on. And, for me, part of maintaining that trust is showing serious personal concern about a failure in one of the basic functions of a bank, which is to keep track of money.

Perhaps they could have called out the branch manager and had them get on the phone to figure out the problem rather than making me do it. Perhaps they could have given me a call every day or two to let me know if they’ve made any progress (or not) in locating the deposit. Perhaps they could have explained why it would take so long to fish a piece of paper out of a broken box rather than leaving me to puzzle it out for myself. Perhaps they could have immediately credited my account while they investigated the problem. (To their credit, they claimed they could do this if the situation was not resolved in ten days; however, I have a long history of making legitimate deposits of similar amounts from the same payer, so perhaps they could be a bit more proactive in offering me a bit of the same trust they so frequently ask of me.)

I can only imagine what this situation would be like if I were living paycheck to paycheck and needed to pay rent, buy groceries or post bail with that money. Thankfully I’m able to meet my obligations for the month with other funds, though it’s a hassle. I am lucky to be bemused and irritated by this experience, rather than outright harmed.

Needless to say, I am waiting out the situation a few more days but will likely stop payment on the check, close my accounts and find a new bank – probably a small regional bank or local credit union that would be more motivated to get personally engaged when problems like this arise (as they inevitably do). $14,000 is a lot of money to some people, and if a bank that aims to serve consumers cannot bring itself to appear as concerned about such an amount going missing as its customers would be, and be just as engaged and persistent about resolving the situation, then maybe they’re in the wrong business.


Sounds like a plan.

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