Friday, August 25, 2006

Wells Fargo Answers Again: No

I got a call from Wells Fargo. It started off as an email, apparently unaware of the prior communication I'd had through the account messages, and which I had quoted earlier.
"I would like to speak with you regarding the feedback you provided about our Arden Hills branch and the drive up. Is there a number and time I could reach you? If you would rather, you can call me so we can discuss this further. I look forward to speaking with you."

It was from an Administrative Assistant for the Northeast Metro and Northeast Suburban Districts of Wells Fargo Bank.

I called Katie and left a message. She called back. She was pretty cheerful but the news she bore wasn't good; the teller who had initially refused to serve me that Friday afternoon was correct, the ones who had previously taken my deposits and the one who did so the following Monday were in error. It is for my safety. She went on about how it's hard to see cyclists and often car drivers aren't watching when they come up to a drive-through and could run into me and the pavement is sometimes uneven and the tellers can't see us. I said that I am taller than a car, nobody's going to have trouble seeing me. What about a pickup? she countered. I look over them, I said. Visibility isn't an issue.

Katie carried on; it wasn't that Wells Fargo doesn't want my deposit or is trying to make it hard to do business but it's for my safety. Look, I said, I ride all over the place and I deal with distracted and oblivious drivers all the time, a drive-through lane at a bank is just about the least of my worries. Oh but there's been an incident she said ominously, she talked to the Risk Management people, looked right at their internal website (not public, I looked) and there was some sort of incident that has brought this to the forefront again and they want to remind all the branches of the company policy. What sort of incident, I asked? Katie wasn't sure, of course, and thought she couldn't even find out, though she did say it was in Metro Minnesota so could be most anywhere.

If oblivious, dangerous motorized customers are a hazard to people, maybe they should be made to park and go inside. I took this photo at a Wells Fargo last August on one of my recreational rides when I wanted to use the ATM:
The Source of Wells Fargo's Concern
Now Where Did I Put That Deposi...Yaaaah!!

When the other person answered they said it was up to the branches, I said. What other person?? Katie sounded surprised for once. She didn't know about the response I'd had previously. I read it to her. She was dismissive of that response; that's just an Online Customer Service Representative, she said, she could be in Phoenix or somewhere and not even be familiar with the specifics of the different branches.

Don't you see we're doing this for your safety and that of other cyclists and pedestrians? I said it sounded like the Nanny State, trying to protect us from ourselves. I proposed to her that if the problem were that motorists were running into people, perhaps it is motorists who should have to park and go inside since they were the ones causing the problems. She laughed; this obviously wasn't a solution.

What about mopeds? I asked. Would you serve a moped? It's motorized. Wouldn't that still be classified as a bicycle, she said? Maybe it it's under 50cc, but it's motorized. Well, she said, it makes noise so drivers would notice it. Well then, what about my boss's Honda Accord Hybrid; when it stops, the engine shuts off and it makes no noise. Or what about an electrically-driven bicycle (like the Stokemonkey-powered Xtracycle, though I didn't cite the model)? It would be motorized. She wasn't sure, said that with the ever-increasing variety of vehicles maybe some adjustments would have to be made. I think she thought I'd be so grateful that Wells Fargo was concerned for my safety that I'd just say gosh thanks I hadn't thought of that and that would be it.

I don't think drive-through restaurants allow bicyclists or pedestrians, she said. Partly true, I said. In the discussions from my blog entries about this it came out that Wendy's and Taco Bell do not serve drive-throughs but that I had personally gone through MacDonalds as recently as last summer without issue. Oh, she said. I don't think she's done the research on who allows what.

And you know, I said, my Wells Fargo check card has a stagecoach on it. You wouldn't serve that? She laughed? OK, I said, maybe you don't see many stagecoaches (actually, not true. According to Wells Fargo's own site, a WF stagecoach will be in tomorrow's Minnesota daily State Fair Parade), but what about the Amish? They're in horse-drawn buggies. She didn't know. I'm not sure they use banks she said. They have money, I pointed out. They probably tie up the horses outside and come in she said brightly but you could tell she was making this bit up.

She tried to make it seasonal. Do you ride in the winter? she asked, sensing a trump card. Yes, I do, I said. Oh, well most people don't, and there would be a danger of people slipping and cars not seeing them and running into them. Look, I said, I ride all over town in the winter and deal with cars all the time.

My favorite bit was when I pointed out there was no bike rack at the Arden Hills branch. She said I could take my bike inside and if anyone asked just say I was a drive-through customer but that I couldn't be served. She told me that going inside was pretty quick. No it's not, I said, last time I went in it was about a 15 minute line. Well, it's kind of hit and miss, she said. What I didn't think of at the time, but did after, is how delicious it would be to take my bike inside in, say, February. I learned riding last winter that when you park your bike in a warm building, all the crap melts off. I wonder how the branch manager would react if I brought in a slush, snow and salt-caked bike and cheerfully said "Oh, I can't use the drive-through and Katie said I could just bring the bike inside with me!" as little blobs of filth dripped onto the carpet.

It was all cordial. She's got some oblivious and safely anonymous Risk Management Department on one side saying "Horrors! We must keep cyclists out of our drive-throughs so our innattentive and unseeing motorized customers won't run them down" and some pesky customer on the other wondering why it is that his vehicle choice makes it so hard to use the stupid drive-through, with a clueless Online Service Person chipping in three weeks earlier with possibly incorrect information. Her title is Administrative Assistant, so she has no decision-making authority and probably the boss gave it to her and asked her to handle it, which she cheerfully and doggedly did, she could be a White House Press Secretary. She kept brightly assuring me that Wells Fargo values my business and isn't trying to make it hard to do business with them but that they have my safety in mind when they made up this rule. I told her I understood the message, and that for the moment I would just use the drive-through ATM for my mobile banking needs.


Frostbike said...

You may not have gotten the answer you wanted, but at least you made poor Katie work for her "no"!

Karl said...

I agree with Pete; nice work! :)

I bank through WF as well, and I've never tried to bike through the drive-up teller lanes, but I do use the "drive" up ATM at the Eagan branch fairly frequently. I can do most of my banking from an ATM, which is nice. On the rare occasion when I do need to go inside, there is naturally nothing proper to lock my bike to, so I end up having to prop it up against a handicapped parking signpost sprouted from their gravel landscaped shrubbery area next to the sidewalk. I'd be thrilled if they would install just one P-style bicycle lockup, like the ones commonly seen in Dinkytown. Actually, there is a whole list of businesses that I hit fairly frequently that have nowhere to lock up a bike. Most places have plenty of sidewalk real estate that could easily accomodate one or several single-unit bike lockups. I should make up a list, start writing letters or making phone calls, and see what kind of changes I can influence.

Anonymous said...

Karl - if it's any help when talking to your city people, the city of St. Paul recently had an online cycling survey, and one of the specific questions asked for locations people wanted to have bike racks installed. Bike racks are way cheap compared to other public works things, and should be an easy thing for a city to do, they just need to know there's a need. Get your bikey friends to call too.

You should also talk with the businesses you go to, the owners if possible. I try to make a point to thank people for having bike racks where they occur so they know how much it's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I live in Florida, (an ex-Minnesotan that learned about an alternate version of Winter) and here many of the banks have walk-up ATM machines (allowing both withdrawals and deposits) that are located outside of the bank but not in the drive through lane. Certainly this can't be just a southern thing?

On one other point about Wendy's and Taco Bell drive through lanes. I quite frequently go through those drive through lanes (which is a nutritional problem in and of itself, but I digress...) on my motorcycle and never even get a second glance. I wonder if you tried fast food or bank drive through lanes closer to the University of Minnesota if they would be more lenient considering the number of students that probably bike to the bank. (Of course here every student seems to have traded in their bike for a moped, but yet again I digress!)