Revenge from the abuses of my bank November 24, 2007Posted by dorigo in personal, politics.
Banks -at least in Italy- are little short than criminal associations. They offer a poor service to private customers, and in exchange they get to steal money from their accounts every time they have a chance – by changing the rules of the account, lowering the interest rate every other day, charging fees for anything conceivable, delaying the crediting of bank deposits, and in a number of other ways. As a private citizen it is really hard to defend from these practices, but one cannot live with no bank account these days, so each of us soon learns to accept the abuse and bow his or her head. The robbery, although nasty, is usually on small change, and one can well ignore its effect on one’s own pockets, although it is hard to swallow the abuse.
In addition to these practices, one sometimes gets to touch with one’s own hand the total disdain of the bank for their clients’ interest. Just to mention one case, last year Deutsche Bank deduced from my account more than 3000 euros, leaving me with a negative balance – and without a warning!, because INPS, a government institute that used to pay the retirement salary to my father, had fallaciously requested a refund (we did not owe them a cent). The bank paid the sum without letting me know, as if I had signed a blank check! It was only through threatening a legal action that they agreed to refund me without waiting the government to acknowledge the mistake.
While they act this way with their less important customers, banks use to grant huge loans to industries and businesses with ridiculous warranties in return, often getting the worst of it when their credits cannot be recovered. If you are asking for a loan they will turn you down, unless it is a seven digit one. In Italy we sure have mafia and camorra, but much worse is the delinquent link between politicians, bankers, and businessmen which is emerging only recently through bankruptcy cases much like what has been happening in the US a few years ago.
For a serene life it is better to ignore this annoying reality. However, if one ever has a chance to get revenge, one should take it fully and make sure to enjoy every bit of it. That is what luckily happened to me very recently.
I have a loan from Deutsche Bank, where I have had a bank account for the last fifteen years. I got it three years ago when I remodeled my new house: 200,000 euros – little short of 300 grands-, to be given back in 20 years. Getting a loan was a sound thing to do back then, when interest rates were very low. However, the latter have since almost doubled, and the loan is now costing us more money than we find reasonable. I was able to reduce the amount of the debt to 100,000 euros recently by making a partial refund with some money that had poured on my head in the meantime, and then started to investigate whether a renegotiation of the loan with other banks would allow a reduction of the interest rate.
I soon discovered that Unicredit -another pond full of sharks, so to speak- would reduce by 0.3 percentage points the interest with respect to my original loan; a friend of mine works there, and he explained to me things the way they are, with no frills and fine prints. The conditions were favorable, so I made a phone call and told Deutsche Bank I was going to close the account with them, leave them for good, and transfer the loan, unless they would lower the interest rate: could they please make their best offer ? They could, and they would call me back.
They answered after three weeks of silence, calling me on the phone to say they could reduce the interest rate by 0.1% -as if they were doing me a great favor. I answered bluntly: fine, I found another bank which lowers it by two more points, so I will be happy to close everything in a few months, just give me the time. After that phone call they waited much less time to call again: a week later they called me again to announce they had been authorized to lower the rate by 0.3%, matching the offer of the other bank. I then said, fine: I would face some expenses if I transferred everything to Unicredit, so I will stay.
But the devil is always in the details: I soon learned that to change the interest rate Deutsche Bank would require a formal intervention of a notary, which would cost me 600 euros. That upset me since I knew other banks do not require that, and allow the modification to be described in a private document that is exchanged between the bank and the client. I requested the bank to check whether they could waive the fomal act through the notary, and the vice-director agreed to try it.
I went to visit the vice-director a couple of weeks ago, and got the news that my request had been turned down, because “the bank has to make things correct formally, to reduce its risks”. That made me snap. I said I was fed up with them and their politics of feeding notaries by forcing their clients to spend inordinate amounts of money to register even the most insignificant agreement. I said that it was up to them to decide whether they wanted one client more or one client less, and that I found outrageous their bullying the less wealthy customers while they bowed to every wink of larger businesses. I said plainly what I thought of the bank and its practices: misdemeanor was an euphemism. I said that forcing a client to throw away 600 euros in a useless piece of paper was a tell-tale sign of how little they cared for their customers’ interest. The vice-director and his colleague had to listen to it all, and could not even reply – they knew I was right.
At the end of my tirade I gave them an ultimatum: either they accepted to renegotiate the loan with no notary act, or I’d wave bye bye. The vice-director then said he would check again with the central offices, but he had to say he would in earnest hope the request would be declined again, because otherwise he would feel quite embarassed. I replied I could not care less, and left. Behind the polite mannerism and the slightly shaded eyeglasses, I could feel the irritation in the vice-director’s eyes.
Last night, I was waken up by his call. He did not know I was in Chicago and expressed his excuses for disturbing me in the middle of the night, but he was pleased to announce that the central offices of Deutsche Bank in Milano had agreed to waive the notary act. I was sorry for the guy, torn between sharks and angry customers.
So, in the end I got what I wanted: a lower interest rate, and no further expenses. And in the meantime I was able to dump all my anger and disgust at the way banks behave with customers, in an occasion when they could not help but listening to me. Admittedly a redundancy, but a very sweet one. This only confirms what I have known for a while: banks (and insurance companies, I may add) are weak with the strong, and strong with the weak. Just put your balls on the table with them and you’ll see their tail immediately hide between their legs.