A sad but true story…..
For the past several years (as in at least four or five) Bank of America has mailed me a paper statement for an account with a balance of four cents ($ 0.04). I opened the account to qualify for a reduced percentage rate on a home equity loan via automatic deductions. While I was paying off the loan I maintained a balance high enough to meet the monthly payment. Then once I paid off the loan I stopped making deposits. At that time the balance was $ 0.04.
Every month when I get the statement in the mail I chuckle at how the bank is spending $0.44 each month to remind me I have $0.04 in this account. One would think that the bank would have a system in place to monitor inactivity and at some point a flag would go up and someone would recognize they were spending time and resources to manage accounts that were obviously inactive. At some point surely they would contact customers to either ask for a deposit or for permission to close the account. Apparently B of A doesn’t have this type of system.
So today when the statement arrived I decided (out of the goodness of my [sarcastic] heart) to call the bank and offer to save them the cost of a stamp each month. After navigating through the cumbersome IVR system I was placed in queue. When Javier came on the line I explained the situation: four cents, monthly statements, cost to the bank; wasted paper, wasted effort; please close the account. No need to thank me. I just want the bank to be successful so I don’t have to bail them out again.
I quickly learned that Javier was a pretty serious guy. No strike serious – INTENSE was more like it. He crisply explained that for this type of account (apparently a checking account with $ 0.04 in it is “this” type of account) I would need to come into a bank to close the account in person. End of story, no other way, that’s just how it works, thanks for playing. I told Javier that I didn’t want to do that and there must be a way to close an account over the phone. Now frustrated Javier says, “you have to come in – what would we do with your money?” I thanked him for his diligence and I told him to mail me a cashier’s check. Silence on the other end of the phone; hilarity on my end. All I could think was that Javi (by this time I felt “endeared” to Javi and therefore the nick-name in my mind for him) needed to lighten up.
I asked Javi to let me speak with someone else who could discuss an alternative to coming into the bank to close the account. Javi said, “Why? Why would you want to talk to someone else? I’ve already told you everything you need to know about how to close this account.” Oh un-empowered and under-trained customer service reps– you’ve just gotta love ‘em! I asked again and now very exasperated Javi finally agreed to get someone else on the phone. But he cautioned me very sternly, “OK, but you may have to wait a minute!” Me (messing with him because he needed to lighten up): “OK, but only a minute.” Javi: “Well it might be more than a minute”. Me: “hey- you’re the one who said ‘a minute’.” Javi: “well it could be a while”. Me: “That’s fine, please make it a warm transfer.
I hunkered down expecting “a while” to be an extended wait. I envisioned Javi was now scouring my account transactions in his “system” and planning revenge of some sort for questioning his supreme knowledge of how to close an account. To my surprise my wait was not long at all. It was only a minute or two when the silence was broken – the $ 0.44 cents wasted on my statements each month must have precluded affording a phone system that has music on hold. Javi was back on the line. “Mr. Morales, I have Abel on the line who will speak to you about closing your account”. “Hi this is Abel. I understand you want to close your account? I can take care of that for you and here is the confirmation code”… Wow – Abel and willing to help! Abel went on, “where would you like the final statement mailed to?” I laughed. Abel laughed too quickly recognizing the irony. He explained that they have to send a final statement. What the heck, one last stamp for the road.
I thanked “Abel and willing” for his help and hung up the phone satisfied to know that today I made a difference for the B of A shareholders. I wonder what will happen to my $ 0.04…