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July 16, 2012

Do Banks Ever Listen to their Customers?

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

This week’s installment is about a “gotcha” without a fine print warning. It offers lessons for both consumers and bankers.

MrConsumer is in the habit of making deposits and withdrawals at the ATM machine at Century Bank, a local bank with 25 branches. One of them is only a few blocks from home, and they are part of a network that serves the bank where my account is actually located (a few miles away).

For the past 14 years, after making a withdrawal that is solely composed of $20 bills, I will go inside and ask a teller for smaller denomination bills for one or two of the twenties. Last week, when tendering a $20 bill under the glass, the teller asked if I had an account there. After I said no, she informed me that bank policy had just changed and they no longer make change for non-customers. What?

MrConsumer went home and proceeded to send the following email to the bank’s Chairman, and to its President and CEO:

I should note that the cc: on the email was to the banking reporter at the Boston Globe. Just a bit over an hour later, the President of Century Bank wrote back:

Wow, wow, wow. Isn’t that impressive from so many standpoints? I wrote back immediately to thank him for his swift action. Too bad bigger banks can’t be persuaded to come to their senses as easily.

• • •

11 Comments

  1. Good for Century’s CEO for immediately recognizing a dumb policy when he sees it.

    Now can you write Citizen’s CEO to tell him what a dumb policy it is to charge non-account holders $5 to cash checks drawn on the bank?

    Stashing money in my mattress is starting to look better and better.

    Comment by CindyM — July 16, 2012 @ 7:48 am
  2. Maybe Mr. President did a quick Google and discovered that the email was not just from any slug with a whine about bank operations? Based on the previous sentence you know what my stance has become on banks – think negative before positive.

    My wife and I have accounts at two local credit unions. Great places to do business.

    Comment by Rick — July 16, 2012 @ 8:28 am
  3. Interesting. The CEO’s response seems quick and candid, but it brings to question why the policy would have originally changed if the CEO thought it was dumb policy.

    Was it just that specific Century branch that decided not to make change or was that a company wide policy?

    Edgar replies: I am guessing it was company-wide.

    Comment by Wayner — July 16, 2012 @ 9:28 am
  4. Wayner, I’m sure the policy was implemented by a lower-level manager than the CEO. A CEO that involves himself in trivial matters like this would be a bit over-bearing. However, when presented with the information, it’s possible he sees the truth of the matter.

    Comment by Andrew — July 16, 2012 @ 10:20 am
  5. My guess is that the intention of the policy was not to make change for non-patrons. It just wasn’t clearly defined that ATM-users are “patrons” too.

    While I find the personal attention and casual tone of the response email refreshing, I generally consider it best to reply to an email with the same level of formality as I had received. The more I think about it, the more put off I am by his flippant attude. At least he didn’t use emoticons or internet-only abbreviations (e.g. LOL)

    Comment by Charli — July 16, 2012 @ 11:50 am
  6. Edgar replies: Charli, I don’t agree that his response flippant at all. He dashed off a brief note of agreement that the new policy stinks and he was getting rid of it. I have nothing but admiration for the guy.

    Comment by Edgar (aka MrConsumer) — July 16, 2012 @ 11:53 am
  7. So the CEO has no involvement in company-wide policies and has no idea how his own banks are treating their customers, Seriously?

    Comment by Peter — July 16, 2012 @ 4:00 pm
  8. Wish I had a Century bank near me. For once a company that listened to it’s customers (even ATM only customers) and when the customer made sense, acted on the customers suggestion.

    Granted, copying the local paper may have had a little to do with it but who cares. Other large banks refused to listen until they took bad press and people were closing accounts.

    I agree, Kudos and admiration for Mr. Sloane.

    Comment by Tim — July 16, 2012 @ 6:01 pm
  9. Yet another advantage of not-so-big-business; Nice going Edgar! And kudos to that CEO; that guy went straight out and said it was a dumb policy. That, for me, was a major eye-opener; quite a rare occurrence when you think about it; How many other CEOs are that honest (and let’s face it, knowledgeable) about their company’s operation?

    Comment by Xterra — July 16, 2012 @ 9:57 pm
  10. Wow! Customer service is quickly becoming a casualty of doing business today. I think it’s awesome a CEO actually took the time to write back and not only agree the policy was stupid but change it. If the big banks had acted this way I would’ve kept my accounts open instead of going to the local credit union.

    Comment by Raymond — July 17, 2012 @ 12:21 pm
  11. I do money origami, after visiting a bank of america ATM, and i have three accounts with boa, i went inside to exchange the $20 dispensed for quantity 20 single dollar bills. the teller told me that one hour prior to closing they thin out the drawer and all that was available was quantity four. I asked for the manager and she was time locked in the vault. i went across the street to the competitors and was treated like a god !

    Comment by tom gauvin — July 17, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

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