I just had one of the most frustrating phone conversations with Wells Fargo I
have had in a long time. 

It’s not the first time, and over the past months, Wells Fargo has managed to
irritate me on so many little details that I was slowly beginning to consider
closing my account with them.  The only thing that held me back is the
annoyance that comes with such a decision, since I already have quite a few
automatic deposits and withdrawals on my checking account.  I’m not afraid
of transferring them to a new account, but I am concerned that I might forget to
transfer one, which could result in defaulting on certain payments and some bad
consequences for my credit history.  So I tolerated their lame online
banking site, tiresome phone support and the various fees that they slap me with
for no reason now and then.

Not any more.

It started innocently:  I ordered new checks two weeks ago, and a few
days later, I noticed a box in my mailbox as I was heading out in the morning. 
I made a mental note that my checks had arrived and left, but when I came back
at night, the box was no longer there.  I looked in the various places that
I might have put it, but it didn’t turn up, so at this point, I decided that the
safest course of action would be to call Wells Fargo, cancel these checks and
order new ones.  And of course, to monitor my account for any unexpected
activity until the checks get canceled.

After dialing their number, punching in my account information (hint: 
keep saying "banker" until the automated system transfers you to a real human)
and then repeating this info to the representative, I explain my problem to the

"I can certainly help you with that.  How many checks did you say
there were in the box?"

"I didn’t say, and to be honest, I don’t know".

"But would you say more than six?"

Uh?  Does it really matter?  Fine, I’ll humor them.

"Well, there were probably a few checkbooks in that package, as you
probably already know, so yes, I’d say there were most likely more than six
checks.  Why?"

"Well, we can’t cancel more than six checks".

"Excuse me?"

"We can’t cancel more than six checks, sir".

Of course you can, I think, although I can definitely picture this guy using
an application that was written on a mainframe twenty years ago.  Right
now, he must be staring at a monochrome monitor showing six text fields and
having to justify this to a slowly but increasingly aggravated customer over the
phone that this is meant for their own protection.

"Are you serious?  When I ordered the checks, you asked me what
numbers I wanted, so you know exactly the range of these checks, can’t you just
cancel the whole range?"

"No, sir".

Long silence as I’m shaking my head in disbelief and contemplating my next

"So what are my options?"

"Your best bet is to close your account and open a new one".

"Are you serious?"

"Yes, sir"

"Look, closing my checking account is a big deal.  I have been a
customer for eight years, and I won’t do that unless you can give me a very good

"I’m sorry, sir, that’s the only option.  It’s for your protection".

"No, the best option for my protection and my comfort is for you to cancel
the range of checks you just sent me".

"We can’t do that, sir"

I take a deep breath.  I’m that close to raising my voice, something
that I rarely ever do, but reason takes over and I calm down.

"Fine. I’ll just reorder new checks".

I figure that if the checks have indeed been stolen and someone starts
issuing them, I can always dispute them on the basis that they won’t have my
signature.  How naive of me…

"Very well, sir, but before we do that, I need to bring my supervisor in".

"Really?  Why?"

"Because she needs to confirm with you that you are waiving protection
against fraudulent checks, sir".


"If you don’t mind holding, sir, I’ll call her right now".

Pause.  I’m on hold again.  I’m beginning to tap my fingers
nervously on my desk, because these last words certainly left me with a very
uncomfortable feeling.  I have no intention of waiving anything, and I hope
this supervisor has a good explanation for what’s going on.

"Hello sir, my name is April and I’m the supervisor.  Do I understand
correctly that you are waiving your protection against your stolen checks?"

"Hello April, and no, I’m not waiving anything.  I just called to
notify you that checks might have been stolen, and it’s not my problem if your
system can’t cancel more than six checks at a time.  Why would I suddenly
waive a protection against fraudulent checks that’s always been in effect ever
since checks were created?"

"Sir, by calling us, you admit that you know your checks are stolen, so if
you refuse to close your account per our advice, you are now liable for any
check issued"

"Are you saying that I would still be covered if I hadn’t called

I’ll spare you the five minutes of circular arguments that followed this
question, during which she carefully avoided the question.  I’m not one to
let go, though, so I kept repeating my question, and she finally admitted:

"Yes, I understand where you are coming from, sir, but that’s the way it

"You do understand how ridiculous this sounds?  You are basically
telling me that next time my checks get stolen, I’ll get better protection if I
don’t call you".

"I’m sorry, sir", she said, carefully avoiding the question again.

"Let me ask you a different question:  if Wells Fargo cashes a check
that doesn’t bear my signature, how can I be liable for it?"

"You wouldn’t, sir, but since you called us to notify us that your checks
were stolen…"

I interrupt her, since I know exactly where this is headed again.

"Hold on.  Are you saying that Wells Fargo doesn’t check for
signatures at all?"

This is a trick question, because everybody knows that banks and financial
institutions never check for signatures, which makes some kind of perverted
sense.  Sure enough, she dodges the issue again and she comes back to
blaming me for calling them in the first place.  I decide to change tactics
and see if this gets me anywhere.

"To be honest with you, should Wells Fargo ever clear a check that doesn’t
bear my signature, I would go to court to protect my rights".

"You wouldn’t be suing Wells Fargo in this case, sir, but the vendor".


"Wells Fargo is only an intermediary, we just move money around.  The
person you’d have to sue is the vendor who accepted the check, or the person who
issued the fraudulent check".

I don’t even know where to start with this one, but it’s pretty clear to me
that I’m no longer the only one in this conversation trying to protect my butt.

"I understand that you will never admit this, especially since we are most
likely on record, but I just want to emphasize how ridiculous I think this
conversation and the whole situation is".

"So, should we put your account on hold, sir?"

"Wait, are you saying there is a middle ground?  Could I disable
checks for my account for a little while and then restore them in the near

"Mmmh… no, sir, if we put your account on hold, it will eventually be

I can’t say I didn’t see this coming.

"How about this idea then, is it possible to just refuse to cash any
checks on this account for a period of time without leading to the closure of
this account?"

"No, sir. Are you willing to close your account and open a new one, sir?"

"At this point, I’m very much willing to close my account, but I won’t be
opening a new one with Wells Fargo".

I politely thanked her, hang up, fumed for a little while at my desk and
promptly opened an account with Bank of America.  At the moment, I’m making
a list of all the actions I need to take to make sure I transfer all my
accounting to the new account, and I’m hoping I won’t forget any.

Good bye, Wells Fargo, I won’t miss you.