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“Nothing can be done about it.” Phooey.

One of the readers of my newspaper column owns a bar/restaurant.

Recently she told me that one of her bartenders accidentally rang in a $6 charge twice on a debit charge card.

They found the mistake the next day and corrected it by reimbursing the $6 to the customer.

The customer called back and said she had a problem.

Her debit card bank, US Bank in Boise, charged her $160.50 because her debit card (due to the bartender’s error) went over by $2.00.

The owner called the bank there because he found it difficult to believe the customer’s claim of the amount she was charged. The bank verified the fee and said “nothing can be done about it”.

What the bank employee’s “nothing can be done about it” comment really means is likely one of two things:

Either a not-too-customer-centric “I don’t want to do anything about it.” or “My boss won’t let me do anything about it.”

Not wise, but not unusual depending on the management involved.

Of course, my friend the bar/restaurant owner reimbursed her for the $160.50 bank charge.

But she was curious, so she called her business bank here in Montana to discuss their procedures.

She was told that at $27 per overdraft charge, it can add up as far as the computer system shows. However, if the customer were to call (as the bar/restaurant customer did, and as the bar/restaurant owner did)) and explain the errors (restaurant wrongfully double charging, and only $2.00 over her limit) the bank would waive those fees.

I’ve had experiences with this same bank where checks were accidentally written on a closed account. Once the check amounts were paid, the fees were refunded.

In other words, they have a policy (a good thing), and they have some automation in place (usually a good thing) but they also have a human side as well.

A very good thing.

There’s nothing wrong with having strong policies in place. And there’s nothing wrong with using automation to help run your business (I’m the last one you’d find telling you not to automate), but you should always leave room for the personal touch.

There are some businesses that realize this and make a point of empowering their people to make a decision that is right for the company and the customer.

Yours should be one of those.

3 replies on ““Nothing can be done about it.” Phooey.”

I had that happen once years ago.
$300 in fees later, I had a teller tell me nothing could be done about it. So I went into the bank – which was a branch bank – and spoke to a teller who said the same. I looked at her and said “please get the Bank President – I will be happy to hear that from him directly.” She glanced at his closed office door and replied with “I’m sorry ma’am, but I really don’t think he’s got time for that,” and I dug my heels in. I said “I’m quite certain that he’s got time for that, it’s his job and I’m also quite certain that if I suddenly get loud enough about this issue for the other customers in the bank to hear what’s going on, he’ll be out here directly to deal with it. Let’s skip the dramatics and please go tell him that he needs to come out and deal with a potentially dissatisfied customer who is threatening to make a scene, okay?”

She did. He came out. I calmly explained to him the issue behind the double ring, the bank’s errors with applying payments and continual fees, and how I had now been told twice that there was nothing they could do. He looked at me like I had grown a second head and said “well, I’d be angry too… of course we’ll wave the fees. I’ll fix it right away.”

And he did.

Lesson learned on my part.

US Bank did the same type of thing with an account for my daughter. She had two charges of $1.56 and $3.89 that went negative on a Saturday. I went online on the same Saturday and transferred $50 into her account and at the time the charges were in the system but not yet reflected in the balance, ie – the balance was still positive when I made the deposit. The next week I noticed a $75 bank charge on her account which of course pushed the account negative again. I went to the bank and tried to stop the merry-go-round and get what seemed like a logical error on their side because her account never actually showed a negative balance until the $75 bank charge.

The end of the story was they forgave the last charge that was the result of the $75 bank charge but I had to pay first because that their policy that I agreed to when account was opened.

I voted with my feet and went to a local bank and after asking questions on how handled similar situations, I open a new account for my daughter and said bye to US Bank.

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Not necessarily a bank-related response, but of retail: Sometimes, there is literally nothing the clerk can do. I used to work for a large, corporate retail chain and was trained in taking returns. If certain information was not present, the computer system simply would not refund the money, regardless of “the human side”, as you put it; i.e, you yourself could have processed the sale, it could have been your fault, or you helped them find the item, or what have you, and there was still nothing that could be done from the store. From there, the customer had to enter the phone-based realm of the corporation ladder. Needless to say, most don’t bother.

I think that some of this is reflected in this growing tendency to accept “There’s nothing we can do”. I know it’s something that I have had to relearn, that just because there’s nothing the person I’m talking to can do about my problem, doesn’t mean there isn’t someone higher up the chain who can. So thank you for this article, it’s a good one to keep in mind, and thank you also to user GeekMommy, for her story as well. Good to know that it is possible to win, if you persist intelligently.

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