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Robbed (JOUR 4460)

Bank robbers are criminals, no question about it.  But what happens when a bank tries to rob the people?  Thanks to Bank of America’s latest announcement, we’re about to find out.

Yesterday, news broke of BoA’s plans to charge customers a monthly $5 fee for using their debit card starting early next year.  Because the government is putting a cap on how much banks can charge merchants for debit card transactions, the customers will now be paying $60 a year to cover those lost funds.  Even if you only buy one $2 cup of coffee for the entire month, the fee will still be charged to your account. 

Unsurprisingly, consumers’ reactions have been toxic.

“Bank of America is like a man who’s been saved from a burning building and then kicks the fireman in the nuts,” read one tweet.  This is in reference to the fact that BoA received $45 billion in government bailout money just three years ago.   I guess that wasn’t quite enough for them.

BoA sent out this tweet earlier today, “#BofA customers who don’t use a #debit card for purchases or use it only at the ATM can avoid the fee.”  And a response I found soon after couldn’t have summed up my thoughts any better: “Bank of america charging $5/month if u use ur debit card…well what else are you supposed to do with it? Frame it? #stupid”

Exactly how is BoA’s response supposed to make their stakeholders feel better?  It’s like going over to a friend’s house right after they get back from grocery shopping and saying, “For every bite you take, I’m going to take some food out of your grocery bags and pantry to keep.  But if you don’t eat the food, you’ll have nothing to worry about!”

BoA said the charge would enable them to “keep an array of features customers like.”  Of course, they neglected to explain which features they’re referring to. 

As Netflix learned a few months ago, when announcing such a controversial change, a little finesse is required.  BoA didn’t issue a press release, they only commented on the new policy after the news broke.  That was a big mistake.  It reminds me of being sixth grade, when I found out my first girlfriend had broken up with me after lunch.  When I wasn’t even there.  One of her friends informed me after last period, “Carrie broke up with you at recess today.”

Bank of America let the news outlets do their dirty work.  It makes them look cowardly and guilty.

They should have released an empathetic statement announcing the new fee.  Even saying something as simple as, “we understand this change may be frustrating for some our customers, but…” would have cushioned the blow.  Instead, the public is stuck with yet another company who views their customers as dollar signs with legs.

Once the policy kicks in, I will no longer see my debit card as a form of payment.  I’ll see it as a little plastic thief.

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