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Monday, December 5, 2016

Give Me Some Credit, Please

Experience is most definitely a great teacher. As you may or may not know from my previous scribblings, I spent a number of years in customer service. Part of that experience was in a shop located in a part of town where parents could drop off their kids at the mall with $250 in pocket money when their schools had snow days. Later, I worked in another location of the same company located in the busiest concourse at Denver International Airport. The bulk of my customer service experience, however, is in banking.

I worked as a teller in the drive-through bank and the teller line inside the branch. I was a regular teller with a moderately sized cash drawer and a commercial teller with far more money in my till and counted by my hands on a daily basis. At one point, I had one of the two combinations to the main vault, which held an amount of cash which would be indiscreet to mention. I did all sorts of things from ordering supplies to sending counterfeit currency to the Secret Service.

I spent some time as a proof operator, my most miserable banking experience ever. But what I really loved was the telephone customer service department. I know that my previous banking experience helped me when I started in that area. I already had knowledge of debits and credits and processing and things like the basics of funds availability. There was still a lot left to learn.

Whether you realize it or not, a lot of what banks and their employees do and/or say is based entirely on Federal banking regulations. If you are a banker, whether in person or over the phone, and give your customer incorrect information on something that is regulated, you can lose your job because the bank can be punished with a fine. In fact, when I was relatively new to the job, I was warned about such a mistake on a call. I vowed to learn the regulation thoroughly and told myself that if I ever became a trainer, I would do my best to make sure that my trainees learned them as well. Regulations E, CC, D and DD...I tried to make sure that I understood them all.

Because of the wealth of knowledge I have accumulated over the years, I am somewhat more immune to bank-speak. I have to admit that I like this hidden treasure. It's like having an ace in a hand of cards that nobody suspects you're holding. I had a reminder of my good fortune regarding all of this knowledge recently. I am certain that even though he acted like he was minding his own business while I made a phone call, Trent was quietly observing in case he heard an artist at work. Not an artist, perhaps, but an educated customer. 

I had taken a look at a credit card statement and saw that I had been charged an annual fee. I wanted a refund of said fee because I think interest is enough for the cardholder to get from me. I called the service number and asked in an extremely courteous manner if I could please have a refund. The equally courteous customer service person informed me that my annual fee allowed me the security to use my card without worry. The fee provided me with a minimal financial responsibility if my card happened to be lost or stolen or otherwise compromised. 

Sounds great, doesn't it? But it's wrong. You do not have to pay for that protection, it's required by law under Federal Regulation E. I politely informed the representative that I could not be charged a fee for protection from fraudulent transactions since that protection was required by law. She placed me on hold briefly and returned to tell me that my refund was being processed. I would see the credit on my account soon. Score one for the little guy.

Does a person have to be a former banker to know all of this stuff? Heck no! If you open up a checking or savings account, or simply ask for the information, you can get a brochure from your financial institution with a scintillating title along the lines of Your Deposit Account. It will tell you all of the rules regarding your account. When will your deposited money be available? It's in there. What if you use your debit or credit card for a transaction and something goes wrong? It's in there. It's really boring reading, but it's in there. Although I did get many laughs out of my training classes when I covered the ATM security section. If you need to be told not to stop and use an ATM if there's a scary-looking dude with a gun standing there, you have problems a brochure can't fix.

Am I telling you that you need to know every detail of every regulation? Heck no, you don't even need to know what they're called. But whatever you're dealing with, whether it's money or eggs or makeup, it's good to know a bit about what's going on. I just don't like to see big companies pulling the wool over consumers' eyes. Knowledge really can be power. Here's to keeping your eyes open!

A note from The Lunatic: My financial experience was with banks, not credit unions. Banks and credit unions are overseen by different regulatory agencies and may therefore be subject to different rules.



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