Scotiabank Fail

Apologies for the rant, but I became very, very, angry at Scotiabank earlier tonight and I really need to get this off my chest.

I had plans to meet a friend at the Cobalt tonight. We agreed to meet there around 11 PM.  There was cover, and I’d planned to get a drink or two, and I had virtually no cash left on me.  So I needed an ATM.  This should be simple, right?

Scotiabank, which has become my primary institution (after I abandoned my transaction account at a credit union that had repeated failures on an even more significant level than this), is the only one of the big 5 banks that doesn’t have any presence in Yaletown (where I live).  Not a big deal, since the nearest branch is Burrard & Nelson which is about a 5-10 minute walk.  Unfortunately, that walk is in the opposite direction of the Cobalt, and the only ATM near the Cobalt is in Chinatown where the  major banks’ ATMs are notoriously kept locked up overnight (which, of course, is never advertised by any of the financial institutions that do it – which is another rant for another day… let’s just say I spent a good hour one night in Montreal chasing Scotiabank ATMs in the hopes that even one of them would actually be able to serve me).

Anyways, the Cobalt is a twenty minute walk from here.  So I left the house around 10:10, allowing 10 minutes to walk to the bank, and 30 minutes to walk (back in the opposite direction) to the Cobalt.  I got to the branch at Burrard & Nelson, went in to withdraw $100, and after going through the whole process of the transaction, right before the money should actually have come out of the machine, received a message saying due to technical problems (or something to that effect), the transaction could not be completed. I tried again with $60, same problem.  So I called Scotiabank, which fortunately has a 24-hour customer service line.

I explained the situation and asked if they could clarify what was wrong — i.e. was it a technical problem with my account, with their ATMs, or with their whole system? I told them precisely the  message I got and they immediately said that would never be a problem with my account, it would be a problem with the system, and they went on to say that they were performing system maintenance on the ATM network and that it would be back up and running by about 5 or 6.

At this point I paused and had to process this. I was thinking “AM or PM?” and “what time zone?!?” … remember, it’s about 10:15 PM at this point – not an exceptionally late hour, and also nowhere near 5 or 6 AM or PM.  I asked the second question, to which the agent replied by asking where I was. When I said Vancouver, she spent much longer than it should take to figure it out to attempt to figure out what time the network would be back up in Pacific time – I guessed correctly that she had meant 5 or 6 Eastern time as the best she could come up with was “three or four hours from now.”  At this point I became so incredibly angry.  What kind of financial institution brings their entire ATM network down for system maintenance at 10 PM on a Sunday night?!?!? And for 3-4 hours?!  I can understand a five minute downtime for an unexpected problem at that hour, sure. These things happen.  But system maintenance, for FOUR HOURS?   I don’t care that it’s a national financial institution and that it was early morning out East, it was NOT early morning here.

I got noticeably upset with her and asked how the hell I was supposed to get cash out, then, in the next four hours, given that it was quite early in Vancouver and I would have had no reason to assume the system was down.  (Note: I did not swear at the rep at any point in the call, though at this stage I did get angry and point out how fucking terrible the customer service was for them to do that!)  She tried a different approach and started asking for my account info. I provided it, and passed the security questions, and she confirmed there was nothing wrong with my account, and yes, the problem was that the network was down for maintenance. Which just angered me more, because she already fucking told me that, and now she’s wasted more of my time!

At this point, what should have been a 30-second transaction is going on over 10 minutes.

Since she still hasn’t told me how the fuck I’m supposed to get my money, I ask again. She puts me on hold, and comes back and clearly has someone else sitting beside her now as I can occasionally hear his voice.  She then tells me to try another Scotiabank ATM. Since this branch only has one ATM, and the nearest ATMs are a substantial enough walk (more on this in a second), I said “will it work there?” Her response: “hopefully it will work at another Scotiabank ATM, yes.”  HOPEFULLY?! Fucking hopefully??? There was some back and forth, where I pointed out the fact that she just told me the network was down, which she tried to explain was at one point true but is no longer true (the whole conversation became rather Orwellian at one stage), and she also refused to commit to “it will work” even after I explained how little fucking confidence she was giving me.  The fact that the nearest ATMs were not very near didn’t seem to phase her.

Ultimately I realised I was getting nowhere, and she wasn’t going to provide me with any more help.  She said to call back if it didn’t work at the next Scotiabank ATM (repeating that word “hopefully” again – “hopefully it will work, and if it doesn’t please give us a call back”).  Having no intention of doing so I angrily hung up (which, as an aside, is far, far, less dramatic with a touchscreen phone than with a normal one).

So, I went to the next ATM.  Despite the complete lack of presence in Yaletown, Burrard Street has five different ATM locations.  I was at the southernmost one.  So I headed North.  The next one is in the Scotiabank Theatre. I’ve used this ATM once, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, and was told it was upstairs (past the ticketed area) and if that’s why I needed to go upstairs then I could go. This time I was told it was upstairs and I couldn’t use it without buying a ticket. I was already SO angry at this point I almost told him to go fuck himself, but instead uttered a “Why even HAVE an ATM if… oh, nevermind.”  I realised this was not his problem and he shouldn’t be burdened with it.  But really, why the fuck is there an ATM that can only be accessed after paying a ridiculous sum for an overpriced movie ticket?!?!

Whatever. I moved up the street from there.  The next ATM, according to Scotiabank’s website and iPhone app, is on Burrard just North of Georgia.  Along the way, while trying to figure it out, one of Vancouver’s many panhandlers got a little too persistent with me and after his third time not listening to me saying no I said, in complete honesty, “I can’t even get my own fucking money right now.”

I regret that.  Only after I’d stepped away from the confrontation did it occur to me how trivial my problem was in the grand scheme of things.  But it still made me angry.  Because, like him, I had no cash, even if only temporarily.  It’s no wonder the poor are angry these days – while the banks have billions of dollars, they have nothing.  I know it sure made me fucking angry.  I was humbled, briefly, in this recognition.  I need more time to process this part of the evening, but it was a moment, that’s for sure.  Even if for trivial reasons, I think I finally understand the rage.

But back to my anger at Scotiabank.  I got to where this next ATM supposedly was – Park Place Tower, 666 Burrard Street.  The building was dark, deserted, locked.  All of its entrances.  Nowhere was there any signage even hinting at the idea that there might be a Scotiabank ABM somewhere, nor does the website or iPhone app have any special directions/instructions or suggestions about operating hours.  Needless to say, I didn’t find it.  I did, however, find a Western something or other branch that was part of the Exchange Network – which meant my credit union card would work.

At this point it’s 10:50PM, I have no cash on me, and I need to be in East Van in 10 minutes.  I rapidly devise a plan to use my credit union card to withdraw from my savings account, which would not be ideal but I get a couple free transactions per month with them so it would have worked out as long as I didn’t do any other transactions this month.  It then occurs to me I stopped carrying their card with me since there’s no reason I’d ever need to withdraw cash from the savings account.  At this point, I’ve long since abandoned the plan to walk to the Cobalt, and I’ve also given up on finding a Scotiabank ATM, since the next one (who knows if it would be findable, accessible, or functional) was a few blocks further North.  I gave up, paid the $1.50 service charge (it was only at this point that I finally got the answer that the problem was with the ATM network and not Scotiabank’s card system, since it did work – the rep had refused to answer this question the entire time I was asking it), and paid the SkyTrain fare to get to the Cobalt only five minutes late.

Ultimately, this is trivial – it’s only time and money.  But isn’t that what banks sell themselves on? Saving you time and money?  Why the fuck did I waste 35 minutes of my time and $4.00 of my money (not to mention whatever the airtime of calling them is going to cost)?  Just to get my own money from them?  This should’ve taken 30 seconds!

Sigh. Sorry for the rant.  Feel free to commiserate with me or berate me and my trivial concerns in the comments.


13 responses to this post.

  1. Correction: I paid $3 in service charges — Scotiabank tacked another $1.50 on in addition to the $1.50 the Western-whatever charged me. Fuckers.


  2. Posted by Josh on 2012/01/21 at 2:57 pm

    I hear you. I’m about ready to tell them off myself. I’m closing both my accounts with them. They’re practices are prehistoric and they’re fees for these are through the roof. Try pumping gas for $50 far from home then have them freeze your account because they’re holding 1 cheque. Never mind I had lots of money to cover the gas. No, No, No BOTH account are held. I can’t access my savings and My chequing account is being held for 4 to 8 days for a cheque to clear!!! I called them up to say WTF! and they had 30 seconds to explain this BS! They said “because I transferred fund between accounts on Friday night that it would be held until then next business day!” I was like WHAT!!!! NO!! Some newbie dip-shit royally screwed up there. OH and this wasn’t the first time! this was F-Up #3. SO anyhoo Libero financial here I come.


  3. Posted by pcucca on 2012/03/15 at 9:41 pm

    It’s too bad the Service Rep didn’t come up with one very simple solution…. simply to recommend you use the closest ATM machine and she’d then be happy to adjust any service charges generated to your account. Certainly that solution would of saved you from getting frustrated and importantly would of saved you your time!


  4. Posted by pcucca on 2012/03/15 at 9:44 pm

    Hopefully you’ll be happy to hear, if you don’t already know, about the new Scotiabank opening up in Yaletown


  5. Thanks Patrizia… sadly that’s hardly Yaletown, and the exact same distance from my home as the Burrard/Nelson one is. And, in fact, two block from Burrard/Nelson. I don’t understand why Scotiabank thinks it makes sense to cluster all their ATMs in the same area — looking at this map there’s no presence in either the West End or Yaletown!,2,3


  6. Posted by Patrizia on 2012/03/29 at 5:08 am

    Homer and Helmcken!!! I am such a freak. I still can’t get all the street names straight down here. So sorry


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