The online banking system you can’t escape

We did our home mortgage through Wells Fargo a couple of weeks ago. When I got the first mortgage bill in the mail I noted a line on the back that read: “Make your payments easier! Sign up for online mortgage payments!” Like a typical child of the internet generation I thought this might be something worth looking in to.

I went to their website and started to sign up for the service. I gave them everything: my name, date of birth, ssn, mortgage number, the works. Then I was shown their “terms of service” page. Unlike most typical children of the internet generation I decided to actually read it. While reading it, one line in particular caught my attention: “By agreeing to the online terms of service you agree to forfeit regular postal mail billing. Reactivating regular postal mail billing may require additional fees.”

Umm, no thank you Wells Fargo. I like the paper mail billing. I wanted both electronic and paper, but I guess you’re not capable of that request. Oh well.

I clicked the little button that said I declined their terms of service. Another page popped up: “Are you sure?” Yes.

A day goes by and then I get this email from Wells Fargo:

From: ofsrep.fmcmigw@...
Subject: Welcome to Wells Fargo Online Banking
Date: September 16, 2005 5:54:15 PM PDT


Welcome to Online Banking, the convenient, secure way to manage
your finances. As a Wells Fargo customer, you have free access to
Online Banking.

What? Didn’t I decline this service? I respond:

From: robert.w.rose@...
Subject: Re: Welcome to Wells Fargo Online Banking
Date: September 16, 2005 6:38:24 PM PDT
To: ofsrep.fmcmigw@...

I didn't sign up for online banking, as I didn't agree with the terms
of your online banking system. Why am I receiving this email?

-robert rose

It takes them about a week to get back to me:

Subject: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (#...)
From: ofsrep.wfwgw@...
Date: September 22, 2005 2:39:36 PM PDT

Dear Robert Rose:

To cancel this service, we ask that you please give us a call at
1-800-956-4442 so that we can resolve this issue for you. You
will not be required to enter a PIN using this option. Our
Specialists are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a

We apologize for any inconvenience that this matter has
caused you.

Michael Farragut
Wells Fargo
Online Customer Service

Huh? I had to go back and read what I wrote previously to make sense of this. I wasn’t requesting the cancellation of anything, I was merely wondering why they sent me that “welcome” email.

From: robert.w.rose@...
Subject: Re: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (...)
Date: September 24, 2005 1:39:21 PM PDT
To: ofsrep.wfwgw@...

I said on your website that I DECLINED your terms of service. Under
the terms of your very own agreement I am not registered for this
service. Why do I need to call and cancel?

Robert Rose

Their reply:

Subject: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (...)
From: ofsrep.wfwgw@...
Date: September 26, 2005 11:54:08 AM PDT
To: robert.w.rose@...

Dear Robert Rose:

To ensure the security of your account we cannot provide specific
information or make changes to your account without verifying
your identity. If you do not have access to Wells Fargo Online and
need assistance with a request, please call us at 1-800-956-4442.
Bankers are available to assist you, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Mike Scott
Wells Fargo
Online Customer Service

Thanks Mike, but it appears you didn’t even read the history of the email transaction. What changes do you think you’re going to make if I call up? What specific information do you think you’re going to give me? The statement “If you do not have access to Wells Fargo Online” just adds insult to injury here, as that is the very service I’m trying to escape.

You're too funny. When you can't solve a problem, you hide
behind a security policy?

Again, please look up my records and observe that I did not
consent to your online usage agreement, and then resolve this
matter. I don't see how this "change" would require you verifying
my identity.

I don’t feel like I should have to call them, but as a programmer, I wouldn’t be surprised if their online banking system simply didn’t support declining the terms of service. In other words, declining the terms of service interrupts the initialization of your profile–it doesn’t back out and delete it. There’s probably a flag somewhere in my profile there that says “Agreed_TOS: false”. Now the question is, does their code that determines whether or not I’m elligible for paper billing still observe that flag, or does merely having a profile in their online system remove you from paper billing? I guess I’ll find out next month.

As a child of the internet generation, I’m sick of incompetent websites.

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