Oppressor of America
Well, after extensive efforts since the company devoured Fleet, Bank of America has finally succeeded in persuading me to take my business elsewhere. From several varieties of inconvenience to an extremely unpleasant job fair to the fees (my God, the fees!), the behemoth has finally overcome the natural inertia against changing banks.
The company’s corporate approach to handling customers was consolidated for me in a single policy that I discovered a number of months ago: if a customer should write checks for more money than is in his checking account, the bank offers the service of automatically transferring the funds from his savings account. Charging a fee for such a thing is fair — it is the customer’s error, after all, and one that a bank understandably discourages — but Bank of America takes the fee out of the checking account, without automatically transferring that amount as part of the service.
During a particularly hectic time last year, when I simply had to handle my finances on autopilot, I fell into a cycle of not transferring sufficient funds to cover the fees that were automatically being withdrawn from my checking account, and those fees piled up. When I called to complain, the bank did forgive a handful of them, but my awareness that somebody within the organization had made the decision to arrange fees in such a way as to trip up busy customers left me resolved to, at some future date, quit the bank. Now that I’ve discovered another policy having to do with numbers of transactions that conflicts with a banking strategy that I’ve followed since I was fourteen, I won’t delay any longer.
In fact, the entirely different feel that I’ve gotten from Bank of America than from any of my previous banks makes me wary of financial trends toward automation. It used to be mainly on general principle that I preferred to handle each paycheck and bill — so as not to lose touch with the flow of my money. But now I think automatic deposits and withdrawals may represent a much more insidious trend. How much higher the barrier is to changing banks when doing so requires one to recall and then figure out how to change bank information with any number of third parties!
I fear that movement toward the ideal of convenience — not just in finance — may lead to a more oppressive corporate culture, as each company becomes akin to a monopoly of its own client base.