Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Trifecta of Moving Torture

It's summer and moving season, which is actually winding down as retailers are in back-to-school mode.
For anyone considering a move -- across town or across the country -- I have three words for you:
Don't do it!
I am not one to write about personal matters, but there are consumer concerns here that can affect any of us.  We had the Movers from Hell after we sold our home, and then the bank where we deposited the proceeds from the sale froze our accounts without telling us.  

Strike One

All My Sons Moving & Storage moved our furniture, but they broke a lot of it, and one of their movers told my wife she was "Satan;" told me that I was "wicked and evil" like his bosses, and said, "I cast out demons!"   He took it upon himself to open our refrigerator and complain, "No steaks in there?  You not cooking steaks for us?"  He used the bathroom and said, "I don't like your bathroom."  

He walked around the deck, surveying the place, and said, "You got a pond down there."  When my wife explained it was a swimming pool, not a pond, and it had not been opened for the season, he said, "Why didn't you have it open so we could go swimming?" 

He carried some pieces upstairs by himself several times, and at least twice, he stayed upstairs and out of anyone's sight more than five minutes.  Later, my wife's closet lights had been turned on and her closet doors opened. 

When the movers finally left, we had much of our furniture dumped in the garage -- like a piano -- and other things just dropped in rooms without being put where we wanted them.  They quit before getting through, saying they only wanted to do local moves (this move was 200 miles and in state), and that their bosses had over-promised us.  Yes, they promised to move furniture, put it where we wanted and not break it.   

They also promised to move us in one truck in one day.   It took two trucks and two days.

We were under the gun to move out and give possession as promised to the family that bought our home.   However, after 90% of our stuff had gotten loaded onto their truck, I heard a lot of hollering and fussing out front.  The three movers went "on strike" -- said they were not going to drive the moving van, after all, to our new home, and they were going to get rides home and leave the truck in our driveway.   They got mad that the bosses had not scheduled a third man to do the off-loading at the other end.  We got past that when their boss agreed to send a third man from the destination city. 

Next, they figured out that their truck would not hold all our stuff -- although I had questioned the company about that and even insisted that someone from their office come to our home.  He assured us it would all fit.  Oops.

I had to rent a second truck, and the move strung out over an extra day, which caused all sorts of problems and extra 200-mile trips.  We were up about 48 hours with no sleep to try to get this straightened out.

Strike Two

More than 10 days after we had closed our sale, and Wells Fargo's mortgage had been paid off, and our sale proceeds had been put in our Wells Fargo bank account, I got an email from Verizon saying I had bounced a check.  How could that be possible?  Yet, we learned that the bank had frozen our accounts without telling us.

While we got passed around the globe upon phoning Wells Fargo -- the Philippines, Charlotte, N.C.; Tempe, AZ, and Shoreview, Minnesota -- we were given two reasons why our money was blocked:

1--You made a large deposit (proceeds from  house sale).

2--You changed your address.

I insisted on speaking with someone in corporate HQ in San Francisco.  The closest I got was a fellow in Los Angeles, who surmised that the problem was the large deposit.

I pointed out to James Quionos, who described himself as an executive banker,  that Wells Fargo got their loan payoff money in the same fashion and in the same form as our proceeds -- as funds wired through the Fed by Bell Title.  Somehow, the money that went directly to the bank from Bell Title was okey-dokey...while our money from Bell Title was suspicious.

Quionos said it was the fraud detection department that had blocked our money.  He said:

"Their main purpose is to protect the bank's money." 

Guess I was mistaken that it was our money, not the bank's.  To make sure I was hearing him right, I asked:

"So, the main concern here is not the customer's money, but the bank's money and that they might be on the hook for losses, is that right?"


Glad we got that cleared up that the customers' money is not the main concern.

Not only did Wells Fargo freeze all the monies from our sale, they froze our money that was on deposit previously. 

"Yeah, a 'block hold' blocks everything," he said.  "Otherwise, a deposit hold only blocks the deposit."

I pointed out that we changed our address and the bank had confirmed it, but if that were a concern, why did Wells Fargo mail to the new address our full bank statement complete with account numbers and all our information? 

"That's not our department," Quionos said. 
"Bank statements go out in a normal rotation of mailings.  We don't have anything to do with that."

My sentiment toward Wells Fargo ever-worsening, I insisted on speaking with CEO John Stumpf.

"It will be impossible for our CEO to speak with customers," Quionos said.  "We are a large institution."

We get it that you are a large institution, large enough for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing.  Quionos did say he would credit our account back the $15 wire fee.  What a sport.

Trying to get to the bottom of this, I contacted their ID theft and fraud department.

I spoke with Adrianna "We-Don't-Give-Out-Last-Names," who said she worked in the prevention and operations account takeover team.  The goal, she said, is "to secure the accounts and make sure nothing is taken out.

"The address could go into a check order or cards," said she.  "The fraudsters are looking to get a card ordered to that alternate address and then use it over and over.  Usually it's a fraud ring, and we see multiple checks."

The best Adrianna could do was tell me, "You could check your credit report."

Ultimately, she gave me the name and number of her supervisor, Loree Hickman, the "team lead" for ID theft.

Hickman said it was her department that froze the account, because of our change of address.

Never mind that I had changed the address while logged into the account and online with Wells Fargo;  that they confirmed back to me by secure Wells Fargo email that the accounts had been changed to the new address; that Wells Fargo further sent me a piece of mail confirming the address change and noting, "No further action is required on your part."

Never mind that Wells Fargo promptly mailed a bank statement, complete with account numbers and all our banking information, to the allegedly bogus address.  If the address truly were that of a "fraudster," you guys sure made it super easy for them, I said.

"That's not our department," Hickman said. 

She who was over the Identity Theft and Fraud department did not get it that there was something wrong with them sending all our info to the criminally run address.

"They can't do anything with your bank statement," she said.  "It does not have your account number, and anybody calling about the account would have to answer some questions."  (The statement does include our full account numbers, Loree.)

I could not get her to understand what was wrong with this whole picture and that they did not accept my new address on the one hand, but on the other hand, they thought the address was good enough to mail all of our bank account information.

After pounding on the fact that the bank had confirmed the address change online and by mail, she was left to say:

"How did we know it was you?  How did we know it was you and not someone else who got on your computer?  Or someone else who picked up your mail?

"How did we know it was you?"

Well, she had me there.  They could have asked for a birth certificate, blood sample, DNA, urine specimen, fingerprints and shoe size, I guess.  At some point you got to take a leap of faith, like the Wells Fargo people who mailed our account statement to the suspicious address.

"Not our department," was her explanation.

Strike Three

We decided to try AT&T U-verse for phone, TV and Internet.  We did the due diligence, made the appointment, blocked out a whole Friday, and waited.  The installer never came.  When I called AT&T they said, "Yes, he came to your house and no one was there."

Next, they set up someone to come out Saturday.  We waited.  The fellow said he had worked for them a year, and he did not seem to know much.  But he did say that once they put in the TV, that our Internet would not work as well or reach in the house as far as our DSL had.  The installer said, "you scared me," when we told him we wanted everything to work right -- explaining that he did not want to do an install if another AT&T person would have to come out later and fix his mistakes as that would look bad on his record.

Unsure of himself, he repeatedly tried to get a more experienced AT&T guy to come look things over.  The guy was going to be there in 20 or 30 minutes.  That went on for two or three hours.  They pow-wowed and declared, "U-verse Internet does not go around brick and walls well.  It won't reach as far as your DSL."

Their bottom line to us:  "Your house is too big for U-verse."  Funny thing, AT&T never mentions any of this in their ad campaign.  The U-verse Internet is supposed to be so much greater and faster, they pitch.  In his report to his bosses, however, he said, "Customer won't let me put the TV where I want to put it." 

A week later, we got the stuff installed, anyway, to try it.  We had 30 days right to cancel, they said.  The installer had trouble with one of their boxes, and  he had to try a second one.  "Sometimes we get a bad batch," he said.  After that one left, the TV worked OK for about three hours.  Then, we got no picture on the TV, just snow and crazy stuff. 

I called him the next day, and he said, "It must be your TV is bad.  Two boxes in a row could not be bad."  He had told us to call him if we had any problems, instead of calling a main number to schedule someone.  However, this time he said he could not come out unless he got an order from the main office.  Long story shortened, that did not work, but we had a third AT&T guy come out the next week.

This fellow was from the Philippines, he said, but the tech support people -- who are in the Philippines -- "don't know anything."  He said the first installer just did not want to do the job.  Then, assessing our Internet situation and that we could not get Internet in much of the house, he said, "You're going to have to buy six or seven wi-fi extenders for this house." 

Those things are $80 plus tax at Best Buy.  I bought one.  The Philippines tech guy changed the box.  Things have been glitchy at times, but not terrible, since then.  The single wi-fi extender helped reach more of the house, but its signal does not go as far as DSL, so the Internet has actually been degraded by the "upgrade." 


So, there are my three strikes, or Trifecta of Moving Torture.  We lived through it.  I propounded upon All My Sons my damages and photos.  They have not paid a penny, and I am not holding my breath.  Next to having someone in our home acting psycho and threatening us -- I would have ordered him to leave had they not had my furniture hostage -- my greatest surprise over the movers was how violently our things had been pounded up and down while on their truck.  Metal was bent and wooden furniture was broken by extreme up-and-down bouncing.  Someone who saw our furniture said, "Did they have a wreck on the way?"
We are pulling money out of Wells Fargo. 

The main AT&T installer said he would order us a backup battery so that upon an electrical outage everything would not go whacky and have to be reset.  Not holding my breath for that battery, either.

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