Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another rant about those banks

You may have noticed the recent spate of stories in the press about consumers being treated miserably by the big banks, which are accused of unfairly jacking up rates and fees on credit card holders at the slightest excuse. As a banker myself, I’ve tended to be less than sympathetic when hearing these reports, believing that banks are just managing risk by discouraging the bad behavior of their worst offenders. Some people just shouldn’t have credit. So my usual reaction when seeing someone on TV complaining about bank charges was “Hey, Buddy, you should’ve read the fine print!”

I’m not singing from that hymnal anymore, however.

My wife was down at Bert’s the other day attempting unsuccessfully to pay for her purchases using a Citibank credit card which, no matter how many times she swiped it through the machine, just could not get itself authorized. So naturally on her arrival back home she asked “What’s the deal?” I was sure it was just another bank mix up, so I called Citibank to straighten out the problem. After I had identified myself to their satisfaction, here’s how my phone conversation went:

Me: I’m calling because my wife was unable to get authorization to use our credit card today

Citibank: That’s right sir. You are past due on the account.

Me: Past due? Since when?

Citibank: Six days past due, sir.

Me: By how much?

Citibank: $25, sir.

Me: What? You suspended my card because I was six days past due on $25? Are you @#$%*%^# kidding me?

Citibank: No, sir. If you were even one hour late on your payment, we would have taken the same action. We would still have suspended your use of the card, sir.

Me: But I’ve been a Citibank customer for 20 years, I have a great credit score, I don’t think I’ve ever been delinquent by even 30 days! Aren’t you the same Citibank that just got $30 billion of taxpayer money?

Citibank: [silence]

Me: This is how you treat your customers? We taxpayers own you!!!!

Citibank: Would you like to make a payment on your card now, sir?

Me: Okay, fine. If that’s how you’re going to treat me, I’m paying off my card in full right now! And I will never be using it again. You have my account information, so just charge my checking account for the full amount and be done with it.

Citibank: That will be $14.50, sir.

Me: $14.50 for what?

Citibank: For making a phone payment, sir.

Me: You’ve got to be joking! [Pause] Fine. I’ll just go online and pay it down that way!

Citibank: Can’t be done sir.

Me: Why not?

Citibank: We’ve suspended your on-line privileges, sir.

Me [while figuratively slamming down my cell phone]: #$%@*&%$@

Later, a banker friend on hearing my story suggested that I am exactly the kind of customer Citibank wants to get rid of. I asked what he meant, and he said that the bank probably makes no money on my account since I pay it in full every month and am only late about once a year. Thus from the Bank’s point of view, with no interest and few fees to collect on my account, I’m as much of a deadbeat to them as anyone who has bad credit. They’re probably glad to be rid of me! (This thought undermines my satisfaction in having told them in writing that I would never bank with them again, even if they were the last bank left on earth).

With regard to those other victims whose stories I so cavalierly dismissed: I’m sorry. I’m sympathetic now. I get it. I was wrong about those bankers. And I was wrong about the $30 Billion, too. Citibank has, believe it or not, received $50 billion of capital from the U.S. taxpayers PLUS another $301 billion of taxpayer loan guarantees to backstop the Bank’s so-called toxic-asset portfolio. 

$351 BILLION is a lot of money!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.