Saturday, December 8, 2007

ING Bank Totally Screws NetBank Customers in Takeover

A cautionary tale from December 7, 2007 (Pearl Harbor Day)

The White Horse that is ING Bank, galloping valiantly in to save what’s left of the sub-prime-mortgage-defunct NetBank, has mud all over it.
They are liars, have lied to NetBank account holders and continued to lie, while whispering sweet nothings in our ears and preparing to do as they damned well please. Not exactly a new account holder, I have been a client of NetBank virtually as long as there has been a NetBank.
Virtually.
For those of you who are not into banks and banking, NetBank is a virtual bank. It exists in a warehouse somewhere in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, but nowhere is there an actual lobby, within which one would find actual tellers who take in and dispense actual cash. The whole concept takes a good deal of faith. Mine has been shaken.
Actually (and virtually) that faith has been sliced, diced and marinated, then whisked off to another table.
In keeping with the intense, paranoid, secretive precepts, concepts and upsets of the Bush administration, banking (if you are a citizen) has taken a dump right in the middle of the American financial bed. Unable to locate the turd, I was (and am) relegated to following my nose and my nose leads me in the direction of the Patriot Act.
No one will say. NetBank will not say, nor will ING Bank. But under the pressure of a direct question, they do not deny.
There was a time when one still remained a citizen with full rights and privileges of citizenship, even if one lived abroad. Gore Vidal lives in Italy, an additional four million Americans have chosen to live outside their native country and yet we are mostly being treated as if we had terrorist intentions. Perhaps not Gore. He is a bit too well-connected for that.
If ING Direct fails me, I am told to climb on an airplane, head for the country of my birth, walk into an actual bricks-and-mortar physical bank and apply to open an account. Apply to give them my money. Perspire and twist my handkerchief nervously in my fingers, hoping they will take my direct-deposit social security check. Please god—take it—take it all. Desperate for their FDIC insurance, I am at the edge of my seat.
Actually, here in the Czech Republic (home of that international terrorist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Vaclav Havel) I am at the edge of my phone, listening to 58 minutes of on-hold message that is its own terrorist event. I am important to NetBank, equally important to ING Bank, my importance is a clever equal-opportunity avoidance of actually talking to me.
The recorded chirpiness of benefits-to-come as I await an actual human are initially merely annoying. But they become over time a grinding, teeth clenched choice between giving it all up and braving it out.
I am not a quitter. My old daddy did not raise me to quit.
Up until the very moment of this missive, I’ve clocked four hours twenty minutes over five calls, all of them on my dime (800 numbers are of no use from outside USA) and all of them relentlessly chirpy until the actual moment of contact.
I am (was) so jolted from my reverie by a soft and southern accented human utterance from NetBank cum ING Bank that I forgot my opening line. Thrust on stage, I gape slack-jawed at the audience and dredge the murky depths of my numbed mind for an opener—any opener.
  • Yes, they assure me, the NetBank cum ING changeover will be smooth as glass, no matter that it occurs on Pearl Harbor Day (and we share a chuckle, me and these youngsters who were not born before last Tuesday).
  • Yes, yes, ING Bank has no problem whatsoever with a Czech contact address, so long as the main account address is in the United States and (fortunately) Livingston, Montana is still safely nestled in the Western U.S.
  • Absolutely, I need do nothing at all, it is written as if on stone that NetBank ING Bank will smoothly deliver my existing NetBank account to the bosom of ING Bank and that bosom, I am assured, is large and warm and welcoming.
Being a fan of bosoms, I am heartened, even made to feel giddy with the prospect.
  • Of course my brand new ING Bank debit card will be delivered in a timely manner, so that I needn’t feel cast adrift before any of the 43,000 ATM access points world-wide.
  • Pay no attention whatsoever that NetBank (chuckle, chuckle, those dears) failed to get me a functioning debit card when the last one expired during their celebrated sub-prime mortgage fall from grace. Did I happen to notice NetBank was the largest bank failure relating to sub-prime? Something to be celebrated there, eh?
I noticed. My old daddy raised me to notice, to pay goddamn attention.
  • ING Bank promised, then promised again and yet a third time, that my several direct-deposit agreements (including my social security check) would be unfailingly and smoothly delivered into that receptive and slightly perspiration-soaked bosom mentioned elsewhere. Those are of course, first of the month deposits.
Imagine my chagrin and discomfiture when, upon checking their usual diligence in depositing those life-enabling amounts, my online account access noted “account closed.” What’s this? A miscellaneous debit in the total amount of the account had been made on November 28th.
  • No notice
  • No changeover (no matter how bosomy)
  • No record of my account being important to either NetBank or ING Bank
  • No bueno
  • Spatny
  • No forwarding address
  • No idea where the dump in the middle of the bed might be found
And so of course I called (sigh). On my dime. And, after listening to 43 minutes (at $1.42 per minute) of chirpiness, ultimately they told me I had been misinformed.
By NetBank or ING Bank was unclear.
For the briefest of moments I felt transformed to Humphrey Bogart, playing Rick, coming to Casablanca for the waters. Claude Rains, (Captain Renault), tells him there are no waters and he replies, “I was misinformed.”
Claude Rains was many things, none of them chirpy. Bogart married Bacall and you can bet that no bank shat his bed, no matter where he lived.
But those were other times. My old daddy's times and I miss them. __________________________________________________________ Media comment;