Dear Dirty America


Wells Fargo Charges Its Poorest Customers Unnecessary Service Fees

October 07
11:00 2012
Los Angeles

This is a personal story. It is not objective journalism. Some of you might find a similar sentiment in dealing with your own banks.

I’ve been a Wells Fargo customer for 26 years. That is almost my entire life. My parents opened a savings account for me when I was a child. Growing up, I deposited the random checks from my father for working on his farm. From my first high school job, to my most recent lecturing position at the college, I’ve stuffed my money into Wells Fargo’s coffers.

Recently, when I logged into my Wells Fargo checking account, I noticed a $3 “monthly service fee”. What is this? I asked myself. Why would a bank that I’ve been a customer of for more than a quarter century have any interest in charging me a service fee?

After calling the 24-hour service system, and talking to a banker, I found that because my student bank account had slipped below $500 for a period in the month of September, I was issued the fee. I’m not proud of this, folks, but times are tough and I’m just finishing up a Master’s program.

I’m poor. I’m rich on the inside, but that’s another article.

The logic, then, as I understand it, is that Wells Fargo slaps a service fee onto its poorest customers. Including my savings account, I’m a couple months’ rent from living on the street. One minute you have a little apartment with books and a bed. The next, you’re living in a cardboard box on San Julian. Yet, when my mega bank notices this financial decline, when they notice I have under $500 in my bank account, they hit me with a penalty. How can I not view this as a cheap shot?

I would think that when Wells Fargo noticed the dismal state of my checking account, they would, instead of steal 3 dollars, offer me a few bucks in case I don’t have quite enough to buy a sandwich. Three dollars is two cups of coffee. Coffee that I very much need as I finish up the last stages of my graduate degree.

If this sounds absurd (why would Wells Fargo send you money for a sandwich?), then ask yourself if it is not absurd that the bank received a $25 billion bailout in taxpayer dollars when the bank was struggling from getting far too deep in the mortgage crisis.

A Wells Fargo service representative might even think to call, just to check up. They have my cell number. Wells Fargo acts like my family. They have signs hanging up in their banks showing pictures of families. Smiling families. Getting loans. Fulfilling their dreams. That dream house. That new car. That expensive college education. But what happens when life turns sour? Wells Fargo will club that family over their heads.

A banker might think to call and ask if I’m upset that I have so little money. Is there anything we can do? We noticed you have virtually no money. You’ve been a loyal customer for 26 years. How can we help?

I’m wealthy inside, I would probably respond. Sure, I walk around in this physical realm with hardly anything to my name. But out there, in the mental and spiritual realms, I’m free. I’ve been places you’ve never imagined. But thank you for checking up on me.

Of course this isn’t how a mega bank responds. Their depiction of customers as their family members is an awful marketing ploy. Instead of offering assistance to their customers who have ended up on the side of the road, Wells Fargo sends its faithful servants to pluck those last few dollars from our hands. But we were going to use that to get something to eat, we might respond. You can contact a service representative if you have any questions or comments! they say.

Some of you, dear dirty America, might respond that it’s only three dollars. And that I should shut my mouth. But the point is, precisely, that three dollars for a guy who has less than five hundred is extremely important. I actually missed it.

What would it matter if Wells Fargo gave me three dollars? Would they miss it? Do they need it?

Dear Jesus, what a cruel joke. If I ever make a significant amount of money, ever, I will not deposit it at Wells Fargo. I’ll find a respectable credit union. Or I’ll stuff it under my mattress. I don’t care. Anything to keep it out of my bank’s hands.


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  1. Marthapao
    Marthapao October 08, 00:00

    Same thing happend to me and I’m sad to say I was a customer for about 15 years and had actually worked as a banker there. Neither of those things seemed to matter to them and I got a $12 monthly service fee before I closed all my accts there and changed banks.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 01, 13:35

    I am also a graduate student. I actually had my savings account emptied out by their fees alone. They’ve been charging both my checking acct. and my savings acct.

    Reply to this comment

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