The online banking system you can’t escape

We did our home mortgage through Wells Fargo a couple of weeks ago. When I got the first mortgage bill in the mail I noted a line on the back that read: “Make your payments easier! Sign up for online mortgage payments!” Like a typical child of the internet generation I thought this might be something worth looking in to.

I went to their website and started to sign up for the service. I gave them everything: my name, date of birth, ssn, mortgage number, the works. Then I was shown their “terms of service” page. Unlike most typical children of the internet generation I decided to actually read it. While reading it, one line in particular caught my attention: “By agreeing to the online terms of service you agree to forfeit regular postal mail billing. Reactivating regular postal mail billing may require additional fees.”

Umm, no thank you Wells Fargo. I like the paper mail billing. I wanted both electronic and paper, but I guess you’re not capable of that request. Oh well.

I clicked the little button that said I declined their terms of service. Another page popped up: “Are you sure?” Yes.

A day goes by and then I get this email from Wells Fargo:

From: ofsrep.fmcmigw@...
Subject: Welcome to Wells Fargo Online Banking
Date: September 16, 2005 5:54:15 PM PDT


Welcome to Online Banking, the convenient, secure way to manage
your finances. As a Wells Fargo customer, you have free access to
Online Banking.

What? Didn’t I decline this service? I respond:

From: robert.w.rose@...
Subject: Re: Welcome to Wells Fargo Online Banking
Date: September 16, 2005 6:38:24 PM PDT
To: ofsrep.fmcmigw@...

I didn't sign up for online banking, as I didn't agree with the terms
of your online banking system. Why am I receiving this email?

-robert rose

It takes them about a week to get back to me:

Subject: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (#...)
From: ofsrep.wfwgw@...
Date: September 22, 2005 2:39:36 PM PDT

Dear Robert Rose:

To cancel this service, we ask that you please give us a call at
1-800-956-4442 so that we can resolve this issue for you. You
will not be required to enter a PIN using this option. Our
Specialists are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a

We apologize for any inconvenience that this matter has
caused you.

Michael Farragut
Wells Fargo
Online Customer Service

Huh? I had to go back and read what I wrote previously to make sense of this. I wasn’t requesting the cancellation of anything, I was merely wondering why they sent me that “welcome” email.

From: robert.w.rose@...
Subject: Re: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (...)
Date: September 24, 2005 1:39:21 PM PDT
To: ofsrep.wfwgw@...

I said on your website that I DECLINED your terms of service. Under
the terms of your very own agreement I am not registered for this
service. Why do I need to call and cancel?

Robert Rose

Their reply:

Subject: Re : Your Wells Fargo Inquiry (...)
From: ofsrep.wfwgw@...
Date: September 26, 2005 11:54:08 AM PDT
To: robert.w.rose@...

Dear Robert Rose:

To ensure the security of your account we cannot provide specific
information or make changes to your account without verifying
your identity. If you do not have access to Wells Fargo Online and
need assistance with a request, please call us at 1-800-956-4442.
Bankers are available to assist you, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Mike Scott
Wells Fargo
Online Customer Service

Thanks Mike, but it appears you didn’t even read the history of the email transaction. What changes do you think you’re going to make if I call up? What specific information do you think you’re going to give me? The statement “If you do not have access to Wells Fargo Online” just adds insult to injury here, as that is the very service I’m trying to escape.

You're too funny. When you can't solve a problem, you hide
behind a security policy?

Again, please look up my records and observe that I did not
consent to your online usage agreement, and then resolve this
matter. I don't see how this "change" would require you verifying
my identity.

I don’t feel like I should have to call them, but as a programmer, I wouldn’t be surprised if their online banking system simply didn’t support declining the terms of service. In other words, declining the terms of service interrupts the initialization of your profile–it doesn’t back out and delete it. There’s probably a flag somewhere in my profile there that says “Agreed_TOS: false”. Now the question is, does their code that determines whether or not I’m elligible for paper billing still observe that flag, or does merely having a profile in their online system remove you from paper billing? I guess I’ll find out next month.

As a child of the internet generation, I’m sick of incompetent websites.

Gabe Newell is a big wimp

GameDailyBiz has an article with Valve’s Gabe Newell where he complains:

There are incredibly few programmers who can safely write code in the PlayStation 3 environment. And I totally see why Sony wants people to write code that runs on seven SPEs and a central processing unit, because that code is never going to run well anywhere else.

Give me a friggin break. Every console made since the dawn of time was a proprietary, complex, hard to program system that programmers had a love/hate relationship with. PS3 is no different.

Some programmers just want the world handed to them on a silver spoon!

Hurricane Katrina

My heart goes out to everyone effected by Hurricane Katrina.

Like many people in the Gulf, I’m sickened, distressed and angered by our federal government’s poor response. FEMA especially has come under a lot of pressure, and rightly so. The director of FEMA said last night on national TV that they are unable to provide food and water to the refugees fleeing the Gulf and that they are relying on the Red Cross to provide these essential services.

For the evacuation of New Orleans, I think our military should be scrutinized. They are clearly too understaffed and underequipped to perform this task. We have the largest standing army in the world, the largest defense budget in the world–yet we can’t save our own people. People in New Orleans are dying from dehydration. Where are the choppers air-dropping crates of food and water? Where is the big invasion to rescue all these people? We have the resources–why aren’t they being allocated for this task? If we had the foresight to order an evacuation, why didn’t we have the foresight to station troops and supplies closer to the Gulf in preparation?

Here’s what I would have liked to have seen:

August 26th: Louisiana orders evacuation of low-lying areas next to the coast.
August 27th: DoD redeploys 30,000+ troops to stations around the Gulf.
August 30th: DoD launches unprecedented military raid on New Orleans and other areas in the Gulf to keep the peace and evacuate the people.
Sep 2nd: Everyone effected by the storm is sitting comfortably in a refugee camp hundreds of miles away. FEMA gives everyone money, people move on with their lives.

Would that have been so difficult? If we can launch a military assault with 100,000 troops on a country on the other side of the Earth I think we could have stationed ourselves to be ready to protect one of our own cities pretty quickly.