Monday 26 Sep 2016

The Bank Job
Matt Seinberg

Most people only go to the bank to use the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), to deposit or take out money. I don’t think it’s that often we actually have to talk to someone to get something done. Not anymore, I think.

The other day, I didn’t have a choice. I had to talk to someone about renewing a Certificate of Deposit (CD) that was coming due. Before I went to the bank, I had to go to the post office to pick up some paperwork that the bank had mailed to me, certified and requiring a signature.

I get to the post office. I get the letter, which turns out to be a duplicate that I had received a month earlier. I also received a phone call from the bank, the week before, from some woman telling me I had to do something with one of my accounts so it wouldn’t report the account as abandoned; New York State likes to know such it knows about such events. I told her I was going to the bank the following week.

I walk into Astoria Federal Savings Bank and everyone is busy. I have Melissa, my daughter, with me. All she wants to do is pretend she’s a cat or dinosaur, along with the appropriate noises. That gets annoying fast.

Finally, an older woman walks in, apparently coming back from lunch. She asks me if I need help. I told her I was in to renew a CD. She told me to come into her cubicle.

She takes my passbook and puts it in the printer, so it will update. I knew what the amount was going to be. Imagine my surprise when I see a withdrawal for $8.59. I asked her what that was for, and she says it was for the letter that I received Unbelievable, the bank made me pay for a second letter.

I was outraged and told her that I wanted that credited back to the account. She got up without saying a word, and went to talk to a man two cubicles over. She came back and said that without documentation, they could not credit me back.

Apparently, whoever called me the week before didn’t make any notes in the computer. I told this old bat that either they credit me $8.59 or give me a check for the entire amount of the CD. She said she couldn’t do that.

I told her to close the account. I said I’d never use Astoria again. I was going to Citibank, where I had the rest of my accounts.

Please understand that it wasn’t the amount of money involved, but the principle. The bank reached into my pocket and took out money. If someone did that to you on the street, that would be called stealing. Would writing a letter do anything other than make me feel better? I doubt it, so I’m not going to bother. 

Regular readers know I like to write letters and get results. This time, I’m just too disgusted to do anything.

I left and went to my local Citibank, where I hoped to see one of two women that had previous helped me over the years. Imagine my surprise when I didn’t see either of them there. A woman I had never met before called me over, introduced herself as Loretta and asked me how she could help me.

Now this was a woman I knew I could deal with and get along with, well, unlike the old bat at Astoria. Loretta told me that Lydia had transferred into New York City and Bibi left Citibank. Did Bibi leave with a bag full of money, I wondered.

I explained that I wanted to open a CD and put some of the money into a different account. Not a problem she said. We started the paperwork. I asked about refinancing a mortgage and she told me she would have the specialist, Bob, call me in a couple of days.

Loretta turned my day around from a miserable experience, at Astoria, to a pleasant one at Citibank. She’s the kind of woman I deal with, effectively. I hope that I treat my customers the same way.

Two days later, Bob the mortgage broker calls me from St. Louis, Missouri. He’s friendly and animated over the phone. He answers all my questions. He says I can lock in this low rate today, and hold it for ten days by giving him my credit card number, which he won’t charge.

The rates he gives me are unbelievably low and with a 15-year mortgage, I can save almost $900 a month. Holy moola, Batman, that’s a lot of dough!

I have two problems here. One is that my wife, Marcy, is at work and gawd forbid I do anything like this without her. The second problem is that we’re going on vacation. I won’t be able to talk to Bob for nine days.

I ask him to call me back at 6 pm. He says he’ll try, but he may not if he gets busy, which I understand. When Marcy walks in from work at 5:30, I start to explain all of this. She’s frazzled doesn’t want to hear about it. As soon as I mention the credit card, she almost has a cow and a rather large one.

Oh, did I mention that I also called my current mortgage holder, Chase Manhattan Bank for a refinance quote? I did that too and was not too happy with that conversation. The person who answered the phone, Keith, tried to rush me throughout the whole question and answer interview. He got a little perturbed when I needed clarification on the rates and money.

The Chase rate was almost one percentage point higher and their 15-year mortgage would cost me more than I’m paying now. The point of refinancing is to save money, not spend anymore. I won’t be dealing with Chase on this because of Keith’s attitude and the higher rate.

I am tired and can’t deal with talking to people on the phone anymore. All I want is to relax and sip a drink, with an umbrella in it, while sitting on the deck of a beautiful cruise ship. That’s another story.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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