Friday, July 07, 2006

Wells Fargo Refuses Drive-Through Service

Wow, I don't have long to write this as I'll soon be off to the BFF, but I left work (on my bicycle) and rode over to the Wells Fargo bank at County E and Pine Tree Drive in Arden Hills to deposit my wife's paycheck. I went through the always-convenient drive-through lane, got out the signed paycheck and filled-in deposit slip from our checkbook, and put it in one of the canister things. The speaker piped up.

"Sir, we can only serve vehicles in the drive-through."
"That's fine. Minnesota state law says I'm a vehicle." and I pushed Send. Whoosh! Off it went.

A couple of minutes went by. Whooosh, back came the canister.

With the check and deposit slip still in it.

The speaker piped up again.

"Sir, my name is Suzanne (? it started with an S). We can only serve motorizedvehicles in these lanes. You'll have to come inside to make this deposit."

Motorized vehicles? That's not what the original teller said. Screw 'em. I took the check and deposit slip out and left. Time to write a letter or three.

Some facts:
  • It's my wife's paycheck, which she gets twice a month and we deposit in this bank. My wife is on the checking account.

  • The amount of the paycheck is not reportable under the Patriot Act (I wish it was!).

  • I wasn't asking for any cash back, it was a simple deposit.

  • I've deposited at this branch before off my bicycle.

  • We have a long relationship with Norwest/Wells Fargo, including car loan, musical instrument loan, mortgages in Des Moines and here and the refinance a couple of years ago, a credit card and a checking account. While CFO at a small company in Des Moines we had a $2 million line of credit with Norwest that I arranged. We are not new customers.

  • We're not even just customers; I worked for Norwest Document Custody (I was a stinking temp) for a year (basically 1996) running a project to reconcile their vault contents and computer systems which had become almost comically screwed up. I ran the project.

  • Norwest used to support cycling, even running the fabulous Norwest Cup race in Minneapolis from 1993-1995. They are the main sponsor of Maryland's MS150 this year and sponsored a criterium in Boise last year.

  • Wells Fargo's own advertising doesn't have a motorized vehicle--it's a horse-drawn stagecoach. Ironic that they'd refuse to accept a deposit from the vehicle central to their branding strategy.

What to do? I'm going to contact Wells Fargo and see what they have to say. What possible reason could they have to make life more difficult for cyclists? Why is my wife's paycheck deposit fine if I stick it in the plastic canister out a car window but so radioactive they won't touch it when I'm on a bicycle? What if I ride a Stokemonkey-powered Xtracycle up to the drive-up, would it then be ok? How about a 25cc gasoline-powered Cyclemaster? What if I were Amish? Does it matter to them that I normally shut off my engine while using the drive-through when I engage in transactions while in a motor vehicle?

I'd be interested in knowing if anyone else has run into this problem at a bank. I volunteer on a credit union Supervisory Committee so know there are fishy transactions, and if I wanted $12,000 in cash or to change the account address or get cash back without an ID I would understand, I hope they'd have me come inside for those even if I was in a motorized vehicle, but to refuse to accept a straight deposit because I'm on a bicycle is just stupid.

I've heard of people having troubles at fast food restaurants although I have personally gone through MacDonald's drive-throughs on my bike as long ago as 1983 and as recently as last summer with no hassles.

I'll write Wells Fargo this weekend and we'll see where this goes.

Meanwhile, off to the movies! I'll see you there!

PS Late addition: Take a look here to see a photo I took last summer of one of Wells Fargo's preferred motorized customers.


Gordy said...

Huh. Yeah, seems no possible logic for this decision. What in tarnation are they scared of is the fundemental question.

Personally haven't fun into anything like this although I was in a car at a drive through recently and there was a small sign below the speaker where you place your order. It said, "Business name doesn't serve drive through cusomters riding bicycles." I didn't rememeber to ask when I got to the window as there were others behind me. Plus, what does the person at the window have to really do with making the dopey decision anyway? Again, dumb, but there we are.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, there are two possible explanations here, and it's possible that both apply. The first explanation is obvious: the person/people working the window are morons and/or lack the skills to make a decision. The second possibile explanation is that Wells Fargo simply has a policy against serving customers who use the drive-thru while not driving. Obviously, the drive-thru window is for the convenience of motorists who can't take the time to get out of the car. If bicycles, pedestrians, or the Amish are allowed to use the drive-thru, car drivers' convenience will be compromised, thereby defeating the purpose of having a drive-thru in the first place.

All that said, it likely would have been faster and more convenient for the motorists in line for the teller to process the deposit and send you on your way rather than give you a hard time.

Bart said...

The main thing I keep thinking is that this is some sort of silly liability issue. Maybe some cyclist got hit in a drive-through a while back and sued someone for big bucks. Otherwise, for the banks, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

That, and it sounds like yhou ran into someone who enjoys felxing what little power they may have in their life.

Matt said...

One suggestion made by someone I was talking to is that they want a license plate number on their videocamera surveillance, and bikes don't have that. Why on Earth they'd need that when all I wanted to do was deposit my wife's check with no money back or anything is beyond me. As for liability, I suppose that would be an issue, but it would also be an issue with a car running into another car, or a motorcycle. As for the line, there was nobody behind me although all the lanes had a car idling away in them except mine. Like I say, we'll see where this goes.

LvilleTex said...

I've been turned away at the local PNC bank for an aforementioned reason, liability. I was pretty nasty to them b/c i was the only person in sight and they still wouldn't let me. I swore that day to take my bidness elsewhere, but, alas, hasn't happened.

Anonymous said...

Becareful how much you fight it. I can't afford anymore transaction fees from Wells Fargo.

Anonymous said...

For what little its worth, I've had no problems at the drive-thru on my bike at the... I don't know what it is now, but it used to be Liberty bank at Snelling at Selby. Until very recently, we banked there, and left only because we realized that our credit union offered a great deal on checking accounts.

Anonymous said...

It's a liability issue. They don't want to get sued if a biker gets hit by somebody.

Kind of silly, and inconsistently inforced.

I bet they wouldn't say anything at the drive through ATMs

Anonymous said...

Ever hear of direct deposit? Saves you a trip to the bank and gives you quicker access to your funds.

Matt said...

I actually use direct deposit for my own paychecks and have done so for years, it's very convenient. However, my wife is a Music Director at a church with just five employees and they get paid with actual checks. Direct deposit isn't an option.

As for liability, I expect that will be the excuse, although I don't know that they'd be liable if one car hits another. It's between the drivers, and should be with any car/bike incident as well.

Anonymous said...

While living in central Kentucky I went through at least three different bank drive throughs, and quite a few fast food joints. I went to one of the banks on foot one day since the drive through was the only thing open. I just stomped on the signal and cashed my paycheck. I got odd looks a few times, but at one bank they began to recognize me and make comments about how hard it must be riding in the heat, etc. It was a university area, so maybe that made a difference.

I haven't tried it with my current bank, but they are such jerks on a regular basis I wouldn't be surprised if they refused service.

(posted Anon because I am lazy)

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to me today -- bank said their insurance only covers cars in the drive thru, not pedestrians or bikes. In fact the teller AND the manager told me that. Ironically, their bike rack is a tiny piece of metal that I can pick up with one hand and that will only accomodate locking the front time. But they don't seem to be to concerned about their liability for that.

Anonymous said...

Hey -- any resolution on this? I had the same experience in Portland this morning and I'm hopping-mad... found this thread in my internet search... would love to know if you ended up writing nasty letters, and what happened.

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Anonymous said...

Same thing happen to me at Wamu in Florida, but then I went to another Wamu with no problem.

However I look up the word vehicle, and it means used for transporting people or goods on land.

I told them that, the little girl said it has to be a car... O, ok, so not a truck, lol.