On June 8th, I wrote an article about how my foreign language student, Monica, made a withdrawal from her checking account leaving an additional amount of $300 in her account. The following day she went to make a $20 purchase from her account only to have it denied because there was no money left in the account. After a frustrating talk with the bank manager, the $300 was put back into the account a few days later and we were told that Wells Fargo would do further investigation into the matter.
This is an update on what happened:
On June 28th a call came to Monica from the Supervisor of Security at the Wells Fargo headquarters in San Francisco. Her name was Sheila. She originally would not talk to me, even though Monica had given them permission to do so. I had to wait until Monica came home from school. Putting Sheila on speaker phone, Monica iterated that I had permission to speak for her, and the conversation began.
We were informed that the transaction for the $300 had been found and she wanted Monica to go to the bank the next day and see if the security tape was, in fact, that of Monica. I asked Sheila if the person making the transaction was a woman. She answered “yes.” I asked if she was of Asian descent. She again answered “yes.” I asked if she was tall. The answer was “yes.” I asked if she were very slim. The answer was “yes.” I asked if she had long hair. Again the answer was “yes.” I then asked a very telling question. I said, “was it the same woman that made the $400 withdrawal?” I was incredulous when the answer was given to me. Sheila told me that there was no picture of the person making the $400 withdrawal. I asked how that could be; isn’t every transaction recorded? She said they were, but for some reason the $400 transaction was not recorded. It should be remembered that this withdrawal was made through a teller, not an ATM. (Later I called my former student that was a manager at a Wells-Fargo in the Bay area and she said that ALL transactions are recorded. One never knows when the bank is going to be robbed, so they take everyone’s picture.)
It was not convenient for Monica to go to the bank the following day – Friday – and she wanted me to go with her. I called the bank manager to make sure he would be there on Saturday and told him what time we would be there. I also told him that Monica had several issues with the bank – the withdrawal being one of them but also when she had signed up for Wells Fargo on the campus of UCSD she was told that there would not be any transaction fee for wire-transfers sent from Korea to her account. The very first transaction cost her $15 as each subsequent wire was charged to her account. Frankie said he would look into that and reverse the charge.
Saturday we went to the Wells Fargo in Fashion Valley where Monica has her account and after waiting a few minutes to see Frankie he brought out two pictures of the woman that Sheila told us had received the $300 from Monica’s account. And we were astounded at the picture: It was not of an Asian female; it was not a tall, slim female; we could not tell if her hair was long because it was on top of her head; Frankie took one look at the picture and said, “it obviously isn’t you.”
In giving us a lame excuse for what happened, he said that apparently the teller had not cleared out Monica’s pin number and when the woman in the picture went to do a withdrawal it came out of Monica’s account rather than hers. (My former student at Wells Fargo tells me it should be automatic.) I asked why there was no picture of Monica. He didn’t know. But…he had met Monica before when she first made the complaint against the bank, and all he had to do was look at the picture and know it wasn’t her. Why did we have to go into the bank to look at the picture when he already knew it wasn’t her? Was this more of the same harassment Monica received when the entire episode took place? She was assured by Frankie that her account had not been compromised; that the case was closed as far as the bank was concerned and there would not be any more correspondence with her re: the transaction.
Driving home from the bank Monica made an interesting observation: She said that the episode made her think “less” of the American banking system. The fact that the entire thing happened left her upset and puzzled. How could the bank just take money out of her account and not rectify it for over two weeks? Sure, the money was put back in her account, but she felt like she was being accused of stealing because they obviously didn’t believe her. The fact that they did not have a picture of her further cemented her feelings about Wells Fargo and being screwed. “What”, she said, “would I have done if you were not there to advocate for me?” She wondered if this happens often, and what the resolution might be for others.
The bottom line is that she was exonerated by Wells Fargo; she feels better that the case is closed; her transaction fee was reversed; but she will never feel that she can trust the banking system in America again. What a sad commentary from a foreign language visitor here to learn our culture, our language, our customs. It sure leaves a bitter taste. And yes, she will be leaving Wells Fargo!