Published 28 Jan, 2012 in OregonLive.com
Alene Lencioni wrote the $15 check to the Canby Barrel Racing Association and didn’t think much more about it.
At least not until she realized, on Jan. 10, that $1,500 had been deducted from her account.
The Beaver Creek woman panicked, noting she’d already been charged a $35 overdraft fee on another purchase and knowing that her mortgage would be deducted two days later.
She called the Key Bank in Canby, where the barrel racing association banks. She was told a teller made a mistake inputting the check, Lencioni said, with one agent maintaining that the check looked as if it could have been $1,500 not $15. “Of course, I pointed out that on the lower line, it said ‘fifteen,’ not ‘fifteen hundred,’” Lencioni said. “She wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m sorry.’ This wasn’t a little error. This was a huge, huge error.”
A Key Bank employee soon deposited $35 into Lencioni’s own Wells Fargo account to cover the fee. However, $1,485 — the difference between the $15 intended payment and the accidental $1,500 deduction — didn’t show.
“When more than one bank is involved, it’s standard industry practice that error corrections are handled by the banks’ adjustment departments,” said Anne Foster, a Key Bank spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, that can take a few days, and in this case a federal holiday additionally lengthened response time.”
That’s bank-ese for, “eight days went by and the money still wasn’t there.”
Lencioni’s friends rallied to help her cover the mortgage. Seething, Lencioni went to Wells Fargo and asked for help. On Jan. 19, Wells Fargo deposited $1,500 into her account.
“So at least I’m not being punished any more by someone else’s mistake,” she said. “But I had no recourse and they had my money for more than a week.”
The Desk typically tackles consumer issues that are likely to affect many consumers. Banking experts say this type of mistake isn’t that common, yet Lencioni’s tale does bring up a very interesting consumer strategy:
When things go south, where should you turn for help? Is it best to go up the managerial ladder at the bank that made the mistake? Or should consumers retreat and seek reinforcements at their bank?
Key Bank’s Foster said that it’s industry practice for a customer’s home bank to replenish any money that’s mistakenly deducted. Lencioni’s money might have been replaced sooner if she’d contacted Wells Fargo earlier, Foster said.
“Gotta love that the stagecoach is coming to the rescue of a cowgirl in need,” pointed out one of Lencioni’s cowgirl friends.
Next time, the cowgirl knows where to turn for help.