The history of what is now called Wachovia Bank is replete with so many mergers and takeovers that determining which was what when is extremely difficult. What many people do not remember is that the corporate behemoth First Union swallowed up Wachovia several years ago, and used the new name in an attempt to bolsters it public image. This is one of the primary reasons that I dislike Wachovia; it is an impersonal, greedy corporate giant. Admittedly, I currently bank with them, but this is only because they took over the accounts that I held with other institutions.
On the plus side, I will admit that accessing my Wachovia account information online or on the telephone is very convenient. Nervous investors, or those who never could balance their checkbooks, will appreciate that they can find out everything that they need in about two minutes, either via the web site www.wachovia.com- or the toll-free number 1-800-WACHOVIA (or 1-800-922-4682). Also, there is no dearth of Wachovia branches. There are five such locations within three miles of where I live.
Wachovia’s customer service leaves something to be desired, although this varies a little from branch to branch. I have often waited in long lines of 12 or more patrons when only one or two teller windows are open, and I can see three or four other people behind the counter who are talking on the telephone, counting money, sorting papers or whatever. Some of the other problems that I have encountered include the following:
Difficulty making contributions to my IRA. I am self-employed, and therefore contribute directly to my own retirement account. The procedure was inadequately explained to me at the onset, as well as explained differently by different bank employees. Previously I waited for a bank representative to see me, and explained to him or her that I wanted to make a contribution to my IRA. The process generally took about 15 or 20 minutes, and invariably, when I received my statement, the contribution had been improperly credited as a regular deposit (i.e. not tax-deferred until retirement, as should be the case with earned income up to $3,000 annually), or not credited at all. This situation was easily remedied by a letter, accompanied by relevant documentation, to the branch in North Carolina, but was an inconvenience. I finally realized on my own that I could simply mail my contributions to this office. But no one ever informed me of this.
Additional fees and penalties. Like nearly everyone, I have been forced to make ATM withdrawals when I am in a pinch. I especially like the fact that places such as Wawa do not charge any fees for using the ATM’s in their stores. Wachovia, however, charges two dollars if you use an ATM that is not one of theirs. To me, this seems almost like a punishment for being “unfaithful.” How much, if anything, can it cost them if I use another ATM? In addition, Wachovia is not very gracious when it comes to cashing checks for non-depositors. I recently went into a local Wachovia branch with my girlfriend, who wanted to cash a check drawn on a Wachovia account. They made her leave a thumbprint, and after cashing the check, informed her “There is a five-dollar charge since you’re not an account holder.” When I remarked on how petty this was, the cashier smilingly suggested “Well, you could switch your accounts to Wachovia.” “Why should she bother?” I retorted. “They’ll probably take over her institution eventually.”.