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On Imperfection, Or, How Do You Choose A New Bank?

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Like a lot of people these days, we have come to the conclusion that it’s time to change our lousy bank.

And it wasn’t even like we chose badly, either – we were customers of Washington Mutual for almost two decades, and we loved ’em: they were nice people to deal with, they didn’t constantly hammer you every time you came in to the branch with desperate sales pitches, and they didn’t even charge you for using another bank’s cash machines.

It turns out, however, that all that beneficence came at a cost: WaMu made a lot of money making sketchy mortgage loans, and when it all came crashing down, we found ourselves customers of JPMorgan Chase, who we now hate with the fire of a thousand suns.

But it turns out choosing a new bank ain’t all that easy – and that’s where you come into today’s conversation.

“I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras “right” for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested…Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.”

–From a speech delivered by General Smedley Butler to an American Legion Convention, New Britain, Connecticut, August 21, 1931

We had a chance to do a refinancing deal which would lower our mortgage interest rate quite considerably at about the same time that WaMu went down, which we did, and although we thought we’d be doing business with our old bank, we got the news of the Chase takeover in all the confusion as the bank collapsed.

Our new friends at Chase were quite anxious for us to set up an “autopay” arrangement, which we did; three months later they were threatening to take our house for failure to make the payments.

When we had to explain to them that the money was right there, sitting in the account, and that they were failing to collect the payments every month, we knew we were going to have a problem with Chase.

Remember this scene from Seinfeld?

Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?

Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.

Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the

reservation.

Agent: I know why we have reservations.

Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to

take the reservation, you just don’t know how to enter hold the reservation and

that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.

I actually got to have a variation of that same conversation with the Loan Officer who set up the autopay in the first place, when he asked why we hadn’t been making sure they were collecting the money more carefully, which was a lot of fun, if I might say so myself, even as he clearly hated it. I also made him call Chase Customer Service, in our presence, to fix the problem, which he hated even more.

As you might guess, we don’t have autopay anymore, and from time to time a teller will ask if we want it…and that gives us a chance to tell the story to any other customers who might be nearby, which they always seem to find, shall we say, “relatable”.

But what with all the new fees and the generally lousy atmosphere in the branches these days, not to mention the fact that we’ve come to view Chase as essentially pirates on a financial sea, looking to rob us blind, it’s time to cut ship and move on – and up to this point, that’s actually been a bit of problem.

See, the thing is, we’re having as much trouble finding a bank we like as the Tea Party is settling on a Presidential Candidate – and for the same reason: every one of ’em has some sort of fatal flaw.

Fun Fact: the NYPD arrested 700 or more people today for marching in the traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge – and in this video, you can see the NYPD leading the marchers onto the traffic lanes of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The standard answer to this question is to choose a Credit Union, but that doesn’t work for us very well as the local Credit Unions don’t really have a presence outside the local area. (We live in Seattle and travel up and down the West Coast from time to time, so this is a bit of an issue for us.)

We have the same problem with banks like Sterling Savings or Umpqua Bank, which seem to have nice reputations, as banks go – and that leaves us having to choose from one of the banks we all hate.

At the moment, the “candidate banks” are basically down to The Usual Suspects: Bank of America, US Bank, Key Bank, and Wells Fargo.

Now we have some personal opinions of our own about each of these banks, but what I want to happen today is that you give us your opinions about each of these admittedly flawed choices: in other words, which one might be the least of the worst?

Think of it as a chance to vent – and if you have a bit of inside dirt on one of these banks that would tell us about fees or cutbacks, or anything else, for that matter, let it fly.

Think of this as an exercise in community “comment carding” – and keep in mind that with Occupy Wall Street and all, there are going to be a lot of folks like us who want a different bank, but won’t be able to make what might be the best possible choice, so let’s see if we can’t also comment to that larger audience as we go along.

It’s a new week, and that’s as good a time as any to get out of a bank…so let’s see if we can’t get a discussion going that helps a few folks do exactly that.

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3 comments

  1. …nobody’s out trying to draft a “chris christie” bank.

    • RUKind on October 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I do not use the uppercase lightly. If I had font size control the message would have been larger but till to the same point.

    BofA makes Chase look like your local mom and pop credit union. We ended up with a mix of Citizens Bank (RBS subsidiary) and Harbor One Credit Union here in Plymouth, MA. It feels good to throw some support locally instead of to Edinburgh via Providence, RI.

  2. Good idea to have a discussion on this.  It’s a difficult thing to decide over.  The TBTF banks kinda’ have you, in one sense, in that you know they will remain while others go belly-up (largely, at their behest — sickening, isn’t it.)  Community banks are interesting, but a little scary — credit unions?  Yeh, I agree with that, but how do you find one that is backed by the FDIC?  That’s a problem!

    Maybe, we’re just better off with “shoeboxes.”  Honestly speaking, I cannot believe the “internal” charges of say, J.P.Morgan Chase.  They always get “theirs” even if you don’t get “yours!”  Sucks BIG TIME.  Bastards!

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