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November 23, 2007

Heightened incompetence

Family is in from out of town, so I'm off from work today. I just had to tell this story.

My mother uses a bank branch that's within walking distance of her house. The people who work there are very nice, but they have a collective IQ of roughly 85.

I have my mother's power of attorney, and I take care of most of her banking for her. I write some of her checks. I pay most of her bills online. So it's critical to me to have online access to her account. I gave the bank her power of attorney nearly two years ago, but recently the bank was acquired by another bank, and the online access suddenly disappeared.

I asked my mother to go into the branch and get online access set up again. After going in there, she called me to tell me the bank officer wanted my driver's license number and a bunch of other information. This made no sense, so I called him directly. I told him I had my mother's power of attorney on file with them. He said he didn't know that. But he told me he had given my mother the User ID for the account. My mother, when I checked with her, had no idea what he was talking about.

So today, a few days later, I finally tracked the bank officer down again and asked him for the User ID. To understand this story, let's say my mother's name was Martha Washington and mine was George Washington, Jr. Those are anagrams of my real name. (Only kidding.)

The conversation went like this:

Me: This is George Washington, Jr. We recently spoke about getting online access for my mother Martha Washington's account. You told me you gave her the User ID, but she doesn't understand what you mean.

Bank officer: OK, let me give you the User ID directly. Do you have something to write it down on?

Me: Yes.

Bank officer: OK, it's M, as in Mary, W, as in William, A, as in Alice, S, as in . . . [here, he paused to think of a name] as in Sam . . .

Me: It's the last name, right?

Bank officer: Yes, but let me spell it out for you.

Me (impatiently): HINGTON.

Bank officer: Yeah and there's 123 at the end.

Me (gritting my teeth): Thank you very much. (Click.)


My sister asked the best question: Do you think it's safe to keep her money with those people?