One consumer’s experience with a giant corporation – by Craig Denning

What is this all about?

At one time or another all of us are consumers and I am sure most of us have been intensely frustrated with the way many companies handle complaints.

How many times have you called customer service only to be put on hold for ages while a pre-recorded voice says, “your call is important to us”? Then, when you finally get through you are now talking to someone overseas and it can be hard to understand what they are saying. If you try and escalate you might be lucky to reach a supervisor who will offer little help and refuse any further escalations.

Over the years when confronted with customer service that is this unhelpful I have discovered various strategies to bypass typical call center staff and talk with senior managers who are usually better able to help upset customers. It appears that most call centers have little authority to handle all but the most mundane requests.  

In 2020 when my attempt to refinance our home with Wells Fargo went terribly wrong I ended up losing money, time and almost my mind.  Instead of taking 60 days my REFI process extended to six months and required over 100 documents, 120 emails and scores of phone calls. Demands on my time ate into scores of evenings and weekends. Time and time again when all the paperwork was ready go WF made a mistake and missed a deadline requiring the whole process to be repeated. The delays cost us well over $2,000 in actual cash and as a business owner the 100’s of lost hours meant I was unable to offer a great service to my customers and lost sales. The was no price I could put on the endless frustration. I have emails clearly identifying WF were at fault numerous times. This became a formal “Executive” complaint for which I was “ awarded” the maximum “compensation” of $500.  WF have never paid more than this to anyone and this is their cap on any compensation regardless of the severity of the complaint. As I felt this was a totally inadequate gesture I decided to escalate this matter.

Over a period of weeks and many calls and emails, I managed speak to Patrick Hellman head of home lending operations at Wells Fargo. He reports to the CEO Charlie Scharf. Charlie took a pay cut of over $2 million last year.  He still took home a paltry $20.3 million in 2020.  After what happened to my REFI with countless adminstrative issues, IT problems, management apathy and a simply lack of customer care I have to wonder how can Charlie earn so much?  Surely many people could do a better job for less than a million dollars.  What value is he and his highly paid executive team bringing to Wells Fargo?

How I managed to reach such a lofty position as the bank’s number two is described later on. Patrick took two phone calls from me and we exchanged several emails but other than raising my expectations that he would intervene on my behalf achived nothing for me.  It turned out he was even unaware of the $500 limit even though he has been with WF for over three decades. He did not know the name of the executive who heads up the Executive Escalation Group. As I was to learn their escalation group is mere extenison of their vast call center with little clout and no executive involvement.  This is their way to make customers feel they are now being really looked after.  It is a myth,  Patrick said I could take Wells fargo to court which I assume he meant small claims and I felt like he treated my wife and I with contempt perhaps for daring to reach his level with our complaint.

What can you do when a company you have a grievance with basically tells you to go pound sand? A small claims court procedure is simple and it can take months and some big corporations may defend it with high paid attorneys. For decades this was your only course of action until social media became established.

Many people complain via Twitter or post reviews on Yelp and on Amazon but really by the time you have done that you really have lost any chance of success.

Years ago, I had a dispute with AT&T over a phone bill of some $750 which I was convinced I did not owe and again multiple escalations led to one executive who refused any compromise. We did however exchange numerous emails and I had his direct line phone number and so I posted the whole string of conversations onto this website but left it unpublished.  I emailed him with a link to this site. Within one hour of that email, he agreed to pay me what I was owed. This might be construed as “blackmail” but planning to publish a record of a some exchanges by email surely is a consumer’s right provided the claim is appropriate and all possible courses of action have been explored.

This is only the second occasion I have employed such a tactic here but instead of simply illustrating my annoyance with Wells Fargo I am using this opportunity to help others maybe to think twice before dooing business with them.  Also, if you are having a prolem with them perhaps there this will help you complain more effectively.  If you feel the interest rate you have with them now or one being offered is not competitive discuss my approach with them and secure a better rate.