March 26th, 2008


message to my friendly neighborhood Wamu

Today I sent this message to WaMu:

I received a notice from you on March 25 that this account was overdrawn. By the time I got the notice it was too late to avoid paying the outrageous $30 charges you made for each overdrawn check.

I made a mistake and used the wrong debit card for several transactions. I meant to use another account that had more money in it. I just happened to notice the overdraw when I was looking for other transactions, and realized what I had done (the cards look alike).

Question one: why send notices when it is too late? Why not do us a favor and send a notice immediately when the account becomes overdrawn?? This doesn't make you seem very friendly.

Question two: Can you reverse some of these charges? I have sent tons of money through your bank and I really don't appreciate this abuse of my good will.

I am reprinting it here as a record of my objection to this practice.

But I also thought of a different connection. I am reading Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely. He notes the differences between the way we respond to social requests and to market requests. For example, if a friend asks for a favor we are likely to do it willingly. If a friend asks to pay us to do the same thing we are insulted. The friend has switched the transaction from "social" to "market" and that means we evaluate the request differently.

Similarly, if a bank tries to be a friend and then pulls this kind of unfriendly charge out of its back pocket, we are going to be insulted. And so it is for me. I have had a good relationship with my branch of Wamu but I am starting to rethink the relationship.