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Risky Banking


I turned 18 years old in June of 1997. One of the first things I did as a bona fide adult was to obtain a checking account. Up until that point I had dealt with all financial aspects of my life primarily in cash. This was fine to do since I didn't really have to pay for anything that wasn't within a few miles radius of my home. But, I saw the benefit of having a checking account so that I could pay my bills without having to actually meet with a person. This was really all the benefit that I saw. With a cash payment, you have to meet with an actual face so that the person can accept your cash payment and return you a receipt. With a check as payment it can simply be dropped in a drop box with the bill or even mailed.

Today, I can't remember why I chose Ozark Bank for my bank. They were somewhat conveniently located, I suppose, being less than a mile from my apartment. It was the closest bank, to be sure. But, allow me to tell you a story of why that choice became one that I would pay for.

For roughly four months, the only activity in my checking account had been deposits that I made to cover the checks that I wrote to pay my bills. I only deposited about the amount, rounded up, that I would need to write a check for. This eventually left me with a small surplus from all the rounded up amounts. I kept track, to the penny, of the amount that I had in my account by meticulously using the check register like I had been taught in my high school accounting classes. I was pretty responsible, I think.

One day, I found myself short on available cash and needed some gas in my car. I saw that I had about $13 in my account and so I wrote my very first check for something other than a bill. Rapid Roberts took my check and I took my $10 worth of gas. Everybody was happy, until a few days later when I received a letter from Ozark Bank stating that my account was overdrawn and that they rejected the $10 check from Rapid Roberts for insufficient funds. I immediately went down to the bank with the letter and spoke to a clerk at the counter who asked to see my register so that she could determine where I, not them, had made an error. That's when she found what I had done wrong. She said, "Oh, I see. You failed to record this $18 ATM fee." I was shocked and mad at this point. Did she seriously just say that? I remained calm and explained to her that I had only used the ATM one time to activate my card as directed on the card instructions and that I had done it using their ATM. She saw this transaction and then realized that it was an error on their part since an $18 ATM fee didn't even make sense by itself. She quickly and easily refunded the $18 fee and cancelled the "insufficient funds" fees bringing my account back to the approximate $13 and then asked, "Is there anything else that I can help you with today?" I said, "Yes, what are you going to do about the bounced check to Rapid Roberts?" She then had the nerve to say, "Oh, we're not responsible for that." "I beg to differ", I said, "The check bounced because the bank took money out of my account by error, so, yes, the bank is responsible for the check." She responded, "What I meant is that it's not our responsibility."

I asked to speak to a manager at this point because I could see that it was going nowhere. The manager came out and explained that there was nothing that they could do about the repercussions or repayment of the bounced check. I was furious. I now had to pay Rapid Roberts the ten dollars and a $40 Returned Check fee on top of that all because the bank messed up my account and all they could tell me was that it wasn't their responsibility. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the teller, the manager, and the bank right there in the lobby for everyone to hear. I was asked to leave but not after being told that the police had already been called.

I left, went straight to Rapid Roberts, and paid the fee. I asked if there was anything else that needed to be done and stated that this was my first time having to deal with this kind of thing. The clerk said that that was it, gave me a receipt, and thanked me for coming in to pay it so quickly.

Almost a year went by when I was arrested for the bounced check. I was having fun with some friends at Braden's Slab, a popular hangout location in Bruner, MO. We all left and my friend Shawn slid off the thin windy gravel road leading back to the highway. Where the car slid off was a very deep ditch about 5 feet deep. The car was almost vertical on its side. I stopped along with another driver in a Chevy S-10 Blazer. Others left because they figured that with the Blazer Shawn's car would be back on the road in no time. The driver of the Blazer was inexperienced and when attempting to pull Shawn's small car out, he also slid down into the ditch. Between all the passengers of all three vehicles we had a total of about 9 or 10 people now with my small car as the sole source of transportation. We tried for close to an hour to get both vehicles out with no luck. That's when Christian County Sheriffs arrived on the scene. They searched all the vehicles intent on arresting all of us for something, but in the end only Shawn and I went to jail; Shawn for the bottle of vodka they found in his car, I for the warrant they found when running my license. I explained what happened with the whole check thing and they assured me that we could figure all that out at the jail when we got there.

We got to the jail and they told me that the warrant was valid whether I had paid Rapid Roberts or not. They said that someone could get the receipt for me, but that it wouldn't do anything anyway. I'd have to bring it to court. They explained that the only way out was to pay $100 bail. I called my friend whom I bailed out several times. He organized a collection and sent someone to get me out. After some initial confusion as to what county I was in, the money man was sent out again only to find out that the bail amount was actually $107. The money man was short the $7 and had no way to get it at 3 o'clock in the morning. So, into orange I went. Since the jail was ancient and over-full I got to spend the night on a thin mat on the floor of a cell. Shawn was already asleep in the top bunk and some guy was asleep on the bottom. My mom bailed me out the next morning which I paid her back immediately.

About a month later I went to court over the issue. I quickly got found not guilty after producing the receipt and was directed to receive my refund from my bail minus $70 in court costs. I asked the judge why I should have to pay the court costs if I was not guilty. He said that everyone pays the court costs and that I should've taken the receipt from Rapid Robert's to the Sheriff's station in the first place to let them know that I had paid them. I explained that I didn't and couldn't have known that I was supposed to do that. He then threatened me with finding me in contempt if I didn't immediately leave his court room without saying another word. All I could do was glare at him and leave.

In the end, Ozark Bank's actions cost me $110, a night in jail, and a whole lot of grief. I had done nothing wrong and even attempted to immediately fix what had happened to me and was only thanked with punishment.

All of this to say that many banks are not what they were originally designed to be. The whole idea behind placing your money in a bank is so that your finances are protected. They can be safe, hence the name for the large lock box they supposedly place your money in. When banks fail to protect you, the customer, financially they fail to be a bank.

Bank of America recently cost me a similar price a few weeks ago that Ozark Bank inflicted me with 12 years ago. The only difference is that Ozark Bank had admittedly made an error that they attempted to fix if only partially. Bank of America, on the other hand, has a policy in place to seize their customer's money if given the opportunity even when that opportunity is presented by an action that is not the cause of the customer. In other words, someone other than myself can do something that causes my bank to take my money. I won't go into the exhaustive detail as I did with the Ozark Bank story, but I want to point out how opposite that is of what we all understand a bank's nature to be. A bank should protect their customer's money against all who threaten to steal it. Bank of America does not do this and they failed on several counts to provide any logical reasons for their actions while failing to recognize the logic from me that demanded that they return what was not theirs to take.

4 comments:

Try to stay away from brand name banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and their ilk. You'll generally be far better off with a smaller, locally-owned credit union than with some McWorldBankCo that doesn't care about losing any particular customer. The larger institutions seem to be generally more interested in lining shareholders' pockets with money taken from their customers than pleasing the customers who enable their very existence. In that area I like Citizens National Bank. Nevertheless, it's unlikely that anyone will be as responsible with your money as you. Caveat emptor.

Wow! That is one for the grandkids someday:)

My first checking acct was through Guaranty Bank in Spfld which I continued to keep open throughout college so that my parents could make deposits from there. The acct had been stale for awhile & so the bank decided to start drafting $5/month due to "inactivity"...seriously! I was finally able to close the acct when I was in town & didn't know whether to laugh or give them the finger when the teller said, "Thank you for banking w/ us." - ugh!

WOW!! What a story!! As I was reading through this, my heart was beating really fast and I was thinking...NO WAYYY!! Unbelievable!!!

It's funny how when you make an error in your checking account they are right on it and willing to take your money for the mistake. But when they make a mistake...they don't have to fix it or refund you or help you out in any way...arghh!!

-Cheryl

I used to have a checking account with Great Southern and I went to the ATM to pull out a few hundred to put down for something to do with buying a house. The ATM sounded like it gave me money and nothing came out. I went through the drive-thru and told them and they gave me a form to fill out. I then had to borrow the money from my mom because that was the only $300 I had. It took Great Southern a month to repay me my $300. I made several calls and they kept telling me it takes time to count the ATM. Why did I have to wait to get my money back. Luckily I was able to borrow the money but that was besides the point. I pulled my money out of their account and have been at Commerce ever since and haven't had a problem.

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