Monday, March 30, 2015

Well, Well, Wells

  I tend to patronize companies until I have a reason not to. When we first moved to Iowa in May 1994 and rented a house in Lawler Iowa (population 431) I opened a bank account at the ‘State Bank of Lawler’. Even though we left Lawler for good in October of that same year I still have an account at the ‘State Bank of Lawler’ which has been bought and rebought and is now called ‘Bank Iowa’.

  When we bought our house in Marshalltown in October 1994 the realtor was ‘Brenton Realty’ which was a part of a bank called ‘Brenton Bank’. We got our mortgage through Brenton Bank and opened an account there also. Brenton Bank had one branch within walking distance from our house and I used their one ATM machine. A few years later Brenton Bank was bought by Wells Fargo and so I had an account with Wells Fargo that I never asked for. Banking with Wells Fargo had a major advantage. They were a nationwide company with ATM machines and branches all over Iowa. There was a branch in Des Moines a half mile away. I would go there on my lunch times and deposit my paychecks.

  When I started running youth chess tournaments in 2006 I would have a lot of people paying me with checks. Most of the times the checks were made out to me but sometimes they would be made out to ‘Chess’, ‘USCF’ or not made out to anyone at all. I would take all these checks to the Wells Fargo branch in Des Moines to deposit. I would put my name on any check not made out to me and in three years of doing this I had one problem with one teller who wouldn’t take my deposit for some of these checks because they didn't have all the same handwriting. I called the manager over and the manager saw that I had 30 or 40 checks made out to me referencing chess. The manager told me that they wouldn’t cash the checks that I had written on. I told the manager that I was depositing the checks not cashing them and even had a flyer for the chess tournament asking that the checks be made out to me.

  The manager was pretty insistent so I asked if I could talk to the manager’s supervisor and was told she wasn’t available. I them asked if the manager could help me close out my accounts with Wells Fargo. The manager excused himself for a few minutes and came back and said that since I was a valued customer they would deposit my checks but there might be a few extra days hold on them. I thanked the manager and deposited the checks.

  In those ancient times I got my cancelled checks returned to me with my bank statements. I went back through these cancelled checks and noticed that there were a few times where I didn’t write down who the check was for or had the wrong companies name on the check, other times I wrote down the wrong amount and the check was cleared for the amount on the bill, and a few times I didn’t even sign the check. Every one of these checks was cleared the banks - even the ones I didn’t sign. I didn’t have any problems cashing checks at that Wells Fargo branch but if I had I would have told Wells Fargo that they have been clearing checks I didn’t make out to the right people and checks I didn’t even sign.

  When I stopped working in Des Moines I deposited the checks from my chess tournaments and chess camp at the local Wells Fargo branch in Marshalltown. I still put my name on the checks that weren't made out to me and had no problems until I tried to deposit 15 checks for my chess camp last summer. Three of the checks were made out to ‘Des Moines Chess Camp’ and the rest were made out to Hank Anzis or ‘Hank Anzis – Des Moines Chess Camp’. I wrote my name on the three checks that were made out to Des Moines Chess Camp and stopped in the Marshalltown Wells Fargo to deposit the checks. The teller told me that the she wasn’t going to deposit the three checks that weren’t made out to me. I showed my chess camp flyer but the teller still wasn’t going to deposit the checks. I asked to talk to the manager but the manager was busy so I asked if I could close my account and was told to take a seat. At that point I just left.

  It was just a minor annoyance but it got me so ticked off that a bank that will take money out of my account on a check that isn’t even signed won’t let me deposit a check into my account because of a name. The branch manager that wasn’t available on Saturday sent me an email on Monday to let me know she was ‘all about customer service’ and was hoping we could resolve the issue. I sent her an email back saying the issue was resolved because I was going to find a bank that would let me deposit money in my accounts. I’ve researched this issue and it appears that the question of an improperly made out check is left to the discretion of the bank. That means the teller was in her rights to not let me deposit my checks but part of that decision is to risk losing me as a customer which they did.

  The next week I opened an account at a different bank in town using the same checks I couldn’t deposit at my bank and stopped using Well Fargo. I didn’t realize how complex banking had become in the last decade. I used to get paychecks but I’ve had them deposited in my bank account in my last four jobs so I had to change that. I also had my bank account linked to three credit cards so I could pay the credit card bills on line and I had to change those. The bank account was also linked my PayPal account among others and I had to decouple all of those. I wasn’t in a rush but by last November I was done and finally ready to close out my Wells Fargo account but I wanted to wait a few more months to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. The only thing I missed was the bank account where my tax return was going. I fixed that two weeks ago and last Friday I finally pulled the plug on Wells Fargo.

  I like my new bank and haven’t had any problems with depositing checks and until I do I’ll keep on using them. I’m not sure why Wells Fargo decided to be such jerks about depositing my checks but I have an idea. Most people would never go through the hassle of changing banks unless they absolutely had to and combined with how big Wells Fargo has become probably affords them a sense of arrogance that most other organizations couldn’t get away with. In this case they ran into one of the few people that actually would switch banks. I’ve gotten some emails and a phone call asking why I stopped using Wells Fargo and I make sure to mention the problem I had depositing checks and the name of the branch manager I had the problem with. One representative asked me what Wells Fargo could do to get my business back and I told them that all they had to do was to wait for every other bank in town to act like they did and they would be next in line.