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Banking while Black

Scenario: My sitter is black. Priscilla has been babysitting for me since Tyler was 2 mos old. So as not to deal with the hassle of receipts, I pay her by check with the note “childcare” and the dates covered in the memo section. Every month for 3.5 years I’ve written her a check drawn on Wells Fargo Bank. Almost every month for the last two years she has been cashing these checks at the same branch. On the third of this month she went to the branch and dealt with a white male employee whom she’d never seen there before. It so happens that while she was in the bank, I was at the drive-thru teller getting cash. The teller asks me, as my cell phone is ringing, if I’ve written a check on this account recently that someone might be trying to cash… I said yes, my sitter, check # such and such, for $XXX. She’s says OK, just checking… of course I miss the cell phone call. After I finish my transaction I leave and check my voice mail. It is the bank employee my sitter was dealing with, calling to verify the check. He leaves a number for me to call him back. I got his message within 5 minutes of him leaving it and called the number back twice… the first time letting it ring for about 3 minutes, the second time I let it ring for nearly 4 minutes. He never picked up the phone… but kept my sitter waiting there until the branch closed (over 20 minutes). She had her ID, she was fingerprinted, my account had over $2000 in it, and if the nimrod had scrolled back through my account, he would have seen that a check for that same amount is cashed (usually at that branch) between the first and fifth of EVERY SINGLE MONTH. After speaking with her later that evening I find out she was not able to cash the check and that she was told by this employee to come back tomorrow but that she’ll need to make sure I’m at home because they will still need to verify the check. Well, since I had dance class the next morning I called their 24 hour customer service to find out A) why she hadn’t been able to cash the check and #2, to ask them to note my account that I had called, been verified through their automated system, and given the OK. I never got a satisfactory answer for the incident. At first it was pointed out that the check was for a large sum… I pointed out that a) it may have been a large sum, but it’s certainly not an unusual activity for my account, and b) that I write a larger check every month for my rent and have never had a problem there. They said, well, it’s because she tried to “cash” it instead of depositing it… I pointed out that she “cashes” it every month since she’s never had a checking account the entire time I’ve known her. It was pointed out that I’d recently had a couple overdrafts… I laughed and pointed out that is not new or unusual activity either… I am terrible at keeping track of my check book, they make a fortune off of me in NSF fees and should be perfectly happy to suck up to me for making them easy money. Then I was told that it would not be possible for them to indicate anything on my account and I would indeed have to sit at home in case they needed to contact me. I had a fit… and it took two or three steps up the hierarchal chain AND me pointing out the potential race issue before I finally got someone to say they would call my branch the next morning and make sure my sitter would be able to cash the check.

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  1. January 28, 2010 at 12:40 PM

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