Washington Mutual has these cutesy little commercials out as of late. Featured are a group of men in suits ("Other Banks") who are trying to convince some guy not in a suit ("Washington Mutual") that they are, in fact, Washington Mutual employees. The man not wearing a suit is on to them though. In order to call their bluff, the non-suit keeps on spouting the virtues of a 'free-checking' account with Washington Mutual. Virtues such as "No ATM fees on non-Washington Mutual ATM withdrawals" and "Free checks for life," until finally, one of the suits cannot take it any longer. He confesses that he is but a Washington Mutual wannabee. The other suits sigh in unison, for they can not keep up the charade any longer either. Clearly they've heard enough. Promises like this from a bank? Absurd. The real Washington Mutual employee releases a mere chuckle. He knew what was going on the whole time. He knew they'd cave. That clever Washington Mutual guy!
Being a 'free-checking' Washington Mutual customer myself, I rejoiced. This is mainly because there are basically no WAMU branches within 20 blocks of me (I got the account before I knew where I was living/working so give me a break). Accordingly, I always end up having withdrawal to money from non-WAMU machines and I get fee'd like crazy for it.
Well, after having seen these educational commercials, I noticed that not only was the competing bank still charging me for my withdrawals, so was Washington Mutual. This ultimately costs me about $4 each time I use an ATM machine. I'd like to say that I had to call Washington Mutual's customer service center with bigger fish to fry, but no, I called only to complain about my few dollars lost (I mean, stolen).
Me: "Yeah—saw your commercial. Free checks and no fees, huh? Well, I'm looking at my account right now and not only did the competing bank charge me, but so did Washington Mutual. What's up with that?"
Lady: "It's only for 'free checking' customers."
Me: "I am a 'free checking' customer.
Lady: Well, it's only for new 'free checking' customers.
[At this point I'm a bit annoyed. This lady knew what she was doing. She could've easily saved me a line of speech by saying that it was only for new 'free checking' customers in the first place, but clearly she was going by some sort of script intended to sway old customers from obtaining benefits that are offered to new ones.]
Me: "Okay, so I'll close out my account and open it back up. How 'bout that?"
Lady: "You have to go into a branch and tell them you want to change your account."
Me: "That is so annoying."
I think the lady agreed or disagreed at this point, but it was clear that I'd have to make the haul into a branch.
So, I did.
I walked in yesterday after work, marched up to the teller and told her what I had told the lady on the phone: "Yeah—saw your commercials...."
She looked at me all crazy-like and repeated my phrase as if a question "You saw our commercials?" She rolled her eyes. I think this was also part of the script intended to sway customers away from getting their rightful free stuff.
I remained confident. "Yep. I did and I want free checks for life and no fees on non-Washington Mutual ATM's. I called customer service and they said you'd take care of it for me. So, why don't you be a dear and hook that up?"
The long and short of it is that she ended up taking care of it for me, but the moral of the story is that companies who honor new customers, but not old, loyal ones, really annoy the hell out of me. Cellphone companies are infamous for this. I've wasted my time on many occasions bugging Cingular to switch my bill so that it would reflect the cheaper rate plan they offer to new converts. I always get my way, but not without the grunt work. On top of that, when I ultimately called to cancel Cingular, they reminded me that, "You've been an honored customer with Cingular for 7 years though." Honored? The bastards only treated me right when I threatened to leave them. Plus, they add minutes onto your bill. I'm sure of it. Bottom line, these companies' actions are pretty much synonymous with those of inconsiderate boyfriends. Nuff said.