Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I got a call from the Sun Trust social media rep

I've been thinking about this, and decided to talk about it.

Some of you saw and may have commented on my Sun Trust post the other day, how I was annoyed that they had charged me a $17 "monthly checking service fee" (evidently I'm part of the checking account level where you need $5k in assets plus direct deposits to avoid the fee. There's a lower tier where the fee is $7 unless you have direct deposit, which I thought I was part of).

Now, my solution to the problem is going to be very simple. I've shifted my direct deposits to a different bank, and once things have cleared at Sun Trust, I will simply close the account.

Yesterday, I got a call from the Sun Trust social media representative. I guess my Google Talk comment came up on their radar and they wanted to know how they could help. 

Honestly, I kind of blew them off - I was in the middle of working, and really didn't want to have a chat then. And while they left their number, I really don't feel like calling back, either.

Because what would be the point? Will they sit back and say "You know, charging $17 a month for a checking account is rather silly? I mean, sure, if people are writing a ton of checks or something maybe I can see it perhaps possibly - but just to do a blanket 'This kind of checking account costs $17 a month' is silly. Let's stop doing it!"

No. They won't.

Used to be the whole point of a bank account went like this: I give the bank permission to hold my money. Some of it would go into a savings account to earn interest, some might go into a checking account to keep it safe but grant me the ability to pay people. There was a relationship there: the bank would use my money so they could make reasonable loans to people, charge them interest. Then, in return, they would hold onto my money, pay me interest on my savings, maybe no interest or minor fees when I ordered new checks on my checking account, and everyone was happy. A banker could make about 1.2 times the national average in income, money was protected, and everyone was happy.

But - that's not the case. Now, banks just can't "make enough money to pay their employees and have profit for their shareholders." Now it's "We must make a ton of money for the shareholders, via any way we can. Offer crappy loans to home owners so we can sell it up to an ignorant Wall Street and let other people hold the bag? Sure. Charge fees that have no bearing upon the actual cost of the checking account? Go for it. 

"Anything we can do to maximize our profit for our shareholders is a Good Thing, and if we don't do that, then the shareholders will go elsewhere."

Basically, too many banks have decided that their customer is the shareholder, not the people who put their trust and money into the bank. 

I apologize if I seemed rude, Sun Trust social media rep. I didn't mean to be, but honestly I had a hammer in one hand and a screwdriver in the other and didn't feel like chatting. And, honestly, I don't feel it would have done any good. I didn't want to hear your explanations, because I don't care to hear them.

I have a checking account at a credit union, and somehow, they can figure out a way to pay me more in interest/dividends than I've gotten from a "big bank" in ages. They don't feel the need to charge me fees just for my checking account in a moderate, normal way. 

So if and when banks like Sun Trust, Bank of America, and the like decide to become competitive again, and perhaps decide that the banks customers are the ones giving them their money to hold, and not shareholders who invested in them - then I'll come back.

Until then, there's really nothing to talk about.