Banks Behaving Badly: Or Is It Just Me?

You know how it goes.

The phone rings. It doesn’t show a caller ID, just a number. There’s a lag between when I say “hello” and someone comes on the line.

Why don’t I hang up right then? I really don’t know. My motives are opaque to me, but probably diseased.

This time it’s BankAmerica. They tell me there’s nothing wrong, my credit card has not been compromised—but hey, you never know!

Because they care about my security, they’re going to send me a credit report—free! Which I can then examine, and send in any corrections required.

In addition, they will send me—with no obligation! –an identity theft insurance policy, to protect all my cards. And all I have to do, if I foolishly decide not to take them up on this amazing offer, is to phone them within 30 days to say no thanks.

Otherwise, of course, they’ll bill me, in simple monthly installments, renewable automatically on an annual basis.

I assume that BankAmerica (and anyone else pulling this passive-aggressive “gotcha” marketing strategy) must have a high complaint rate, as people notice that it’s an opt-out, rather than an opt-in offer, and find an unexpected bill in their statement. And I assume that they end up reversing a lot of those “misunderstandings.”

Is it just me? Or does anyone else find this tactic not only annoying, but self-defeating?

What does BankAmerica (or any other bank) gain by having its name linked to a “sales” tactic associated with old record clubs and internet porn subscriptions?

Who is the analyst in the back room at BankAmerica (or any other bank) crunching the benefit/cost ratio of insurance fee income to the cost of processing returns?

Does it occur to him to factor in the cost to the brand? The drip-drip of negative reputation? The effect on BankAmerica’s deposit accounts? Its mortgage business?

And if not, why isn’t he being fired for destroying shareholder value? Because the market honestly does know how to distinguish between companies with good customer reputations, and those with bad ones.

Then again, BankAmerica just bought up Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest subprime mortgage borrower—because, at these prices, it was a “good deal.”

Not for B of A’s mortgage business’s reputation. Countrywide’s own reputation can’t have added to BofA’s reputation among consumers.

Does reputation matter? I’d like to think it ultimately does. Read the comments to the above ABC News link, and see how many people are down on BofA as a lender. They can vote with their feet.
And now here I am complaining about their telemarketing, letting my fingers do the walking.

What about you?

If you decide not to continue reading this wonderful blog, all you have to do is write in and comment, and there’ll be no charge whatsoever.

Otherwise, I’ll simply bill you in painless monthly installments, renewable automatically every year unless you decide to notify me otherwise, whenever you want.

Trust me!