My bank mailed me a letter. It discussed the benefits of using its cards and earning points for rewards and cash back. The letter stated “We are here to help” and how the bank strives “to provide the best products and services to meet all of your banking needs.” Toward the end, the letter read “Thank you for your business.” It includes some fine print but overall was easy for me to understand.
Did I mention the letter’s purpose was to inform me the bank is changing the terms of one of my accounts? Unless I qualify for one of the waivers, I will soon be enjoying a $15 monthly maintenance fee. I’m not sure if I can meet the waivers’ requirements especially considering some involve footnotes I’ve yet to enjoy perusing while sipping hot chocolate and snuggled up to the fireplace.
What is a maintenance fee? What is a convenience fee, another term I sometimes hear in different circumstances?
This letter reminds me of movie scenes when someone punches some poor guy in the stomach and then says “have a nice day” before walking away. This letter reminds me of a beautifully wrapped gift box full of rocks.
If I were to write this letter, I would try this approach: “Dear Valued Customer: I know no matter how hard I try, no matter how many sweet word substitutions I find in a thesaurus, no matter how many communications specialists I run this by, you’re not going to believe this bank is hard up for money. Yes, I know you have a gazillion accounts with us, but I’m told we really need that 15 bucks a month. I myself don’t know all the circumstances. Someone simply asked me to make this appear visually appealing and sound like we’re doing you a favor. Look, if I were you, take a moment out of your day, call us, plead your case, threaten to join a credit union and maybe someone with power will let you off the hook. We appreciate your business.”
No matter whom you hire for communications help, this is a tough letter to write. But give it to me straight: What is a maintenance fee? What is it paying for? Why are you charging me a maintenance fee now? Plead your case. Who screwed the bank, forcing it to collect this cash? What’s the real story? And at least pretend you regret this fee.
You could provide me with all that information and I still might gaze at you with my big, cynical eyes. But try me. Try harder to make me understand. I’ve been known to pay a little extra for good service. Of course, if the bank is too embarrassed or hesitates to shout out loud the reasoning behind the fee, then you’ve got another problem.
Cell phone companies have charged me activation fees. So have cable companies. When we ask about these mysterious charges, I get the impression the customer service representatives are sitting in the dark with the rest of us.
I’ll call the bank because I desperately need something to do with my time and have plenty to spare. I’ll plead my case and try to prove I really am a valued customer. If my arguments fail to persuade anyone I deserve a break, I’ll find a credit union or some other bank no matter how much time it wastes. I know. It’s only $15 dollars and the price of gas and food are at record low levels. But I’ve decided the bank’s letter wasn’t pretty enough and didn’t quite reach the literary level of Leaves of Grass.
I wonder if the bank could have saved $15 by not sending out the letters.