Washington Mutual / Unauthorized billing
Four years ago I left Citibank to become a Washington Mutual customer. I am a struggling writer who is literally living check to check... and often times, I slip into the red. I went to WaMu because originally they were the 'Free Bank'... no hidden fees, free checking, free ATMS... all the things banks used to be before they all got too greedy.
Over the next four years, WaMu slowly, and very secretly, began raising their fees and taking away our services. When I signed up, anyone could use a WaMu ATM free of charge. Now it is $2.00 if you are not a WaMu customer, just like any other bank. Then the fees went up more and more, until sadly... WaMu became just like every other money hungry bank. Here is the final straw story which caused me to close my account yesterday...
On Monday, November 24, I stopped by the WaMu branch in Santa Monica on 4th Street, because I live only 5 blocks away has become my new banking home. As usually, I walk into the bank to see about seven people standing behind the teller counter, but only two teller windows open. The other five people may have been working... if they were able to work by staring off into space and walk around in circles gabbing with each other. So instead of waiting the 30 minutes in line, I filled out a deposit slip and dropped my $555 deposit in the Express Deposit Box, which said the deposit would be posted to my account by the end of the day.
The next day, I checked my balance online and found that my deposit of $555.00 was posted, and then reversed (the exact term on my statement was 'REVERSE CUSTOMER DEPOSIT'). I immediately called the 1-800 number and spoke to someone in the call center. I explained what happened. She said she had no information and would have to file an inquiry request, which would take 36-48 hours. That is not acceptable. This is my bank. I trust my bank with my money. For me to give them money, have them take it from me and then say it will take 36-48 hours for us to tell you what happened to your money is not right. So I went to the Santa Monica branch on 4th Street to see if they had any information.
I walk in to find another line, but was quickly greeted by a friendly finance advisor named Spozhmi. She was very nice and understanding. I explained what happened and she went to speak with the Assistant Manager to see if he knew anything. She came back and told me the checks were not deposited because the name on the account did not match the name on the checks. My name is Richard Aaron Semmel. I go by Aaron Semmel. And I sign my name Semmel, and my signature has not changed in over 10 years. The name on my account at WaMu is Richard A Semmel.
The checks were made payable to Aaron Semmel. So, even though the middle initial, last name, address and signature on the checks matched... the manager decided to reverse the deposit (please note, to reverse a deposit, the deposit had to be made... so the money was in my account, and then the Assistant Manager decided to remove the money from my account). And then to top it all off, instead of calling me to verify my name or ask me to come in to sort it out, the Assistant Manager put the two signed checks in an envelope and mailed them back to me.
This made me very upset. Because now, they could not deposit the money into my account until the checks came to me in the mail, and then I would have to go back to the bank. Normally, I would have just bit my lip and waited. But this was a timing issue. The checks did not show up in the mail the next day, Wednesday Nov. 26th. The following day was Thanksgiving (Nov. 27th), which meant no mail or banks.
The checks finally arrived at 5:00 PM on Friday, Nov. 28th. I had missed the entire Black Friday Holiday Shopping Fun I had planned with all my friends. I missed out on countless savings in special prices for that one day only, affecting my entire holiday season. And then to top this off, because the deposit was not put in my account, a transaction went through, putting my checking account in the red, which then drew from my savings account and I was charged a $12 over-draft fee.
So, on Friday, when I finally got the checks. I went to the WaMu branch in Santa Monica on 4th Street and waited in line. When I got to the teller I gave him a check for $75 to deposit and asked to speak to a manage about reversing the $12 fee. The Assistant Manager named Steven (the same Assistant Manager who reversed my deposit) instantly recognized me (please note, Steven could recognize me by name and sight, but would not deposit my checks) and said he would not reverse the $12 fee. He told me that there was nothing he could do.
When I explained that the over-draft would not have taken place if he would have deposited my checks on Monday, Nov. 24th he said it would have happened anyway because he put a five day hold on the checks (which was untrue - according to my statement, the checks were deposited and the funds were available, and then he reversed the deposit). When I asked why a five day hold was being placed on my checks, Steven told me WaMu can hold any check it wants to. Steven told me he would only reverse the $12 fee if it was caused by bank error.
Now I have been depositing my checks the same way for the last four and half years. 90% of my checks are and have been made payable to Aaron Semmel. The manager did not check my address or signature, instead he reversed my deposit, and I was charged money. I do not see this as my fault. I see this as bank error. I have done nothing wrong and I am being charged. I told Steven to close my accounts. I was done.
Believe it or not, after all this, Steven had the nerve to ask me why I was closing my accounts. When I got home I looked online and found that not only am I not alone in my frustration, but the Federal Government is trying to set new laws to stop banks from charging unfair fees and following unfair business practices (mostly regarding check holds and over-draft fees), just like the story I just told. The banks have become loan sharks that are protected by their federal lobbyists, charging 1000% interest. If banks had Italian names, they would be mistaken for the mob these days.
That is only one of my countless bank horror stories. On Monday, Dec. 1st I am going to open an account at a credit union. Credit Unions are non-profit and encourage lending between it's customers... as opposed to banks, which are all about profit (to the point of even setting up ways to take as much money from its customers, whenever they can). The major reason the economy is in such horrible shape right now is because of these big banks. I am done helping them screw us all. I hope more follow my lead.
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