March 18: Suntrusty Companions

You may have noticed that the subject line of this letter does not contain a Kuwait pun. This is not because I am out of them! Oh ho ho, you should be so lucky. No, it’s just that this particular letter is only tangentially connected to Kuwait. This mess would not have occurred were I not here, of course, but that hardly makes it Kuwaiti.

Kuwait is involved only in that for some reason, very few places here accept credit cards. Even the businesses that claim to take cards look at you askance when you attempt to hand them a card. Oftentimes, the machines are broken, or fail to transmit the information. Basically, using credit cards in most places here is just an unnecessary hassle, and it’s far better to just use cash.

When I arrived here, I withdrew 150 Kuwaiti dollars from an ATM, partly because I needed some cash and partly because I wanted to make sure my card worked and that my bank wouldn’t cut it off when they saw it used overseas. I got the money without incident, though, and received no notifications that my card had been frozen, so after a week or so I figured I was in the clear. I remained under this impression until last week, when I attempted to withdraw some more money, and was denied by the ATM.

The short version of the story is that the fault is entirely mine. Although I checked my credit cards to make sure that they wouldn’t expire while I was overseas, I forgot to check my bank card. It expired in January, and since I landed here on the twenty-sixth, it worked fine then but quit working shortly thereafter. I called up Suntrust and they spotted the problem quite quickly. It was a fairly painless phone call, except for the crippling shame I felt upon realizing the depth of my idiocy.

The phone, however, was not my first choice. I first attempted to resolve this through email. Within their online banking site, Suntrust has a secure message service for contacting their customer support. “Support” is, as it turns out, a bit of a misnomer. I’ve built better support out of toothpicks and dental floss. What it actually is, as far as I can tell, is an automated response which scans your letter for key words, and sends a form reply back. At least, this is what I’m hoping it is. It does take them a day to respond each time, which may mean that there are actual humans hand-disregarding each letter. If so, it’s a senseless waste of labor. I’d offer to write them a program to automate the process, but I’m sure I’d only get a form letter in response.

What follows is the actual exchange I’ve been having with SunTrust. Edits have been made to clean up the formatting, but they’re otherwise exactly as they were sent. It’s worth mentioning that each successive letter contained the previous letters, indented but complete, so all of the information was available to each customer service representative, had they cared to read it.


Dear SunTrust,

I attempted to use my ATM card to withdraw money from a non-Suntrust ATM today, but was met with the message “Your transaction could not be completed.” As the ATM provided no further details, I would like to confirm that there are no problems with my account.

If my card has been deactivated because it is being used in Kuwait, I assure you that I am the one using it, as I will be here for the next several months. If this is what has happened, would it be possible, in the future, for me to receive some manner of notification when my account has been cut off?

Thank you,
–Micah Edwards

Thank you for contacting SunTrust. This message is regarding your inquiry about using your card out of the country.

Please call International Call Security at 800-7887-2835 for assistance regarding your card.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again via email or by telephone at 800-SUNTRUST. We are available from 6:00 a.m. – Midnight ET, 7 days a week and look forward to satisfying your future financial services needs.

Thank you for banking with SunTrust. We appreciate your business.

Sincerely,
Ria K.

Dear SunTrust,

I would much rather resolve this through email, as it is both inconvenient and expensive for me to call the United States from Kuwait. My card worked without any issue when I first got here. Is there a reason why it no longer does?

If you are not able to assist me with this online, please direct this message to someone who can.

Thank you,
–Micah Edwards

Thank you for contacting SunTrust. This message is regarding your traveling plans.

I apologize for any inconvenince caused. We appreciate your efforts to keep us informed concerning your travel plans. Please provide us the exact details concerning your travel so that we can notify your check card with this information. We believe you will not experience any problem while using your check card. For further assistance, please call our International toll free number at 800-STTRAVEL (800-7887-2835) or International Collect Call Number at 407-762-5777.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again via email or by telephone at 800-SUNTRUST. We are available from 6:00 a.m. – Midnight ET, 7 days a week and look forward to satisfying your future financial services needs.

Thank you for banking with SunTrust. We appreciate your business.

Sincerely,
Catherine S.

Dear SunTrust,

Can you please confirm that my ATM card has not been disabled? Despite the previous assurances, I am still unable to withdraw money from ATMs. I have observed other people using these machines, so I know that they are in service; however, I receive only a “Your transaction could not be completed” error.

The previous replies have only indicated that it is believed that I will not encounter problems. However, as I currently am having problems, I would like someone to please check and make sure that my card is functioning. If it is, please let me know. If it is not, please reenable it as soon as possible, and let me know that this has occurred.

Thank you,
–Micah Edwards

Thank you for contacting SunTrust. This message is regarding your inquiry about the ATM.

Please visit your nearest branch with the card for further assistance.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again via email or by telephone at 800-SUNTRUST. We are available from 6:00 a.m. – Midnight ET, 7 days a week and look forward to satisfying your future financial services needs.

Thank you for banking with SunTrust. We appreciate your business.

Sincerely,
David T.

Dear SunTrust,

I am, as I have mentioned, in Kuwait. This means that my nearest SunTrust branch is several thousand miles away; accordingly, it is not terribly likely that I will be stopping by to obtain assistance with my problem.

I have resolved my initial problem by calling your 800 number; the error was on my end. However, there is no reason that the problem could not have been spotted by the person reading my first query, had they actually looked up the information on my account. I’m curious why all of my questions on here were met with form responses, and no actual investigation into the matter. Do the representatives answering the secure messages not actually have access to the accounts? If so, what is the point of this service?

Precisely,
–Micah Edwards

Thank you for contacting SunTrust. This message is regarding your inquiry about the previous email correspondence.

I apologize for any inconvenienced caused. Please contact our international Toll Free number at 800-7887-2835.

If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact us again via email or by telephone at 800-SUNTRUST. We are available from 6:00 a.m. – Midnight ET, 7 days a week and look forward to satisfying your future financial services needs.

Thank you for banking with SunTrust. We appreciate your business.

Sincerely,
Bobby C.

Dear SunTrust,

Thank you for your latest form letter. However, this generic response does nothing to cause me to believe that you have read my previous message, or indeed any of the preceding messages.

I could, as you suggest, call your International Toll Free number—all eight digits of it. What option do you suggest I choose for my query “Why does the online customer support service refuse to support the customer?”

I appreciate your assistance in this matter.

Rhetorically,
–Micah Edwards


As you’ve no doubt gathered from the last reply, I’ve quite given up on getting anyone to read these letters. I find that form letters bring out some of my most pithy wit, though. I view it as a challenge. Perhaps if I’m sardonic enough, I’ll actually get them to crack and force a real response out of them. And even if I never do, I’m honestly enjoying the exchange at this point. I no longer need or expect anything out of it, so they can’t disappoint me. It’s just about the banter at this point. It’s like playing tennis against a wall: you’re not going to win, but it’s a good way to keep in practice all the same.

At this rate, I’m gonna go pro.

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