A Bad Bank: I Laughed All The Way Home

by | BiggerPockets.com

This article is a stretch when it comes to being about real estate but, what happened to me yesterday at the bank was so dumb that it all makes sense.

I had hired three day laborers to help me with a small house project I have been working on and as I was driving them back to where they were picked up that morning, I realized that all I had on me was $100 bills. I needed $20 bills to be able to pay them the correct amount. I figured I would go into the next bank I saw and ask them to change out the $100 bills.

The next bank I saw was a Capital One Bank. I parked (rather than going to the drive-thru) and went in. The teller waved at me and said he could help me. I walked up and placed two $100 bills on the counter and asked if he could break them for me. His response was, “Do you know your account number?”

I was a little baffled and said, “What for?” The teller then told me, “Without an account, I can only change one of the bills.”

I know it must have only been a second or two but, it felt like time had frozen as I just stood there with a blank look on my face. I reached out with both hands to take back the two bills and said, “That’s alright, I will go to another bank and I will never use Capital One for anything.” As I walked out, neither the teller or the door greeter said a word.

The next bank I went into was Washington Mutual and the teller told me she would be happy to change out the $100 bills.

Wait… There’s more!

I drove back to the Capital One, snapped a few pictures with my camera phone and scribbled down the address before dropping off the guys and going home.

This morning I decided to have some fun and I posted the incident on the home page of my website. Then I looked up the number for that Capital One branch and called to speak to the manager. After a five minute hold the manager picked up and I asked if I could have the name and number of the regional manager that oversees that branch. The manager asked who I was and I quickly gave him my name and asked if he was currently online at a computer. He said he was so, I gave him the URL and he pulled the site up and was quiet while he read.

After a minute or so I said, “I have to admit that this is the first time in my life that a bank refused to make change.” He apologized for the inconvenience and went on to tell me that they like to keep a “cash reserve” for changing currency for their account holders. I started to laugh and asked if I could quote him on that. He did not respond right away so I told him to never mind that and could I have the name and number for the regional manager. He gave me what I asked for and decided to not call the regional manager to see what would happen.

An hour later I got a call (on voicemail) from the regional manager. This is what the message said, “Hi Mr. Watkins, my name is ____ ______, I am calling from Capital One Bank, I wanted to reach out to you, I received a call from one of my managers at the south Garland location. I understand that there was an opportunity that we had to provide you a little bit better service yesterday from one of our tellers and I wanted to get more details on it. If you could please give me a call at 214-xxx-xxxx, thank you.”

I’m sorry but, I just can’t keep myself from laughing when I think about how dumb this petty little situation is. To know that the manager must have immediately called his manager to forewarn them that someone had posted information on the internet about them refusing to make change for two $100 bills. I’d like to think that the regional manager called to get me to remove the embarrassing details from my site rather than attempt to convince me that this was really poor customer service on the teller’s part.

Less than three hours after Washington Mutual made change for me, I heard they went under. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Why couldn’t it have been Capital One?”

Its sad to see the government starting to bail out some of these lenders when really they should be calling them out for making such dumb mistakes.

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  1. Another brilliant look at how stupid some companies are. I’ve actually had a similar experience at what I believe was a bank (don’t remember the brand) in LA. Man, was I steamed! They refused to make change for me because I was not a customer. Isn’t that the central premise of a bank?

  2. Wow — that is pretty wild. While giving change to a non-customer doesn’t really do anything for the business (except perhaps getting a future potential client by presenting amazing customer service, which they did not) it still seems like a basic service banks should offer. It’s interesting how the internet has changed customer service. I’ve read of many major companies reading complaints about themselves on Twitter and then intervening and fixing it.

  3. It all boils down to customer service doesn’t it? Maybe all of this economic turmoil will force people back to grass roots thinking and we will start to take care of the consumer again instead of not thinking about how dumb our “company policies” really are.

  4. Wow- a business that you do not patronize would not do something for you. That bank should have had millions of dollars in change on hand just to take care of thier non-customers like you.

    The other day I asked a restaurant for some free food… funny they would not oblige. I stole a Splenda on the way out, though. Maybe I’ll report them to the better business bureau.

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