If I had hair, I’d pull it out. In fistfuls. Until all that’s left is a pink hue and a snow-white scalp freckled with black dots where hair used to be. Mark my words, Sexy readers, a recent experience with the bastardly Bank of America made me want to pull whatever hair I have left out and donate it to the George Costanzas of the world (it’s a tax ride-off!).
I wonder: Have you ever had to deal with a bank so devilish, so insanely unprofessional, it made you want to scream something fierce? Have you every been passed around like a dirty bong at a fraternity party? I have, and it sucks.
My point: Bank of America blows. If you’re a member or an employee of this bank, I offer no leniency. I do, however, seek reparations in the form of apologies and Tootsie Rolls. Before I digress about the pricelessness of customer service and the extreme ineptitude of ignorant people, you should know that I’m a mild-mannered person. Almost Magoo-like. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been irate at customer service representatives, and it’s a very small hand. That said, I bring you a barrel full of lessons learned. Because I heart bullet points, and they’re hella easy to follow, here’s a brief narrative of my recent battle with Bank of America:
- I find out I can refinance my home mortgage. Per some Obama affordable-housing plan, the condo I bought for $149,900 in 2007 (the one that’s now worth $115,000 at best) makes the grade. Barely. And they say Democrats serve no purpose!
- I’m assigned a loan manager with thirteen vowels in her last name. Reminds me of that Indian guy from “Office Space.” Naga, naga, not gonna work here anymore! Loan officer tells me closing costs will be roughly $3,500. It negates what I’ve paid off since 2007, but screw it … I’m saving $107 a month and going from 7.25% interest to 5.85% on a 30-year, fixed rate. Short-term pain for long-term gain. (That’s what she said).
- Haven’t heard from my loan officer in weeks, so I e-mail/call/send a carrier pigeon for an update. Nothing. Maybe she’s getting married?
- I finally reach her. “Weird,” she says, a month and a half later. “We’re not hearing back from your title company. Want me to use ours?” Unbelievable.
- Weeks go by. I call/e-mail/hand her a folded note in fifth period asking: Will you refinance me? Circle one: Yes, No, Maybe. No answer. Maybe she’s giving birth?
- I finally get a response. I’m refinancing on October 7th. I’m told I don’t have to pay October or November’s mortgage payments. Two months? Nice surprise!
- In late September, I tell Bank of America to suspend my automatic-withdrawal payments, as I don’t have to make the next two. Done.
- Not done. Bank of America debits $863.33 from my BB&T account and makes the October payment. I call and complain, and they say they’ll refund it with proof. I got yer proof.
- October 7th: Sign here, dot here, X here, etc. Wait a tick … what’s this? My closing costs are almost $2,000 more than anticipated? Egad!
- My loan officer, she of many vowels, tells me it’s expected, that these things happen. I ask about the random cost on line 1008. “Oops, that’s on the wrong line,” she says. What should have been a deduction was an addition. Mother trucker.
- My loan officer answers my many questions, only she’s 83% wrong. I’m forwarded to a new loan officer.
- The new loan officer seems competent, has few vowels. She fixes everything, tells me the truth and lines up the title. “What about the $863.33 being credited back to my account? Since it’s already been applied to the old loan I’m refinancing, don’t you have to do entirely new paperwork?” I ask. No, she doesn’t.
- Still no response from Bank of America’s finance department. Where’s my money? “We can’t credit your account, sorry.” But you erroneously took it out! They tell me there’s nothing they can do about the withdrawal. It’s already been applied to the old loan and the papers are drawn up. I’m “out” $863.33, which I was going to put in my emergency fund. Le sigh.
- I sign the new title reflecting the 1008 line change and say whatevs, let’s get this thing over with.
- The very same day, in my car ride home, I’m listening to Yanni and dreaming about bath beads. No more worries! But wait … Bank of America calls and tells me they CAN credit the money back to my account. Seriously? After I signed the forms and submitted the title? I quickly call my loan officer and again ask if this means the forms need to be redone. They don’t, she says.
- They do. After talking to six employees for three hours, getting transferred back and forth between departments and doing the legwork my loan officer is neglecting to do (“I have a lot of customers, you know.”), I finally get some answers. If they credit the $863.33 back to my account, I won’t get it for a week. Thus, I risk refinancing in time and I may not get November’s mortgage payment for “free.” Oh, and Bank of America is going to put a freeze on all foreclosures and refinances any day now. Gotta bite the bullet and push forward.
- I didn’t want them making more mistakes, so I finalize the loan and tell them to put this ugly baby to bed. Burn in hell, Bank of America.
The point of this story is not to paint Bank of America as the financial bogeyman (they are), or say that refinancing is terrifically hard (it’s like The Situation’s abs). Rather, it’s to stress the importance of customer service, especially when it comes to something as important as refinancing a mortgage. When it comes to home loans and real estate, I’m a young chickadee, cute and fluffy and desperate to suckle from the teet of wisdom. Nurture me, big banks! Walk me through the process. This is a big step in my life, so hold my hand. I shouldn’t be the one helping you figure out how to resolve your mistakes. You want me as a customer? Earn it.
As you can see, this entire experience was volcanic: Several mistakes on my title, an egregious error on the financial side, no accountability, a lack of communication between Bank of America departments, and worst of all … people ignoring me when all I needed were answers to push forward, close the deal, buy a pistachio ice cream cone in celebration. What’s worse, I know there’s going to be countless others who have to endure the exact same thing.
I guess what they say about global business is true: Customer service is the lubrication that makes business run. In my case, I got screwed without lube, and I can still feel the pain. Now I know better. Now I’ve learned a few important things I’ll apply to future financial situations:
- I’ll never do business with Bank of America again. Period.
- Always, always stand up for yourself. It’s your money, it’s your life. If you let people walk all over you and your finances, you deserve it.
- Leverage management. After being bounced around like a ping-pong ball for hours between departments, I contacted management and got real answers.
- Never underestimate the power of a complaint. Customer retention is key in any business.
- Never plan for money until you have it; line things up, sure, but never bank on getting money until you have it in your hands.
- Never assume. Always ask questions if you’re unsure. Your mistakes will cost you, and no one else. Ask, and ask often.
In today’s turbulent economy, people need all the help they can get, financially and otherwise. Even though the proverbial financial waters are rough right now, throwing a lifeline out to folks and addressing their needs is tantamount to getting this economy (and one another) back on its feet. I believe customer service is the foundation on which this economy should be rebuilt, and it all starts with businesses like Bank of America. I hope they get their stuff together, because I’m hearing a lot people express similar complaints.
As for my situation, it sucks that $863.33 made me lose what’s left of my hair, but I consider myself blessed. Refinancing when I’m underwater, saving $30,000 + interest over the life of the loan and knocking my interest rate down significantly for a few grand rolled back into the loan ain’t bad. And hey, at least I have my back hair!
“BTW, I just called Bank of America’s VP of Customer Services office (found the number online) and talked to someone there. About 20 minutes later, he said he’ll send me a $500 check and a $100 giftcard to Amazon for all of my pain and suffering. He says there’s really zero chance I’ll get the $863 back, considering it was applied to my loan and brought my loan down before refinancing. Since I didn’t technically lose that money, I’m ahead $600! Nice. :)”
There you go people – stand your ground and keep going up the customer service chain until you feel like you’re heard :)
(Pic by Neubie. Edited by J$)