[Background info: I bought an ice cream cake for my Dad's birthday just before Christmas last year. When my Mom stopped by to pick it up, they didn't have it, couldn't find it, and were v. confused. When I went back a week after that, they said they were sorry, but they couldn't give me a cake or refund my money because the Baskin-Robbins had changed owners on January 1, 2004.]
I first submitted a complaint via the Baskin-Robbins Web site.
After hearing nothing back from them, I called them a few days later. As it turned out, they'd already sent out a letter certified mail with $20 in gift certificates. That was a nice thought, but of course there are two problems:
1. The ice cream cake cost me more than $20, and
2. If you send something certified, it means that someone has to sign for it. As I'm employed full time, this means an extra trip to the post office to wait in line and pick up the letter. V. annoying.
The B-R rep I spoke with on the phone suggested a regional rep would call me at some point to discuss the case, but no one ever did.
As a result, I contacted the Better Business Bureau. That seemed to finally get results: three weeks later, I received a check for $26 from the former owner of the local franchise along with a letter explaining how he'd had a heart attack and was therefore "not as diligent" as he should have been. Of course it's unfortunate that he nearly died, but it is kind of lame to use it as an excuse for not delivering the damn cake in the first place.
Given that it was a check for $26 and was drawn on a local bank - the Bank of America down the block from the B-R shop - I figured I could just stop in and cash the thing in person. Besides, I didn't trust the guy that wrote it [after all, he had failed to deliver my (paid in full) ice cream cake just a few weeks back]. I haven't been inside a bank since the summer of 2001; after all, everything is direct deposited these days. Sometimes, though, you get stuck with a real check. I usually mail it in to my bank, but this time I thought it'd be easier just to go to the bank itself and get my money.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Upon entering the Bank of America branch on Redmond Way, I was pleased to see a perky young woman dressed in an expensive blue suit welcoming me to B of A á la Wal-Mart. There were also two young customer service representatives seated behind a counter with a big sign that said "Customer Service."
Problem is, though, that there weren't very many tellers. Soooo... I had to wait for several minutes. There was no one else in line in front of me, but all the available tellers were busy.
I just stood there watching the three "customer service" representatives... do nothing. I was getting very, very anxious to ask them exactly how they served customers - after all, I was a customer, right? And I wasn't getting anywhere... surely they could find something else to do other than talk to each other... perhaps actually help a customer?
Finally I got to a teller. I gave him the check - a Baskin-Robbins company check drawn on an account located at that branch. I was then asked for two forms of picture ID. This was annoying... two forms of picture ID? My badge was in the car, so I gave them my driver's license and medical insurance ID card. Nope, that wasn't good enough. What they needed was, well, maybe a passport.
Do you carry your passport around unless you're traveling? I sure don't.
So I asked to see the teller's supervisor. She came over and agreed to settle for a "major credit card." I gave her one.
Then she asked for a fingerprint.
This is when I lost my temper. Badly. There's nothing like going into a bank, being greeted by someone, standing around looking at all the marketing materials trying to convince you that you should refinance at B of A, waiting, watching three people sit there and do nothing, finally get to a teller, have them ask for a passport, settle for seeing your credit card, and then demand a fingerprint.
They then said it was, you know, because of 9/11. Oh, and it's branch policy.
So I asked to see their policy statement, or handbook, or just something where they've written down this policy that you need to show two forms of ID and give them a fingerprint before they'll cash a check drawn on a local account.
Of course, they wouldn't. It's policy - I think she said - but it isn't a document just anyone can see.
Now, I'm usually very mellow these days, but God knows I do have a temper that shows up about once a year if I'm lucky. It showed up here. I basically told them all to fuck off, that they're fucked in the head if you think I'm going to give them any of my business if they're asking for all of this to cash a $26 check on a local account. I grabbed my check back, briefly considered throwing their fingerprint pad at them, thought better of that, and started to leave. [After all, if you mail in a check to your own bank, you don't have to put a fingerprint on it.]
At this point some guy in a white shirt and tie stepped up and asked if he could talk to me. I thought he was security, which frankly would have made sense. It's really not acceptable for anyone to use that kind language in front of other people; it's certainly not something you want happening in your bank. And I am embarassed by that behavior... ugh. So I followed him back to his cubicle.
Turns out he's an assistant VP [note: henare would like to remind you that this means virtually nothing in the banking industry]. And he was friendly [especially considering my outburst], helpful, and cashed the check.
Next time I get a local check, though, you can be sure I'm mailing it in instead of trying to cash it in person.
Having a quick read through various Web sites [the ACLU, some regional credit unions, etc.], it would seem that the whole fingerprinting thing has nothing to do with the USA PATRIOT act. It seems largely to have become common as a means of reducing check fraud. There's nothing in the PATRIOT act that requires a fingerprint when cashing checks; it is explicitly allowed as a means of verifying identity when opening an account, but otherwise there seems to be no mention of it.
Therefore, I'm guessing that this mysterious unwritten [or written but not publicly available] B of A policy has more to do with avoiding bad checks. That's understandable, I suppose, but it sure felt like they were whipping out the fingerprint pad because they didn't like me asking to see the manager to ask if I could use something other than a passport.
Ultimately, it's a pretty lame story. It's typical, though, in that bad customer experiences are usually built on a bunch of smaller annoyances. Just as Safeway was annoying last night because the checker was reading her break schedule while trying to scan things [mostly unsuccessfully] at the same time, today's outburst on my part was predicated on the greeter, the hard sell of products that I know are bad value (compared to my own bank), the idle employees, the long wait, the ID demands, the fingerprinting... and of course having had an account closed by B of A in 1989 because I "hadn't used it enough" [it was a "free lifetime account" as part of a I. P. Giannini promotion; I hadn't used it in nine months because I was at university in Germany.]
At least I got my $26 thanks to Mr Sharma. Glad there's one B of A employee who's reasonable.
I still don't know what to do with the gift certificates, though.