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Broken: Bank of America jailing a customer
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Sat, 11 Nov 2006 19:34:14 -0500

=================== Good Experience - 7 Nov 06 =====================
                          By Mark Hurst
     Sign up: http://goodexperience.com/signup.php

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

          Broken: Bank of America jailing a customer

I've heard of customer-hostile banks (and have experienced them
myself [1]), but this Bank of America story takes the cake.

Matthew Shinnick dropped by a Bank of America branch in San
Francisco to make sure a check he was about to deposit wasn't
fraudulent. The teller found that the check was fraudulent and told
the manager, who then had Shinnick thrown in jail.

Are you getting this right? The customer who wanted to make sure he
wasn't about to draw on a fraudulent check, got thrown in jail by
Bank of America.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a story quoting Gel speaker and
craigslist founder Craig Newmark, among others - "Check from a
scammer bounces victim into jail": http://tinyurl.com/hjexp

> The teller contacted the business and was informed that no check
> had been written to Shinnick for $2,000 or any other amount. She
> immediately passed the check to the branch manager. "I saw him
> talking on the phone and staring at me," Shinnick said. "A few
> minutes later, four SFPD officers came into the bank. They didn't
> say a thing. They just kicked my legs apart and handcuffed me
> behind my back." The police report for Shinnick's arrest says he
> was taken into custody "for the safety of the bank employees as
> well as the bank customers."

Shinnick spent several hours in jail, dressed in an orange jumpsuit,
before his father posted $4,500 bail. All told Shinnick spent
$14,000 to clear his record. Bank of America refused to reimburse
him. In response, consumer advocate and radio host Clark Howard
started a Bank of America "Money Loss Meter"...

... to show how much money his listeners have withdrawn from BofA as
they close their accounts in protest. It's up to $50 million.
(There's more on Howard's site:)

And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Clark Howard takes on
B-of-A": http://tinyurl.com/ln3uz . For their part, Bank of America
denies that customers are closing their accounts as Howard claims.

Bank of America spokespeople point out that the bank was just
following California state law, which requires certain reporting of
fraudulent activity. But even if they *had* to throw Shinnick in
jail (which I doubt), they could still show their opposition to such
a strange and hostile law. Imagine if they paid part of Shinnick's
legal expenses, or even advocated a change in the law; think how
much better Bank of America would look in that case.

Companies have a responsibility to do right by their customers. I'm
not even making a moral case, though I think there is one; here I'm
just pointing out the financial responsibility. By hurting Matthew
Shinnick, and hiding behind a flimsy legal defense, Bank of America
hurt its own brand. Many customers left the bank because of this
incident, and B of A will have to resort to costly advertising to
win back those accounts. A customer-centric response would have been
faster, easier, and cheaper; good experience is good business.

- - -

See also:

[1] A bank experience (Oct. 5, 2006):

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