I was at the bank yesterday because I had to make an international wire transfer. I had ordered several music scores from a Danish publisher, and the invoice they had sent me was in DKK, so it was now up to me to figure out how to pay them. Since the invoice contained wire transfer instructions right there on the page, I figured it must not be such a hard thing to send money to Denmark via wire transfer.

First I went online to the (really crappy) website and clicked on the tab that said “wire transfers.” Apparently I wasn’t signed up for their wire transfer service, and when I tried to submit an application, I got a message saying that a customer service representative would be in touch. That was five days ago…no contact from the bank whatsoever.

So I called the 800 number, and the person on the other end of the line told me I would have to go to the bank in person to initiate a wire transfer. I asked what I would need when I went to the bank, and she didn’t really have an answer for me. I figured I had all the info I’d need on this invoice, so I drove to the bank, invoice in hand, ready to learn how to wire money overseas.

The last time I had gone to this bank and tried to pay a bill in foreign currency, they had looked at me blankly and told me to go to Western Union…so I was prepared for a little bit of resistance. But I guess I didn’t count on downright incompetence. This is how the conversation went:

ME: Hello, I’d like to make an international wire transfer.

JOAN*: Sure, have a seat. Can I have your account number?

ME: Here you go.

JOAN: How much is the transfer going to be for?

ME: I’m not sure. The invoice I have is in Danish krone, so…

JOAN: Oh, we can’t do anything that’s not in dollars.

ME: Are you sure? I mean, I’m pretty sure your bank does international business.

JOAN: (clicking through some screens on her computer) Oh, I guess we do. What’s the exchange rate?

ME: I don’t know.

JOAN: Well, I can’t do the transfer without the exchange rate. You’ll have to go find that out and come back.

ME: Um…aren’t you a bank? Aren’t you supposed to know that kind of thing?

JOAN: (blank stare)

ME: Exchange rates fluctuate throughout the day. I would imagine banks would know what the current exchange rate is more than a regular person like me.

JOAN: (getting defensive) I’ve never done this before.

ME: Okay…um…

JOAN: (waving over another rep) Hey, Linda! How do I do this? I’ve never done this before.

LINDA: (coming over and pointing at the computer screen) Just hit “wire transfer.” Okay, now hit “international.” What’s the currency she’s trying to use?

JOAN: (growing increasingly more nervous) I’ve never done this before!

ME: Danish krone.

JOAN: (picks up the phone and dials what must be the help desk line) Hello? I’m trying to get help finding an exchange rate. You what? My store number? (to Linda) What’s our store number?

LINDA: (gives store number)

JOAN: (repeats number) I just…that’s not the number? But that’s the only number I have. RS Code? What’s an RS Code?

LINDA: (turning to me as Joan continues to fuss on the phone) you want to pay in the foreign currency, right?

ME: Yes.

LINDA: That’ll be an extra $35 for international wires.

ME: Fine.

LINDA: (hitting a few keys on the computer) The exchange rate is 5.114.

ME: Okay.

LINDA: So here’s what the entire amount will be that we’ll deduct from your account.

ME: Sounds good.

JOAN: Oh, that’s what an RS code is? Okay, thanks. Well, we found out what the exchange rate is without your help, but thanks anyway. (hangs up the phone)

*All the names have been changed to protect the stupid.

The rest of the meeting was fairly normal; she asked for all the information that was on the invoice, and I had to keep pointing out where the information was on the invoice that was right in front of her. She was incredibly nervous about the whole thing, which amused me more than anything (I think if I hadn’t been amused, I would have been angry, which wouldn’t have helped anyone). And I think I calmed her down by telling her I had never done this before either, so we would both be learning as we go.

I told Ray this story last night, and he said that this bank is infamous for not paying enough, so nobody who is at all good at banking will ever work for this company.

And the sad thing is, I almost went through this whole post without revealing which bank it was, but I think I owe it to you all to reveal which bank has that kind of level of consistent incompetence: TD Bank (formerly known as Commerce).

Bird on a Wire
Tagged on: