I Pledge Allegiance, to the Bank of America…

December 14, 2007

This is the story of how one poor man (me) was electronically stolen from, and then verified, transferred, and “yes sir”ed by his bank to the point where he was forced to question his own humanity.

Last week, I received my first paycheck for the month of December. A day after that, my health insurance payment (paid for entirely by myself) hit my account, and then half of my paycheck was gone. I had just enough money left to get me through the week without feeling like I couldn’t buy at least one sandwich or Mac-Donald’s value meal – or maybe that two dog and small ice-with-a-little-drink special at Gray’s Papaya – during the week, in addition to making a small contribution towards those monthly expenses necessary to life (rent, groceries and television). Then another day passed. At the end of this day, a visit to my online banking center showed me that this “just enough” amount of money had become a “negative number written in a red font because it’s not a real” amount of money. A Chinese thief had charged the entire amount left in my account (plus a little bit more!) to my check card.

Probably, plus another clause, the thief was not even Chinese. The charge was made to the PayPal account of a Chinese man, but I’m decently sure that the thief is really some pimply-faced, nerdy white kid from the suburbs who when I find him will have brittle bones and will not know karate. As of now, I haven’t found him, because I never will, because the beauty of the internet is also the beauty of internet crime: identity and location are mostly relative. As far as I will ever probably know, the thief is who he appears to be, a Chinese man with a PayPal account.

Needless to say, I called my Bank (of America!) immediately upon noticing the charge. Here’s how my customer service experience went down:

I spoke to their Automated Man for a few minutes. During these minutes I verified my account information and verified my identity. Automated Man gave me a list of Automated Options – so I could better understand why I called him – and none of the options included bank fraud or credit fraud or theft or anything. The number I called came off the back of my check card, so you’d think there’d be an early option to talk to someone about fraudulent card activity. But of course (not).

Eventually I got through enough automated sub-menus to find the “or press zero to speak to a representative” option. I then pressed zero, because I prefer talking to people (no offense Automated Man, I’m sure my children will prefer your voice to the voices of flesh and blood humans) and, at the very least, people can be yelled at over the phone.

Except that customer service people are not real people. They are trained to get artificially nicer and more polite the angrier and the nastier you get. I would like to be the wall under the fly during a marital dispute between two customer service professionals:

MAN (smashes beer bottle): I’ve had enough of this crap.

WOMAN: I’m sorry that you feel that way, sir. I am working right now to correct the problem and we apologize for any inconvenience. Incidentally, I’ve had enough of your crap too.

MAN: I’m sorry that you feel that way, ma’am. I will get started on fixing my crap for you right away, and we apologize for any inconvenience. Is there anything else I can do for you today?

WOMAN: You can stop being a lazy ass. Sir.

MAN: Thank you, I will stop being a lazy ass. We appreciate your continued participation in this marriage, thank you for choosing us and have a great day.

So, anyway, I finally got someone on the phone. She verified my identity by asking for my address, my birth date, my account number, and the color of my undarwears (sheer white lace). I passed the test. I was me.

She asked what the problem was today. I told her that a Chinese man, who was no pal of mine, had stolen my pay. She apologized, and told me she’d help me take care of things. Lying bitch.

The short of it: the charge was still pending, which meant that the bank might still catch the fraud and not allow the charge to hit my account. The pending status would change, either way, by – and I quote – “9 AM tomorrow.” She asked that I please call back then, as there was nothing that could be done in the meantime. Seeing as how it was late in the afternoon and I that was already home for the night, I did not think this would be so bad, so I thanked her and hung up.

Three days later, the charge posted to my account. Ring ring ring!

Automated Man. Self-verification. Sub-menus. Real Person.

This Real Person verified my identity by asking for my address, my birth date, my account number, and my waist size. He informed me that my birth date was listed incorrectly in the system, and that I would have to go into a Bank (of America!) in person, to correct this, and to make sure that I had a valid ID when I did. I told him that I had done this already a long time ago, and I wasn’t going to be doing it again, because something is wrong with “the system” and that it was not my job to run to the bank every few months to correct recurring errors in their faulty computer code. Moreover, if I were to do this…the computer would never learn anything! He apologized and thanked me for being nasty with him.

I told him my problem, he apologized, said that he’d help me fix it, and then thanked me for my patience. He then informed me that since the charge was made to my check card, he’d have to transfer me to the credit department. I said that was fine if they were going to fix the problem. He said they would and thanked me and apologized for thanking me and then transferred me.

Automated Man greeted me, again, after a few minutes of elevator music. I was surprised to hear him say something different for a change. That something different was a request for some other kind of identification number that was not my card number and not my account number. Eventually, I was in an Automated Corner and had to resort to yelling at the Automated Man. After telling this computer generated program three times that “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he transferred me to another Real Person.

This Real Person verified my identity by asking me for my address, my birth date, my account number, and my sexual history. He informed me that my birth date was incorrect in the system, and before he went on any further from that point, I performed an incantation over the phone and cursed his scrotum. He then thanked me for the scrotum curse, apologized for having a scrotum, and informed me that since this was a credit fraud issue, that he would have to transfer me to the credit fraud claims department. I told him that nothing would excite me more than to be transferred again. I loved Big Brother.

Elevator music. Automated Man telling me that my call was important to him. Elevator music. Real Person.

She verified my identity by asking me for my address, my birth date, my account number, and the color of my aura. She started taking care of my problem. I would be credited the stolen amount, temporarily, until they could confirm the theft and start looking for the thief. Probably, they will fly an executive out to China on a first class ticket, so he can stay there for a week, during which he’ll at one point ask a random Chinese person if they’ve stolen my money. That person will likely say no, after which the executive will be forced to expand his search by three more weeks and several other Asian countries, “because they all look the same.” His words, not mine. Racist capitalist asshole.

The credit hit my account one day later. The day after that, I received my next paycheck. Special thanks go out to my girlfriend for feeding me last week.

But extra special thanks to my Bank of America, for taking my problem and spreading its resolution out over a full week, and around to four people and one computer program. Thank you also for reminding me where I live and when I was born. Or was I born on that day? I don’t remember.

I apologize. Thank you. I apologize. Thank you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t more more helpful to you in your efforts to provide me with customer service. Thank you.

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5 Responses to “I Pledge Allegiance, to the Bank of America…”

  1. dailysalad Says:

    This is perfect. I had the same problem after one of their ATMs ate my check. I referred to that in
    https://yesterdayssalad.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/journeys-on-the-boundaries-of-space-and-time/

    I wish I could have expressed my anger as well as you just did.

  2. Annie Says:

    If you’re having problems with customer service, check Consumerist (www.consumerist.com) to see if they have a phone number or email for executive customer service, or just submit your experience. Often the posted stories get a quick response from the service providers.

  3. Eckle Says:

    I’m having a more horrible problem with the bank of america. Shoot, i did a international wire transfer way back in october ’07, and that money hasn’t reached the destination bank. And guess what bank of america tells me? I quote :

    ” We are not responsible for wire transfers. We do not guarantee that your money will be sent or deposited back to your bank account.”

    wtf?

  4. Jennifer Says:

    I have also experienced the pain of having to resort to yelling at the automated man. I have just spent 3 hours all together over the span of one day trying to speak to a real person at Bank of America. I think I will give up for the day and repeat the process tomorrow, because it just wasn’t enough for me to go through it two days in a row. Whatever happened to real people?

  5. ibiteyoureyes Says:

    Jennifer,

    Thank you for your comment. Your comment is important to us.

    IBYE


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