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Exit ArchiveArchive for December 5th, 2007

Thanks to a new round of fee nonsense with my Wells Fargo account, I’m done. I’m through. I have already signed up for a Washington Mutual account and plan to ditch Wells Fargo as soon as the WaMu account is all set up.

To try to make a long story short, here’s what happened this time.

I use ING Direct for most of my banking. I love them, but I still need a way to easily deposit checks without having to mail them in. I also like the ability to be able to go into a bank if I need to. So most of my paycheck goes to ING, with a tiny bit each week going to Wells Fargo to keep it active.

A couple months ago, a cute little $8 began to appear on my Wells Fargo statement. When I called Wells Fargo and asked why, the customer service gal said that my account needed a direct deposit of $100 a month to waive the fee. I asked her if me just upping the weekly deposit amount would work, as long as it gets to $100. She said yes. She refunded the fee.

The next month, my new direct deposit amount hadn’t taken fully, so I was under $100. I let the $8 fee go.

This month, the fee is back, and I had $100 of direct deposit. I call. The lady says, oh, no, you need at least one direct deposit of $100 for the fee to be waived. She apologized for my having been misinformed, the refunded both this month and last month’s fees.

Immediately last night, I researched other banks. All I need is a barely active account! Who could help me without being a complete dick about it? WaMu it is. So this morning, I set up a new account.

The rest of my day (between work chores, of course!) has been spent crafting a letter to Wells Fargo, which is reprinted below. At first, it was to be an e-mail, but all they have on their site is a limited e-mail form to fill in. I called to tell them I was as good as gone and could I please have an e-mail and a physical address so I could send a letter telling them how horrible they are? The woman was nice, and asked if there was anything she could do to help or to keep me as a customer. I said no. After me telling her that the fee thing is terrible at Wells Fargo, she asked if it would help for her to explain the fees. I said,

“You can ‘explain’ the fees all you want, but they are still horrible and suck.”

The nice woman fetched me a mailing address but said there was no e-mail address. She offered to transfer me to the corporate offices line. Wow. Okay.

I spoke with Kathy. She had raspy voice that could easily play the line between friendly or bitch-o-rama, whichever she might need. She was very friendly to me. I explained why I was leaving and she listened attentively. The only thing that got me was when I was detailing to her the silliness of charging me a fee to transfer money from one Wells Fargo account to another, both mine.

“You can transfer the money yourself online for free.” She had a slight hint of “so there” about her, but she was not rude.

“Well, of course, if I know I’m going to overdraft my account, I’d go immediately and transfer the money myself. But life isn’t so predictable. If I forget to enter something into Quicken and then I overdraft, I have no idea it’s about to happen. If I could catch it every time, I wouldn’t need something called ‘overdraft protection.'” That was the gist of my argument.

I realize that overdraft protection is a service, and no matter what happens, it is my fault if I overdraft my account. Well, mostly. Wells Fargo can charge whatever they want. That doesn’t mean they should. And the method of their fee madness is what’s so vexing. The fees are horrible and outrageous, yes, but to try to sell them as some kind of service is ludicrous.

Anyway, here’s the letter. Enjoy it. It felt very good to write and send!

December 5, 2007
Wells Fargo Bank
P.O. Box 6995
Portland, OR 97228-6995

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to tell you that I will soon be closing my Wells Fargo accounts. In fact, by the time this letter arrives, it may have already happened; my new Washington Mutual account will be set up and my remaining funds from Wells Fargo will be transfered either there or to my current ING Direct accounts. I am not what you’d call a “big” customer, since my accounts are never flush with cash. But I am a customer nonetheless, and one who is fed-up with how banks like yours work.

About nine months ago, I started using ING Direct as my main bank. I’d already had a great savings account with them (where I earned actual interest!), and their Orange Checking sounded useful. I moved most of my money and banking activity from Wells Fargo to them. ING has no stultifying fees or Byzantine requirements for minimum balances, minimum monthly direct deposits, minimum blah blah blah. They don’t pile on the fees for overdraft situations; in fact, their overdraft fee structure is sane and logical. Everything about them, so far that I’ve experienced, is good for me, the customer, for whom they are in business in the first place.

Wells Fargo, with whom I’ve banked since 1994, is a mess. For all appearances, you are in business for yourselves, not to help or serve people like me. I am more a minor, annoying necessity in your running a profitable business. A few times a year, for 13 years, I’ve had to call you about weird, unexplained fees or altered account requirements, and though everyone is very friendly on the phone, that mask can not hide your greediness. That your entire system is set up to collect fees from people like myself is infuriating.

I’ll delve into one example, for which I imagine you receive complaints often: your overdraft and transfer fees. They are the worst, jaw-dropping and preposterous. Having to pay an overdraft transfer fee of $10 to protect me from an overdraft charge of $33–$66 per transaction is insane. (Does it not sound a bit Mafia-esque for me to pay you $10 for doing no work to “protect” me from exorbitant fees you yourself charge? Hmm…) Worse, alerting me to the overdraft via snail mail and not having an option to do so via e-mail, in this day and age, can only be your way of assuring I rack up more fees in the days it takes to get that letter.

There is no better way to get your customers to hate you than to punish them for any out-of-the-ordinary banking situation.

Thanks to this and other frustrations, I use ING Direct for 99% my banking. However, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there are some limits to online banking; I still need to have access to a brick-and-mortar institution. I’ve chosen to move to WaMu to fill that role for many reasons. They may not have as many offices and ATMs as you do, and it may be a bit inconvenient for me to switch to a new bank, but Washington Mutual has no fees whatsoever, for any normal banking activity. I can have any minuscule amount in my account there without being punished. They don’t charge that ludicrous “this is not your bank’s ATM and so you will suffer” fee that most of you banks have discovered as a source of ill-gotten income. WaMu has no direct deposit minimum to waive some random fee. And on and on.

I wish I could say I will regret leaving Wells Fargo, but I won’t. I’ve wanted to do so for years, but had little choice, since banks operate in similar ways. It is only now, with some newer sane, logical, customer-friendly banks coming onto the scene, that I can pull this stage coach out of town and give Wells Fargo the lack of my business it so richly deserves.

With pleasure,

Steve Lekowicz

P.S.: I have just called your customer service center to get a mailing address so I can send this letter directly, and I was forwarded to your executive offices line. I spoke with Kathy there and was able to express my above concerns to her. She was friendly and listened to what I had to say (though she did try to use some marketing-speak on me, to which I am impervious). So again, I want you to know that the people I have typically had to deal with at Wells Fargo have been helpful and friendly.

In the end, your product and practices speak louder than your customer service reps.

Finally, here’s a letter I got from Wells Fargo back in 2004. Has nothing to do with this situation, but it makes for a nice funny ending.