Famous Last Words: The Raw Power of the Letter

HATCH: You received the money and returned it. Can’t you find out what happened?

BANKER: This is not our fault. You have to go back and ask them.

HATCH: So you won’t do anything to help me.

BANKER: This is their fault. Ask them.

I left the bank with a pain in my gut. Would I be unable to work for this client because TD Bank would not take the money?

Combating Poor Customer Service
Back home I composed a letter to Bharat B. Masrani, president and CEO of TD Bank Group in Portland, Maine. It was a formal complaint vs. TD Bank and the turkey who refused to help me. I recounted precisely what happened, including the exchange above. I assembled a fat packet of supporting documents and copied the six TD Bank executive vice presidents who were listed on the website.

I printed out the letter, attached all the exhibit documents and stuck the Post-It note (see mediaplayer at right) on the upper right of the letter to CEO Masrani. I then marched into the bank. The guy in question was with a customer, so I handed the letter to another officer who was playing with a customer’s dog. I pointed to the officer who caused me the previous miseries and asked that the letter be handed to him. The doggie man nodded and I left.

This was fortuitous. Another officer saw the letter, and soon it would be the gossip of the branch.

Within a half hour, the branch manager called me from far out of town where she was on holiday and asked: “Did Mr. [NAME] call the bank’s wire service department while you were sitting there?”

“He didn’t call anybody.”

“That’s not right,” she said. “I’ll speak to him. Meanwhile, I’ll be back in three days and will follow up on this and get you your money.”

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • Chris Benson

    The post-it note reminds me of the old "Send the SOB the bedbug letter." story.

  • http://TcatHouser Tcat Houser

    LOL! Thank you!

    I may be old and not old fashioned 😉 .

    I love and live by the modern ways (its my livelihood).

    Yet Snail Mail (with a Delivery Confirmation) still works for attention. I recently went to buying postage on line.

    I *really* like your tip about the ‘shot across the bow’. I will remember that.

  • Jim Lanahan

    In 1990 my wife and I were operating a small business. We had 3 kids under 7 at home. I was called to active duty as a Marine during the run-up to Operation Desert Storm. On my departure, my wife went to work full time to keep the 6 year old business in operation. Four weeks after I left, a banking officer called to ask my wife how she was going to pay the indebtedness of the business during my absence. (All payments were within terms.) He grilled her about her ability to run the business and pressed her for more information about our financial strength. When I found out (I was in Saudi Arabia at the time) , I composed a letter to the president of the regional bank where this gentleman worked. I suggested that it wouldn’t be in the bank’s best interests for the community to find out about the bank’s actions in dealing with deployed military customers. I also suggested that if this gentleman ever darkened he doorway of my business, I would beat the living $#!+ out of him. Results – a kind word of acknowledgement from the Bank in their newsletter regarding my deployment and business. And yes, the miscreant was gone within 3 months. Yes, the letter still works!

  • Glenn

    Incompetent service from a bank??!!?? Well, knock me over with a feather.

    Nothing is more fun for mail writers than to put their skills to work to torment any company that steps out of line. Nice work!

  • Kent Dicken

    Are you still at TD Bank? After a second major problem? If so, why?
    There are plenty of other financial institutions that would appreciate your business.

  • Bob Weinberg

    After your Moscow experience why on earth didn’t you find a new bank?

  • Steve Stuart

    Suggest you hange your bank to Everbank.com Rated by Forbes as best – great rates, great service. This never would have happened with them.

  • Peter Rosenwald

    Hi Denny,

    Since this seems to be horror story time, here is the first chapter of a continuing saga.

    During a US visit to my son in November I went to a Citibank branch in Miami and opened an account. They were all smiles and soon I received a Visa debit card. As I was going to Mexico, I did what you did; I informed them of the dates and said I didn’t want the card to be refused. I also instructed my normal bank BOA to transfer money to fund that account. I received an immediate confirmation that this had been done.

    In Mexico, my card was refused (fortunately I had another one with CapitalOne which was perfect). I contacted the special toll free number at Citibank to be told simply my account had been closed. Why I asked? We cannot tell you that I was informed.

    On retrun and after a total of no less than four (count them) hours on the phone to Citibank’s Client Service (should be renamed ‘Diservice’) I ascertained that the account had been closed because it was over drawn.

    Impossible I said: I haven’t made any purchases. More waiting. What were these charges that had ‘overdrawn’ the account? One was for checks I never asked for which were never delivered to my US address. The other was for the overdraft charge for my not having paid for the checks. And what about the substantial deposit I had made. They claimed never to have received it and I later discovered that it had been returned to BOA.
    Customer Disservice promised to investigate and get back to me. They may have investigated but they have never come back to me.

    The saga continues.

    The bottom line: these companies all give lip service to CRM but can’t create people and systems that are even marginally functional despite the best efforts of consultants like you and me.

    Does anyone out there have the name of someone at Citibank who can read and act? If you do, please send it to me and I’ll follow Denny’s example.