What happens when pay a bill online to the wrong place?

In early may, in a rush to get all the bills paid, I mistakenly used my Metro Credit Union web banking system to pay a bill that didn’t exist — I paid down $3000 on a credit card that I’d cancelled earlier in the year. This was completely operator error on my part: I should have removed the “payee” from my setup once I’d cancelled the card, and I didn’t. The result was that I checked the wrong “VISA” line when I went to pay the bill.

And it was Sunday.

I tried calling the Internet technical support line and, although they were kind, they couldn’t help (it’s probably a Good Thing that technicians can’t move money).

They suggested a call “TelPay” which is the agency that actually routes online bill payments through to local credit unions for handling (the great secret of the “online banking” universe is that the back-end is still very, very manual). TelPay’s voicemail answered and I left a message; they called me back and left a message for me a few hours later telling me that there was nothing they could do to help.

So I sent email to the ever-helpful Doug Bridges at Metro Credit Union. And I left him a voicemail. And I left a general voicemail there too, just in case Doug was on vacation or out of the office.

Monday morning, bless their hearts, Metro were all over the issue, and managed to get the right messages to the right places to stop the bill payment train from running (I couldn’t imagine what trying to get $3000 back out of a closed VISA account would be like).

By the time all was said and done, it took 18 days to get the money back into my business account proving that, even with the best intentions of all involved, it still takes time to undo stupid mistakes.

I don’t fault Metro for any of this — as I said, it was operator error that caused the problem. And Doug stayed in touch with me through the undo process. But it seems to me that, going forward, it might make general sense to build customer-driven undo features into web banking systems; surely I’m not the only one clicking in the wrong place.

Another lesson learned.

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Kevin's picture
Kevin on May 25, 2006 - 13:20

And there’s the other side of the coin. A person close to me (I don’t have permission to identify her) found out that error recovery at Metro can be abusive. A Metro employee made a simple mistake and ended up paying someone’s consumer loan out of her account.

The error wasn’t the problem, everyone makes misakes and that’s just part of life. But, when the problem was presented to the very same person who made the mistake, she acted as if [my friend] was trying to fill her pockets with someone else’s money. Then, upon some insisting, it was admitted that a mistake was made and the money flow was turned off. But, there was some difficulty getting the prinicple returned to the proper account.

She had to return to the branch several times to get things such as over-overdraft fees returned, and other interest charges caused by the shortage in the account. At each turn she received resistance with answers such as, “oh, I guess I could do that”.

When I brought the issue to the Metro Board of Directors (of which I was a member) it was ignored. My central point, “when we make a mistake, we should *own* the problem until it is resolved and never inconvenience a client by having them be the general manager of the problem”. The Board, and in particular, the senior staff, were not interested in the problem or the on-going issue.

And yes, Doug is a star down there. When he owns a problem no one else needs be concerned with it.

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