Saturday, July 24

The Big Scaredy-Bank

One of America’s largest banks is doing everything it can to dump us as customers. For the first time in our near-30-year relationship with them, they refused an unsecured loan. Small businesses depend on startup cash to get rolling for, in our case, the start of season. During the season, as money comes in, we repay the loan. We’ve done it for years. After grilling us and getting a complete listing of all our assets, and almost refusing to believe that we have so much property and no mortgage, they admitted that we looked good on paper and had a perfect repayment record, but the economy is tough so they refused the loan.

This morning I got an email from the Bank of Cowardly Sheep saying they had put a freeze on our debit cards and wouldn’t lift it until we telephoned them. I called and punched in the account number and verified that we had opened the account in California. I was put on hold. When I finally got a representative, she asked the account number and whether it was opened in California (again). It took her about five minutes to “find” the alleged suspicious behavior—an online bill payment to our satellite Internet provider, one we’ve been paying the same way for at least 20 years, and also doesn’t involve the use of a debit card; it comes directly out of a checking account. I scoffed at that, so she apologized and dug up another suspicious payment—to Costco! We’ve been buying there since 1985! I told her those were ridiculous and she responded that it wasn’t a human judgment; the suspicious activity was discovered by an automated process. I asked if the card could be shut down at any time by a machine. Yes, it could. Without human review first? Yes, it could.

I talked with Karla this morning and told her of this idiocy. “That’s why my card was refused at Shaver Lake last night! I couldn’t believe it!” She was trying to buy fuel for the van.

I’m sure the bank will be alarmed to find so many of its customers leaving for smaller, local banks. I am also sure the big banks will lean on the Congress of Cowards in Washington, DC, to make moving an account from a big bank to a small bank subject to review by a government panel for its effect on the banking system, with the power to refuse a citizen’s right to change banks. Or they may simply put more pressure on small banks to fail earlier and save them the hassle of making a decision.

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