Feel free to skip this entry. It has nothing to do with ancient civilizations. Sorry, but it’s time for me to complain. Sure it was a drag to have my wallet stolen while riding the Metro subway last Wednesday. It’s invasive; I lost about 100 euros in cash, and all my credit cards. But the hassle I have had with the banks ever since is unbelievable.
I promptly reported the loss that same day to the stolen cards center and was told that the accounts were closed. When I called Santa Barbara Teachers Federal Credit Union (SBTFCU) I was told that Megan’s ATM would still work. But on Friday evening, when we tried Meg’s card, it was swallowed by the ATM; turns out that it was viewed as possible fraudulent activity and so we were left with no cards at all. I checked our online statements on Saturday only to find out that the thief had been busy to the tune of about $5800. The real mystery is how they were able to use my cards when I wasn’t even able to use them. Foolish venders I suppose.
Anyway, I then spent the better part of the morning trying to confirm that the cards were indeed closed. No one at Washington Mutual (WaMu) would help me. They kept shuffling me from department to department until I was cut off two different times. It was then that I realized that I was running out of minutes on my cell phone (The only way to recharge the minutes is to have a credit card). I tried making the overseas collect call they suggest, but it did not work on a cell phone, pay phone or even the home phone of a kind Greek family that has befriended us. Because of this I was unable to connect with US Bank and since SBTFCU was closed I resorted to emails. I emailed all three institutions to call me; thankfully I can receive calls without charge. By Sunday morning I was getting a bit worried, no phone calls. I finally received an email from one of our two WaMu card accounts saying that they could not help me via email and that I needed to call them. Did they even read my email telling them that I could not call them? We have a little cash left so I bought a local SIM chip for my phone and called. We were disconnected during a transfer and put on hold for over 35 minutes. They refused to call us back. The man (Scott #2069) who helped us was able to confirm the closing of one card but said he was unable to help us with our other WaMu account. He took our phone number and said he would transfer us to someone would help us more quickly. After 20 minutes on hold we were patched back to him. As our time was running out we asked him if he would please call us back. He then explained that he couldn’t make outgoing calls. So why did he take our number in the first place? He then transferred us to someone else who then transferred us to a recording that said the offices were closed and that we would need to call back tomorrow. The recording hung up.
I then Skyped (computer to computer phone calls) Rich back in SB and he dialed the WaMu number for me. He was told that WaMu would not call me back. Next call to WaMu he held the phone up to the speaker of his computer and I talked through the computer to the representative. I won’t go into the details of the call for you. Click here so you can listen to it yourself. We recorded a bit of it. Suffice it to say that after an hour of being shuffled through several people, we were finally told by our sarcastic supervisor for the day, Jason SPH Team 63 New York, that the fraud department was closed, and that he would not pass the message on. It was unbelievable. He gave me his supervisor’s name, Alex, but would not give me his extension. Add to that the hour Rich and I spent on the phone the next night. In the end a man named George gave me a case number and promised me a call back, which of course never happened. The real irony is that in between phone transfers they play a WaMu commercial stating that they offer excellent service and a personal relationship. What a joke!
So I hate Washington Mutual. There I said it. Feel free to send them an email. firstname.lastname@example.org
The real fun was that in between these calls we used the same computer to computer to phone procedure with US Bank REI and within five minutes had the whole thing resolved. What a difference service makes. Feel free to send them an email. email@example.com
WaMu Update 3/11/07
I have been repeatedly asked to write an update on the Washington Mutual post so here it is. It’s been a little more than a week since Rich recorded that conversation with the Washington Mutual representative. I waited a couple of days before I wrote the article. I was too angry and stressed out about how we were going to settle the fraudulent charges to our cards and just pay for day-to-day life here while working. I posted the article and felt quite relieved to get it off my chest. I had no idea what would happen next.
I have reconnected with many old friends as a result of this sabbatical trip and my blog. One of them, whom I have not seen in twenty-plus years, read the WaMu post and linked it to his site. I casually wrote him a thank you note and looked at my site meter. It was going nuts. I went from having 30-70 hits a day to more than a thousand that day. That was Friday here in Athens. At 4:00 am Saturday morning I was awakened by a phone call from a Washington Mutual executive named Rosie. She apologized for the service I received saying that it was totally inappropriate and said that she would personally be working on my case with the fraud department. I explained that my main concern was having WaMu remove the fraudulent charges from my card and getting new cards. She said she would work on it and get back to me. She also sent me the following email:
Dear Mr. Robertson, I am truly disappointed to learn of the level of service that you received. I am an employee of Washington Mutual Bank and work for the Executive Offices. I would like the opportunity to contact you and assist you with the resolution. My email address is … Is there a telephone number that I may call to reach you directly?
Three things struck me. First, the squeaky wheel does get the grease after all. But how sad that the squeak had to be so loud to be heard. Not everybody has access to the Internet. Not everybody has great friends that are willing to hold phones to computer speakers for hours or link posts to their web sites. At the time of this writing there have been over 2000 visits to the original post. Some of you have let WaMu know what you think, and I think they actually heard you. Thank you!
Second, I received the call from Rosie at four in the morning here in Athens. I’m not sure where Rosie was calling from, but even if her office was on the west coast that put her time at 6:00 pm. Someone was working after hours on a Friday on this. Maybe something will actually happen.
Third, and I alluded to this earlier, none of this would have happened without the help of friends and community. I had already done everything I could on my own, and it was clear that nothing was going to happen for a long time. But thanks to good friend, Rich, and old friend, Rusty, and the Internet community I’m on the road to getting this resolved.
One last note. The fraudulent charges on the US Bank/REI Visa card have been totally reversed and taken off of my account. My wife’s WaMu consumer MasterCard has had all but $.29 of the fraudulent charges reversed and taken off the account. I’m not sure why the $.29 remains; heck, I’m just glad that it’s taken care of. I hope to see new cards in about a week and a half. Now we’re just waiting to hear from Rosie about what will happen with this final WaMu account. Hopefully there will be more good news soon. I’ll keep you posted.