Too big to give a fuck

Here is a little note for people on customer service:

Every company I have ever worked with that has terrible customer service apologizes a lot and makes soothing noises in lieu of actually doing anything.

When your company fucks up it does NO good to say how sorry you are and you empathize.  I really don’t care if you are going back in your office and doing the evil scientist laugh moo-ha-ha while you dance around and spit on my bank statement. I just want you to fix it.

I went to the bank yesterday to deposit a check and it seemed my balance was lower than I expected. When I got home, I found a letter saying my last deposit had been reversed because it didn’t match the name on the account. This was very weird since the check was written to me. I called the 800 number and was told that yes, NINE YEARS AGO I had come into the bank and shown them proof I had changed my name and that was noted on my account but it was not noted in the right spot on my account so I would need to go the branch that had reversed the deposit in person and show them my ID and proof of name change.

I pointed out that I had done exactly that and had been depositing checks at that exact branch for the past nine years with the same name and never had a problem before. The person on the humorously named customer service number told me that I would have to go back to the branch in person, show them my ID again and have them write in some other place on the record that I had changed my name.

I asked if that was the case could he at least note somewhere in their files that this was a HUGE inconvenience and, in fact, impossible for several days as I’m writing this from an airplane from which it is not feasible to leap out and parachute into my local branch. He said it wouldn’t make any difference because no one would read it. He said if I wanted to have anyone read it I should have the bank manager write a letter.

This morning, on the way to the airport, I called my local branch where I was told that it was NOT up to them and that it was reversed by some other central office that handles ATM transactions and I could go into any branch. Also, the branch manager told me that if I was unhappy with the way it was handled, I should call customer service (read preceding paragraph) and that she couldn’t change it over the phone because she had no ID and had no idea who I was because she had never seen me. I pointed out that a) I was going to be in the airport and going to any branch was not feasible and b) they had been cashing my checks for the last 9 years with the same name  and they had a record in my file I had changed my name so why couldn’t they just un-reverse their reversal of my deposit, c) what the branch was telling me was the exact OPPOSITE of what customer service had told me, d) I had ID nine YEARS ago when I did this exact same thing, e) every single person I talked to agreed that, “Oh, yes, we see that you came into the bank and told us you changed your name and it is written into the record here, but IT’S NOT WRITTEN IN THE RIGHT SPOT and e) I had been coming into the Santa Monica branch for SEVENTEEN YEARS.

Here is the story of my account with US Bank – I started with a small bank in North Dakota, which then got bought by another bank, which then got bought by another bank. All along, I have had my same account but would get a cheery letter saying, “We’ve merged with so-and-so bank. “

Eventually it was US Bank and then they bought another bank and moved the closest local branch. I don’t recall how long I have been going to this particular branch but I know it is over nine years because I remember going in there and having my married name added to my account.

How hard is to to make a company wiki or something so people in your company give out accurate information? This isn’t the first time this has happened to me at all (read post here on Microsoft’s laughably misnamed customer service).

More than that, though, why, when every person told me that they could SEE in the record that I had come in years ago and notified them of my name change did no one have the authority to say,

“Yes, I see this is a mistake on our part. You have been banking here for years. I even see the date when you informed us of the name change. We’ll take care of this.”

Here is what I have decided and I urge you to join me in it. When I get terrible customer service from an organization, I take my business elsewhere. I will never use Budget Rent-A-Car in Las Vegas ever again (see post here).

Although it will be a huge pain in the ass, over the next several weeks, I will close all of the accounts I have with U.S. Bank and go elsewhere.

With companies that I am forced to use their products, like Microsoft, because some of what we use only runs on Windows, I buy the minimum amount possible and put it off for as long as possible. The fact that they have a large captive market of people like me may explain why Microsoft’s customer service blows.

If enough people do this, perhaps companies will have an incentive to improve customer service. If not, at least I will have better experiences.

Over 14 years ago, The Spoiled One was barely old enough to walk and the flight attendant was unbelievably rude to us on a cross-country flight on Southwest Airlines. I have flown that airline once in the last 14 years and only then because there was no other flight I could take. It hasn’t hurt their bottom line as far as I can tell, but I’ve been pretty happy flying on other airlines. The highlight of my customer service experience flying with children was when Northwest Airlines ran out of lunches on a flight once and The Spoiled One was crying, the flight attendant went back and got her own lunch and gave it to my toddler! How happy do you think I was to being flying on Northwest that day?

So, that’s my advice to you. Don’t support rotten customer service. Even if it makes no difference to the organization you leave, at least your life will be easier.

The positive side of every experience I have like this is I realize that it is not a very high bar for our company to give people better service than they are used to. Every time something like this happens, I take it as a lesson of how we can try to do better than the average.


That is one of the competitive advantages of small businesses. They really do care whether you are there or not. It makes me hopeful for 7 Generation Games, because unlike a lot of the monolithic educational companies, if something is a problem for a school district, it will get fixed if I have to fly to North Dakota in the middle of a blizzard or drive to downtown LA and work with your IT staff to get our game through your impenetrable firewall.

Having said all of that, I think I’m going to pop into a small bank I know and see how we can do business.

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  1. RIGHT FRICKN ON! I agree 100%, one customer may not hurt…but times 1000…10,000…100,000, they’ll feel it. Wells Fargo lost us years ago because of similar issues and lack of “let us fix that for you”.

  2. Hear, Hear!

    A lot of big organizations (and government administration) grow past as certain point where their employees’ jobs are safe unless they screw up big time.

    They don’t get fired for not doing things, only for doing the wrong thing.

    Whoever is on the other end of the phone call can’t be fired for telling you to come to a branch office in person, but they can get in hot waters for updating your account data over the phone even though the right data is already there at the wrong place and even a 12 years old could figure out what needs to be done.

    The risk/reward ratio is completely skewed.

  3. Man O Man would I ever like to be near by when you do go into the USBank branch to close your accounts. That just might be a whole bunch of fun.

  4. Many big companies employ people to watch out for any mention online, especially on Twitter or similar sites. The amazing this is that *those* employees can swoop in and do almost anything to make it right; so the company’s OK with giving someone the needed authority, if you complain in the correct venue.

  5. If you haven’t already, I hope you will tweet this and get Ronda to do the same. Having your combined 700,000 followers read and hopefully act on this suggestion might make a small impact. I closed accounts at Bank of America when they threatened to start charging $5 for debit card transactions. Enough of us did this that they actually reversed the policy! I love my credit union.

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