Thursday, July 2, 2009

So Yesterday Bank of America put my family in physical jeopardy (Part two)

UPDATE: Thursday PM: The ONE helpful person at B of A, my local branch's asst. manager, Linda, was quietly making phone calls today. A corporate staffer requested additional info from me. In the meanwhile, my wife has started burning up the phone lines, trying to save her business while she waits out the three weeks she's now been delayed before returning to the US.
Seriously. When you're broke, female, and responsible for a child, Brazil is just like any other Third-world nation: beauty and peace is a thin veneer over a vicious, dangerous underbelly.

Thanks again for all the well wishes. You guys are great.

If you haven't read part one yet, please scroll down to yesterday's post. This is a detailed summary of the events of Tuesday, June 30, When Bank of America caused my wife and son to be stranded in Brazil simply because no one wants to accept responsibility for a simple human error on their part.

PART TWO- Noon to 4PM

By noon, I am getting frantic. I feel completely powerless to do anything. I am cursing the fact that I completely cleaned out our savings to send my family to Brazil. I thought I was doing the right thing. I would normally never eliminate the 'cushion' money that I leave just in case I lose my job or break a leg or anything, that was pretty much how I made a surprise trip to Brazil even possible. That sort of trip is NOT cheap. And now I don't have a way to get my family home.

When I next talk to my wife, I am in my truck, heading to my parents' house. I have to say goodbye to them, as I'll be leaving for anywhere from 2-6 weeks in just a few hours. Done.

When I had spoken to the security specialist at B of A earlier, she told me that I had no recourse. Regardless of how the bank caused all this trouble, they had no interest in making things right. Without options, I go to my local branch bank.
The manager is out on vacation. The assistant manager is sympathetic. This is shocking! Someone is listening to me.
I am not normally blabby. I unload on this woman. I don't get personal, I just give her the details. She gets on the computer, on the phone, and starts looking for ways to help. She runs up against a wall in all cases. Someone on the phone is trying to help her help me, but it's not going anywhere. Along the way, in that chain of command, someone tells them to punt, and thus there is nowhere else to go. I leave, feeling not quite so alone, but nonetheless, still without a solution.

I spend the next two hours on and off the phone with my wife. They've gotten to her mothers' house, and they are safe. They are also 5,000+ miles away from home, and if I can scrape up the money for airfare, I also have to find money for their living expenses. My wife is self-employed here in the US. If she doesn't work, she doesn't get paid. She is going to lose her shirt by not being here, as well.

The reality is, they are safe, and they have food, clothing and shelter. The deadly danger is past. But I am livid, and when I do manage to get my family home, we are going to be living like church mice for a few months thanks to Bank of America.

My wife suggests that I call a Brazilian travel agency in Somerville, one of the outlying sections of Boston, to try to get a better price on tickets, and an earlier flight. I am using my best Portuguese now, which is awful, to be precise, but I get word that there really are no flights with two seats available for the next three weeks. They will call me back with info on the first available flights. They understand the urgency, too. The travel agent actually seems concerned about the safety of my wife and son, and for that I'm grateful.
It is now after 4pm, which is when I had planned to head to Philly for work. I have the nuclear option, which entails leaving at midnght and driving direct to the job, which also means no sleeping for 48 hours.
The travel agent calls me back. If I can get to their office in an hour (doubtful with 15 miles of heavy traffic between me and them), she can reserve tickets for the 21st of July. If I can't get those tickets, it might be a week before she can get another flight with two seats available.

(Really, if you're booked that heavy, why aren't the airlines adding a flight? There are 4 airlines that run between Brazil and the US. There's got to be more folks waiting for a ticket at peak summer travel time).

This is where I need to tell you a few things about my stepson, The Boy, and how hard this is going to make his life for the next year or so.
The boy speaks Portuguese as his primary language. This is because he has a deformity in his throat that makes speaking very difficult, and because my wife's command of english is only a recent acquisition. Before she and I met, my wife had only a very modest command of english. Now, skip ahead. Today, The Boy understands and writes english as well or better than any other 6-year old, but he can't speak it very well.
This past winter, The Boy developed a case of persistant tonsilistis, and the Ear, Nose and Throat doc took one look at his throat, down deep, and dropped a bomb- the speech problem is physical, and is very treatable, requiring two or more surgeries, but with an excellent long-term prognosis. So, while this is sobering news, it is also good news, as The Boy is going to be starting school in September, and if we can get his speech problems on the way to recovery, he can be in a normal class with other kids his age, which is what he wanted. We scheduled the first surgery for a week after my family got back from Brazil. The Boy was supposed to get his tonsils and adenoids removed, tubes placed in his ears, and then have his vocal cords reshaped slightly in preparation for the next surgery, which would take place in early August.

Well, all that's gone. He's in Brazil until no later than the 21st of July.
When my wife told The Boy that they were staying at Grandma's for an extra few weeks, his first response wasn't what you'd expect for a 6 year-old. He didn't think of the beach, playing with his 80+ cousins in town, and all the fun stuff that a 6-year old can do with summer vacation.
He burst into tears, because, he told my wife, that come September, he was going to have to either be in a special class or pretend to be mute, because the kids would make fun of his attempts to speak.


I left home at 4pm. The agency closes at 5, and there's the entirety of the world-famous Post Big-Dig Boston traffic between my destination and my home.

(End of Part 2).

Note: Part three is where something amazingly ridiculous happens, when Bank of America puts gasoline on my fire, so to speak. It does not end with my getting tickets for my wife. The bank actively prevented that from happening A SECOND TIME. There is resolution, however, and tickets are acquired, thanks in no way to Bank of America.


doubletrouble said...

Paul, after the dust settles, I hope you get to (legally) kick someone's ass for this...

Paul, Dammit! said...

It might come to that. Things are developing in a positive manner, just now.

Anonymous said...

Here via Crystal.

You've probably already thought of this, but you are documenting ALL additional expenses you are incurring because of BoA, right? All the phone calls, meals, everything?

And the effect on your wife's business AND the delay of your boy's surgery.

I'm sure that BoA would rather have that information than have you give it to an attorney and the media.

Best of luck to all of you.

Charlotte said...

Is there any way I can help -- like maybe donate a bit of money towards the cause?


Moose said... has tale after tale of people getting horrible customer service (though not quite in such a horrific situation as yours) from BoA.

here are two posts that might help: Email & physical addresses for BoA executives. Some people have had luck with writing the CEO. - if you use Twitter.

Good luck to you all.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Thanks for the link, and thank you, too, Charlotte- you're very generous, but we're ok.