After my purse was stolen in Burkina Faso, I called Wells Fargo to get my cards cancelled and order new ones. The hotel staff told me I could use the hotel front desk phone, since my phone was stolen and my money supply was limited.
I had to call two different lines to cancel and re-order my debit and credit cards. The debit card was fast to cancel, but they didn't offer the option of mailing the new card to me in Africa. The credit card was also quick to cancel, with one snag.
When you first call the line for lost credit cards, the automated system asks for your credit card number. I didn't know it. The system gives no immediate option for this. I stayed on the line dumbly for several minutes before the automated voice informed me I could say "I don't know." Given that this is the line for lost cards, it seems like they should mention this sooner.
I was able to cancel the card quickly, and the agent then mentioned i could have the card sent to an emergency address, for a cost of $50 for international mail. Considering the alternative of having no access to money, this seemed like a great deal. Then the trouble began.
I was put on hold for extended periods, despite telling the agent I was calling from a country with no toll-free line. At some point, while on hold the hotel staff started yelling at me in French that I was taking too long on the phone. I struggled to explain in frazzled, broken french, that I was on hold. When I did get taken off hold, I was told that I would have to talk to a manager to get the card sent to a different address. On hold again, with the hotel concierge poking me with his pen.
When I did talk to the manager, she told me that she was going to ask me some security questions, and if I didn't know the answers, that was okay, I could just say "I don't know" and she would ask another. She started with a couple I didn't know, and some I did. I didn't know my last card transaction amount-- it was a cash advance in cedis, and I didn't know the ATM fee or the exchange rate that would have applied. After I failed to give her the first eight base pairs of the DNA in my grandmother's 11th chromosome, she informed me that she couldn't change the mailing address because I failed to get enough of the questions right.
I was livid. Why didn't she tell me this before? Why did she say it was "okay" to say "I don't know"? If I had known that I needed to get a certain percent correct, I could have looked up my last card transaction, or ordered a gene sequencing test. By now the hotel concierge was seriously skewering me with his pen, so I told the manager that I could not stay on the line but that I was very frustrated with how this call went. I hoped that the call was indeed being recorded to monitor quality.
A week later, I called again. This time, when I mentioned that I was calling from abroad on a non-toll free line, I was directed to the collect line. I was able to get the card sent to the emergency address by answering one security question. I was put on hold, but I didn't mind, since Wells Fargo was paying for it. That is how a customer who is alone in a strange country and has just lost her access to funds should be treated. I don't know what went so terribly wrong the first time.
I tried to write to Wells Fargo to tell them this story, and suggest that they change their automated call response; instruct agents to either not put international callers on hold, or give them the collect number; and inform people when failing a security question will result in not getting a needed service. It turns out, I also need to suggest that they allow more characters in their email contact form. So Wells Fargo, if you are reading this, that is why this is online for everyone to see instead of in your inbox.
Also, dear concierge: I stole your pen and traded it to a small boy for a sticker of Qaddafi.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.