Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bright, wind, cold

Yesterday, I wanted to take a walk but opted to spend the entire day learning to crochet. Then I thought I'd walk today, but it's cold and windy enough to keep me inside. All I managed was a visit to the post office and then a trip to a Big Bank. After learning about mandatory arbitration in "Hot Coffee," I actually read the new contract I was sent for one of my accounts. Sure enough, there was an arbitration clause. I was surprised to see that I could opt out of binding arbitration by calling or "seeing a banker." I figured a walk to the bank and human interaction would be better for my health than punching in a million numbers on the phone.

[It really has been an uphill battle for YEARS. I always thought that if I could knit, I couldn't crochet. I'm so glad I'm over that hump.] The banker had no idea what I was talking about. I explained arbitration to him, and then he went to the assistant manager. I heard her say, "She went to college," [true] and "Isn't arbitration court?" [false] and then they both came over to question me and then admit that they were clueless. He called someone who said that the banker should have gotten an article about how to deal with this kind of thing, which he hadn't, and he had no way of accessing that article. Instead, he was given an email address to send with my opt-out request. He sent it, and intended to print me a copy, since the Big Bank would not send me any kind of confirmation, but then his email was rejected. Apparently, he wasn't allowed to do this, and told me that "see a banker" actually meant "telephone banker."

Hm. I read the contract in the beginning where they explain which terms will mean what for the rest of the 70-something pages, but there wasn't anything equating a live banker to one on the phone. Also, how does anyone "see" someone on the telephone? Anyhow, I did my bit to educate him about how biased arbitration is (in favor of the Big Bank), and then came home to leap through the phone hoops. It's not as much action as I wish I could make, but it was something. Now that I've gathered the momentum to take action, and am tired of compiling my book's bibliography, I'll attempt that walk again.


Velma Bolyard said...

oh, no, another bank thing...so i guess i'd better learn this, too?

aimee said...

it's actually so much bigger than just banks. it's credit card companies, and cell phone companies, and SO many companies...see the trend? basically, many of those very fine print contracts you sign (or don't realize you agree to) include binding/mandatory arbitration clauses, where you agree to waive your right to a trial. arbitration is where the company hires an arbitration firm to decide on a case. the problem is that those firms just want more business, so they almost always rule in favor of the company, and that ruling is always binding: no room for appeal. companies have been sneaking this into contracts for a while now to avoid lawsuits, which provide their customers with more rights than arbitration.