Sunday, September 05, 2010

Who's Money is in Your Wallet?

People make mistakes -- and so do companies. A tough question is where do you draw the line that a mistake becomes a huge issue but personally I think the biggest place where you decide where to draw the line is in customer service. I've had accounts with Capital One for many, many years and just last year I decided to move my checking accounts to them as well since I've been somewhat pleased with their service. Initially, I had issues setting up an account because for some reason my zip code wasn't recognized as being in Virginia. Personally, I don't think this is their fault because I've had this type of issue elsewhere and there really isn't an explanation -- maybe its the fault of the postal service? In any case, I was able to contact the manager at the McLean, VA branch and get 2 checking accounts set up (one for my business and one for personal). One of my primary requirements was that I would be able to easily transfer money between the two accounts via online banking which I was told wasn't going to be an issue -- unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Besides the fact that it wasn't able to happen, I understood the reasons and the customer service that I had received at the McLean branch far surpassed nearly any banking experience that I've ever had and so I decided to keep my accounts there. In some cases I would send a fax to the branch to transfer money and in other cases I would mail a check written from one account into the other account to the McLean branch.

Unfortunately, issues continued when my checks that I mailed seemed to never make it to the branch but then a week or two later it would show up in my account but yet no one at the branch ever touched it. It was determined that my envelopes were, for an unknown reason, being redirected to New Orleans and processed there. Personally, I could care less where the check gets processed but when it's taking at least a week to process it can create issues for a business that's still trying to stay afloat in this economy. There also was one point where the New Orleans processing center deposited my check that I wrote from my business account into my personal account back into the business account (I literally saw the check debited from my account and on the very next line the same check credited back to the account). The manager at the branch continued to work with me on this and any fees that came up as a result of these errors he was more than happy to refund for me and that customer service continued to keep me with Capital One.

What's the point of this post? Well, ultimately, that's the backstory to what happened to me this weekend that completely blows my mind and makes me question the legalities of what the New Orleans (or wherever) processing center did. In many cases when I receive a check from a customer of mine I put it in an envelope with it's endorsement stamper and then I also include another check that is written from the business account to the personal account because, in most cases, the business account is only there for accounting reasons. Early last week I received a check from a customer which I endorsed and included in an envelope to the McLean branch along with a check written to transfer those funds from my business account to my personal account and later that week the same scenario with a check from another customer. It was earlier this week when I saw that second check deposited with still no sign of the first but, because I know this weird routing happens sometimes, I figured the first just got routed to New Orleans. On Friday, I figured out that that was the case, however, something drastic happened. I received a call from "Computer Customer" (name changed) asking me what I did with the check that I had received from them. They were looking at their accounting and they found that there was a payment made to their credit card account that they had no idea about and after calling Capital One's Credit Card Center they told them that the check was written to "Ransom Tech Services" but yet could give no explanation for what it was that happened. It's apparent that what happened was someone processing that check decided to look up Computer Customer's credit card account and then write that account number Under the Ransom Tech Services endorsement stamper which included the Ransom Tech Services account number and credit that check to Computer Customer's credit card. This is where I don't understand how someone could make such a huge error because, first of all, my account number was on the endorsement stamper, and secondly, regardless of why you would look up the company that wrote the check how can you deposit it to that company when they check is written to a company that is, in no way, associated with the source company. So what about that other check that I included in the envelope written to my personal account? Well, of course they took the time to look up my credit card account number and go ahead and credit it to that account which overdraws my business checking account because the money that they were supposed to deposit into my account they gave to someone else. Unfortunately, this takes place Friday afternoon and the branch closes early for the holiday and, therefore, I have a negative account (meaning I'm broke) and I can't even think of getting something done until Tuesday because of the holiday.

So, that's my amazing story. There are crazy things that happen at small companies and small banks but when something like this happens at such a huge institution like Capital One it really makes you wonder how much you can trust these people with your money. I'm curious to see how this turns out but, despite the absolute amazing customer service at the branch, I think I'll be opening a new account somewhere else because I simply can't deal with the incompetence of this mysterious processing center that occasionally receives my checks despite them being addressed to an address that is many states away.