Sometimes Natural Pain Relief Requires Accommodation

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

March 4th, 2011 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

I am all about prevention over prescription. Sometimes, however,  natural pain relief requires accommodation that is not forthcoming. Take this example of Bank of America’s, shall we say, shocking customer treatment.

Yesterday I was electrocuted at a Bank of America ATM. Twice. The first time, I inserted my card in Location A and got an electric shock so intense that I let out a yell, and everyone at the other ATMs looked at me. Then I went to another ATM, Location B, later at night, and it happened again — this time when I was pressing the keypad. I cursed.

It’s not the first incident. Two weeks ago, I inserted my card; the ATM at Location B let out a big fat electric jolt; I screamed; and the ATM shut down, eating my card. And I believe there was a time or two before, over the past six months, that I was mildly electrocuted — also at Location A.

But yesterday was different. Because after the second electric shock, I ended up with awful nerve pain in my fingers. That traveled to the center of my palm, then up my arm, so that today, I had this sense of not only pain, but also mild immobility. Kind of like, if you grip something too hard for too long, you have trouble moving that hand or arm after.

The thing is, I have an e-checking account, meaning all my transactions have to be at the ATM. Otherwise, I’m charged $9 to get a teller involved. Today I had to withdraw a couple hundred dollars. So I stood in line for 20 minutes, then told the teller the situation. I requested that the $9 fee be waived, so that I could withdraw my money without having to go back to the ATM.

The teller said she had to talk to the manager. She went over and got the manager. The manager laughed. OK I wasn’t standing next to them, perhaps they were talking about something else, but chances are, the manager was entertained by the fact that a customer was electrocuted several times by an ATM machine and was suffering from pain as a result.

Then I got to talk to the manager. To her credit, she had black hair with magenta streaks, so I thought she would be cool. Do not judge a manager by hair design. This woman offered me the following options: Withdraw the money and get charged a fee. Set up a new account and get charged a monthly fee for having checks, instead of an e-checking account. Or, my favorite, go to the ATM with her standing there. Because apparently she has some electrocution prevention superpowers.

I told her those options were unacceptable. She offered me the additional option of reporting the incident. I declined, saying she could go ahead and do that herself, since it was only in the bank’s interest. My interest was gimme my cash without extra charge, or bust. She absolutely refused to accommodate my request, despite the circumstances. Not even on one occasion.

She claimed that she “couldn’t” do it. I asked to speak with someone who “could,” like a supervisor. She said she was the branch manager. I asked who her supervisor was. She said she didn’t have one. Really? In a national corporation, a branch manager is the top dog? I’ll have to apply for the job. Sounds powerful and glamorous.

So then I took her card and asked for the regional manager’s info. She didn’t give it to me and furthermore told me that the regional manager had no say in her business. I told her that the service was an unacceptable way to treat customers. Then I called customer service when I got home, asking to speak with the supervisor. He informed me that it is up to the discretion of a branch manager whether to waive a fee – in other words, Magenta Streaks had the power. He also told me there was nothing he could do to offer me an electrocution-free, fee-free bank account.

Long story short, the conversation then went around in circles, with me saying, “Someone in your bank has the power to make this accommodation. Who is it?” and him claiming that nobody could do it. Me asking for the name and contact info of the CEO, him saying he doesn’t have it. Me asking who does have it, him basically saying nobody does, that I’d have to either leave a message for his manager, or file a formal complaint.

Long story short, I’m switching to Chase. I’ve been with Bank of America since I was six years old. I remember how excited I was to open my first checking account. They can suck it. I’m outta there. If this is how they treat their customers, it’s just not my kind of bank.

Oh one more little classic encounter: When I was speaking with the manager, she said the machines were fine. I was like, well, um, apprently not, because I was electrocuted! Then a random guy standing next to us said the machines were fine, becuase he was never electrocuted.

You get this all the time when you’re trying to address an issue. Anyone who hasn’t had it happen to them decides that because they are obviously the center of the universe, it must not be an issue, but rather, the problem of the person reporting it. Sexually assaulted? Check your skirt length. Racial slur? Don’t be so in-your-face of-color next time. Medical negligence? Clearly a casualty of your attitude.

So when the guy made his remark, I turned and asked, “So because it never happened to you, that means it has never happened to anyone else who used the ATMs?” “No,” he answered. Heh. One little educational victory.

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