Last month I shared stories of good customer service Kris and I have experienced recently. Sadly, this sort of thing seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Tim wrote to share a frustrating experience he had with Bank of America, the kind of thing The Consumerist covers all the time. Here’s his story:

My employer ran a promotional thing where if you completed a set of “healthy living” tasks, they gave you $25.  When we got the $25, rather than being cash, check, or added to our paychecks, it was given to us in the form of a $25 pre-paid debit/credit card from Bank of America.

When my card arrived in the mail, it had the usual sticker across the front notifying me that I had to activate it before use.  I attempted to activate it using the website listed on the sticker, but when I entered the last four digits of my SSN as requested, it told me that the authorization failed.

Giving up on the online activation, I called the number listed on the sticker instead.  The automated phone activation also failed, so I was transferred to a live operator.  The gentleman was quite helpful, and activated my card for me.

All seemed well and good, until a few days later when I attempted to use the card for exactly $25 and much to my confusion, it was denied.  Thinking that perhaps the activation had somehow failed a third time, I called the number on the card again.  The lady that I spoke with explained to me that my card was denied for “insufficient funds” because it only had $22.50 on it.  Huh?!?  When I explained that it was a $25 pre-paid card, and I this was my first and only attempt to use it, she told me that there had been a $2.50 “call fee.”

The only time I called in was to activate the card.  During the call, there was never a notification that there would be any kind of fee associated with the call.  When I asked the lady if that meant that this call would also result in a $2.50 fee, she replied “probably.”  When I explained to her that there was never a notification of any fees, and I had only called in to activate the card, she essentially told me “tough cookies, this card has fees.”

It’s not as though I need the $5, but I have to say that I was extremely put off by Bank of America’s deceptive practices, excessive fees, and total disregard for customer satisfaction.  If it is at all in my power, I will never do business with Bank of America in the future.  What I don’t understand is how that kind of practice can possibly be legal?

This reminds me of gift cards with fees or expiration dates. I recently gave away our encyclopedia set for free on Craigslist. The man who picked up the books was so excited that he gave me a partially-used Blockbuster gift card. He didn’t know the balance, and when I researched it myself I learned:

  • Blockbuster gift cards expire after two years of inactivity.
  • There’s no way to check the balance from the web or by phone. You must go to a store to check the balance.

I eventually made it to a store, but it was a frustrating experience. I usually do business with companies that are easy to work with, so I’m not accustomed to those with policies that are customer-hostile. (To make matters worse, I used the gift card to buy The Godfather, a movie I already own! Growing old is the pits…)