23 January 2011

Dear Bank of America,

Thank you for carefully training your customer service representatives to tell me how much you appreciate my business at the end of every call. Otherwise, I would never know.

In spite of your campaigns promoting paperless transactions and easy online access, you have completely denied online access to a portion of your profit base for the last three months. This does not inspire confidence as a customer or as a (former) potential investor.

Early in November, I lost online access to my accounts. Your web site’s first message read that this service was currently unavailable and instructed me to try again later. I did. Several times. On different machines with different browsers.

My first call about the problem took nearly an hour, where one of your employees walked me through the steps of clearing my cache and deleting my cookies, with many erroneous directions for the browser and operating system I use. Fortunately I am fairly well versed in those operations and could manage despite the misdirection.

That didn’t work. She referred me to technical support, who told me this was a known issue and assigned me a ticket number. They assured me that they were working on it and would contact me. They did indeed contact me, to tell me they were still working on it.

Over a month later, the problem still had not been resolved and I had received no further communication from your IT department. The message on your web site now told me there were no open accounts associated with this user ID. I called again. During this call, I was told you had migrated your payment service from myezpay, which I’d never heard of. I can only guess that you believed your own programmers could manage your database adequately and with less expense to you.

You were wrong.

The result was that customers with closed accounts could no longer access bill pay online.

I was assured the problem had been recently resolved, even told that representatives knew in advance certain customers might have issues, and that I should have access soon.

I also asked why I hadn’t received paper statements in the meantime and was initially told I had requested to stop paper statements. On further inquiry, your representative revealed that your new terms and conditions agreement, issued at the same time as the migration from myezpay, included an automatic opt in for paperless statements, which would have included a pop-up allowing me to opt out.

In case you are not aware, there is a tool called a pop-up blocker that many of us engage to avoid the barrage of advertisements that assault us when visiting a commercial site such as yours. Since I have neither the need nor the time to read terms and conditions to which I must submit regardless of whether I like them, I was entirely ignorant that I had “requested” to stop my paper statements at the very same time my online access was blocked.

I don’t believe I need to point out the genius of automatically opting in your customers for paperless statements at the same time you’re performing a service migration you know will create issues. It’s almost as if you want your customers to overlook their payments due so you can charge them late fees.

Another month later, on January 22, I called yet again to see if my account access could be restored. I was on hold for more than 70 minutes. When I reached a representative, he assured me he could find someone who could fix the account and put me on hold several times. When he reached a representative whom he said could help me, she told me she could not, as my accounts were “blocked” and not currently accessible through the web site, but that she could take my payment over the phone. I do not want to make my payment over the phone. But it seems that other than snail mail, I have no choice. She apologized and said you were working on it.

Are you?

I then contacted a representative through the chat function on the web site. After wasting her time for about 4 minutes (I must say, they are far better trained at sloughing people off than your phone reps) I was told I needed to call the customer service line and that someone there would most certainly be able to help me.


I told her to have a fabulous day. And I meant it, because, after all, it’s not her fault your database is broken. I can draw one of several possible conclusions from this:

1. Your database programmers are incompetent and do not know how to fix the problem.
2. You do not care and have not instructed your database programmers to fix the problem.
3. You are taking payoffs from the U.S. Postal Service to encourage people to use stamps again.

I understand that since my accounts are not active and that I will not be a new source of revolving debt for you, my concerns are less important to you than those of an active customer. Though you’ve seen fit to ignore my existence, I am certain you would take issue if I ignored the existence of my debt to you. I’m sure it’s not the largest owed to you, but your business relies on increments, and I can’t be your only customer with closed accounts still owing you money. Your own representative acknowledged this was not the first call she’d taken on this issue.

Of course, I am probably in the minority of those with closed accounts still paying. And I pay on time.

Maybe that’s the problem. Since I’m only paying down my debt instead of accruing more or racking up late payment fees, I’m not a valuable customer anymore. I am grateful that you at least send me cheerful emails three times a month telling me that my online statement is available, even though I have no access to it. I will continue to respond so that your customer service representatives have something to do.

You are a full-service bank offering everything from credit and checking to insurance and retirement services. Based on my recent experience, I do not see your institution as competent enough to be trusted with my money.

Though I have accrued more debt than I like to admit because of past circumstances, I’m now financially stable and can foresee a time in the near future when my revolving debt will disappear. Under certain circumstances, I may one day even use a credit card again.

When I do, it will not be a Bank of America card.

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