March 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm (By Realpc) ()

I got a phone call from MegaBank the other day — they were taking a survey of customers who had recently closed their accounts. The purpose was to find out the reasons, and to see if they could entice these customers to come back. I wouldn’t usually take a telephone survey, but I had a horrible experience with MegaBank, after being a loyal customer for 10 years, and I thought this might be my chance to curse them out.

The survey guy (I’ll call him “S”) said the survey would only take 10 minutes to complete, and would be recorded and listened to by the MegaBank management.

S: Ok, we’ll get started. The first question is about age. What age category are you in — are you under 18?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 18 and 20?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 20 and 25?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 25 and 30?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 30 and 35?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 35 and 40?

Me: Whoa! Hold on a minute. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ask me what my age is, and then put it in the right category?

S: MegaBank says we have to ask it this way.

Me: This survey is a perfect example of why I hate MegaBank and why I left.

S: I am so sorry you feel that way. Shall we continue?

Me: On with the torture. When do I get a chance to tell them why I hate them?

S: Just let me get through this question, please. Is your age between 40 and 45?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 45 and 50?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 50 and 55?

Me: No.

S: Are you between 55 and 60?

Me: Bingo! You must be psychic!

S: Next question. This one is about education. Did you complete kindergarten?

Me: Yes.

S: First grade?

Me: Yes.

S: Second grade?

Me: Yes.

And so it went on, and on, and on. It took 20 minutes instead of 10 because I spent so much time cursing and swearing and explaining how much I deeply despise MegaBank.

It turned out that the motivation for the survey was to find out if disgruntled customers would come back to MegaBank for a bonus of $200 and some free gifts. A feeble attempt to get back some of the customers who have run screaming out their doors.

But who needs customers anyway, when you have the American taxpayers to pay your mega bonuses?


  1. Theo Boehm said,

    Ah, Realpc,, you’ve done something I’ve only dreamed of. I just don’t have the nerve.

    But I’ve plenty of experience with MegaBanks. The birth of one of the most notorious was in my home state of California. Most Californians have fought this Beast at one time or another. Now, it’s the entire country’s turn.

    But it wasn’t always this way.

    Somewhere I have a photo of my Grandmother as a young woman in San Francisco. She wasn’t long removed from the village in Asturias where her ancestors had lived for 900 years. She’s grinning from ear to ear to be out of deeply peasant, still Medieval Europe, standing on a sidewalk on a bright day in a modern, American city. Next to her, grinning nearly as broadly, I suspect because he had gotten yet another loyal, immigrant customer for his Bank of Italy, is A. P. Giannini.

    Spain isn’t Italy, but A. P. Giannini’s bank was the bank of choice for San Francisco’s large Southern European immigrant community, including a surprising number of Spaniards like my Grandparents. Mr. Giannini had established his bank in 1904, just in time for the Earthquake of 1906. He ended up doing tremendous service to get San Francisco back on its feet, as nearly the only bank with its books and cash undamaged. He famously set up an emergency bank on a plank between two barrels after the Earthquake, and used to say that every loan he made there was repaid.

    And after all that he was not too grand to walk outside with a new customer to have their picture snapped on that sunny day in 1919.

    Before the 1920’s were over, and that young woman had turned 30, she was dead of a brain tumor. A. P. Giannini personally saw to it that my Grandfather, returned from life as a merchant sailor, got a loan to buy a big house in Oakland, where he could settle down and raise the three girls on his own, my mother being the baby sister at 9. My Grandfather didn’t like American much, having wanted to go to Argentina, but he never forgot Mr. Giannini and everything he had done for our family, and concluded that things were not totally bad in America, especially with people like Giannini.

    About this time, Mr. Giannini merged his bank with one in Los Angeles that had the more forward-looking name of Bank of America. The wave of turn-of-the-century immigration was over and institutions reminding people of it, with names such as the Bank of Italy, were becoming a thing of the past.

    A lot has changed since.

  2. realpc920 said,

    “you’ve done something I’ve only dreamed of. I just don’t have the nerve.”

    It never occurred to me to be afraid of them. Maybe I should have been? At the end, the survey guy said my name and I suddenly realized it wasn’t anonymous. When I sounded shocked, he laughed menacingly. Or I imagined he did. I realized I should not have taken out my anger on a poor brainless survey taker. But the thought of him reading those inane questions all day long and never seeing a better way, well it just drove me over the edge I guess.

    Maybe it’s harder if we’re old and still remember when customers were valued and treated with politeness and consideration. Maybe those days are so long gone, people don’t expect anything better.

    The survey just added more insult to injury for me. I had spent a harrowing 2 weeks trying to get someone, anyone, in the fraud department to help prevent money from being sucked out of my savings account. I missed time from work, from sleep. I felt that MegaBank owed me a big apology, as well as payment for all that time.

    But instead of sincere apologies and compensation, I got even more of my time wasted.

    Their interest rates are microscopic, their employees are apathetic and rude (and probably paid about 2 dollars an hour), and they don’t give a hoot about trying to protect their customers’ money. And then they try to win you back with $200.

    So they actually did me a big favor by providing the motivation to grab my money and run. I had only stayed out of habit — the branch used to be part of a friendly local bank and then MegaBank devoured it. MegaBank is like a giant amoeba that engulfs everything in its path.

    Some day we will have only one bank — probably owned by the federal government — and we will all be its slaves.

  3. Donna B. said,

    Funny you should post this now. It’s not MegaBank, I’m having a problem with today, it’s Amazon. I tried to sign in this morning to buy baby doll clothes for the 3 year old’s dolls. She’s very concerned about them staying in their pajamas all day.

    Says my email and password don’t match. I try again typing very carefully (strange keyboard and all) and it says same.

    Anyway, daughter finds a way to telephone Amazon and the rep tells me my account has been suspended for “unauthorized activity” but cannot tell me anything more – not when it was suspended (I’ve been on the road) or even a hint as to why.

    So, to protect myself, I felt I needed to cancel all the cards associated with that account… and that means I’m out of town, dependent on the kindness of relatives…

    The rep promised me someone from Amazon would get in touch with me and let me know what was happening within 24 hours. 24 hours??? Amazon has covered itself by suspending my account, but by not helping me out with when or what unauthorized activity occurred, they left me hanging.

    I am very angry right now and I can certainly sympathize with wanting a chance to curse some faceless corporate monolith.

    OTOH, when I called my bank and told them what Amazon told me, the rep had several concrete suggestions about what I could do and made a recommendation as to which she would choose if she were in my shoes.

    And I’m so disappointed in Amazon.

  4. realpc920 said,

    Sometimes these giant companies try to save money by hiring under-qualified people, and not teaching them how to relate to customers. I think the companies eventually suffer for it, because customers will go elsewhere if possible.The fact that MegaBank was offering ex-customers $200 to come back indicates they might be getting worried. Of course their solution is all wrong — instead of acting human, they offer a small prize instead.

    And it sounds like Amazon may be going the same way. Identity theft and computer fraud are a big threat these days, and companies should understand why customers feel worried.

    All I got at my local branch were vacant stares. Like, why would anyone object to possibly having their savings account cleaned out?

    But mostly I was directed to the fraud department which was actually a call center in some foreign country. They couldn’t understand my American accent and I couldn’t understand their accent, whatever it was.

    And as I was given the run-around, each person I spoke to had to hear the whole story from the beginning. MegaBank has evidently grown so fast it has disintegrated into chaos.

    And strangely, even though I was unable to convince anyone I spoke to that this could be a serious threat, someone else at the fraud center, who I had never spoken to, noticed the problem and froze my debit card.

    So there I am at the grocery store, after waiting on a long line and having all my stuff checked out, and my card doesn’t work. And no one bothered to call and tell me, even though they had all my phone numbers, including my cell phone.

    Next I withdrew most of the money from my checking account, because it was vulnerable, but left the savings account. Of course MegaBank didn’t bother telling me the savings account was linked to the checking account for over-draught protection, which I had never asked for.

    So the next day my savings account was attacked. I went back to MegaBank, again, and told them to unlink the savings account. Mr. Vacant Eyes said no he couldn’t do that, because then I would be charged for an over-draught if the transaction completed.

  5. Icepick said,

    S: Next question. This one is about education. Did you complete kindergarten?

    Me: Yes.

    S: First grade?

    Me: Yes.

    S: Second grade?

    Me: Yes.

    Effing brilliant display of megacorporatism!

    The thing we’ve lost most with all these mergers is customer service because these behemoths have no reason to give a shit about their customers. You might get treated rudely at a family owned joint too, but the loss of business will hurt them faster and worse. These megacorps piss on customers and what does it matter? They’ve got millions more and all you can do is take your business to another megacorp – and like as not the two will merge at some point in the near future.

    Can we just start over?

  6. Icepick said,

    Somehow this reminds me of Charlie Munger’s opinions about economists refusing to look at secondary, tertiary and even higher order effects of their policies. (Charlie is Warren Buffet’s almost invisilbe partner.) Sure, WalMart can take advantage of economies of scale and cheap foreign manaufactory to put cheap goods in front of the consumer, but those lower prices have come with higher order side effects, and not all of those have been good.

    If someone ever does make a science of economics, they will view our current batch in the same way modern physicians view medieval physicians.

    (You can read some of Charlie Munger’s views on this topic here. You can follow the inks at InfoProc to the text of the whole talk, but the exceprts discuss the stuff I mention.)

  7. realpc920 said,

    “These megacorps piss on customers and what does it matter?”

    Exactly. And they can always raid the taxpayers if necessary. Who needs satisfied customers?

  8. Icepick said,

    And they can always raid the taxpayers if necessary. Who needs satisfied customers?

    Preach it, Sister!

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