A Lost Wallet (and the loss of common sense)

[Authored by: Kim Hoogeveen, PhD]

As I was walking out of the MindSet office a few weeks ago I noticed a wallet on the pavement out in the middle of our parking lot.  I picked up the wallet and saw a California driver’s license with a picture of a young man who looked to be in his early 20s.  I was headed to a meeting, so I put the wallet in my car and planned to try and contact the owner later that afternoon.

When I came back to my car around 6:00 PM, I looked more carefully through the wallet to see if I could find some contact information for the owner.  The wallet had some cash, a medical insurance card, a couple pictures, and two credit cards.  Unfortunately, none of that was helpful in terms of contacting the owner.  I did a quick web search for the owner’s name, but had no luck finding the young man.

Using his insurance card, I decided to contact his medical insurance company to see if they could help put me in contact with the owner so I could return his wallet.   No luck there as the office was closed and not taking calls until the next day.

Let’s See if Wells Fargo Can Help

My next step was to contact Wells Fargo, issuer of one of the credit cards in his wallet.  I called the customer service help number on the back of the card, and after going through a good amount of number punching to get to speak to a human, I finally got a customer service rep to answer.  I explained to the woman that I was in Omaha, NE and had found the wallet of one of their cardholders (who appears to be from California according to his license) on the ground in a parking lot and would like her to help me contact him so the wallet could be returned.

Her response was to tell me that she could cancel the card given it was lost.  I again explained that I was not calling to cancel the young man’s card, but asking for help to be put in contact with him so I could return his wallet.  She then again asked me for the card number, “so I can cancel it.”  Just to make sure she understood, for the third time I explained that I had not just found a credit card, but the entire wallet of one of their cardholders who was likely from out-of-state and may well need his identification, insurance card, and cash, so what I would like her to do is contact the cardholder and let him know how to contact me so I could return the wallet.  I was talking to brick wall.

With a bit of exasperation she explained that they could not do that due to privacy concerns, but “PLEASE give me the card number so I can cancel it.”  I asked her, “Why would I do that?  The card is not being misused and is right in my hand waiting to be returned to your customer if you would just help facilitate contact.”  She repeated that was not possible and started to again ask for the card number when I decided I had spent enough time trying to get any help from Wells Fargo.

Would Citi Be Any Better?

After that experience, I was not optimistic that things would go better with Citi, the issuer of the young man’s other credit card, but thought it worth a shot.  So I called the customer service number on the back of his Citi card and soon got a pleasant sounding lady on the other end.  I briefly explained to her the situation somewhat expecting to be told why she could not help after my experience talking to the brick wall at Wells Fargo, but was I ever wrong.

She immediately understood the situation, thanked me for being so thoughtful as to be helping out a Citi customer, and said she would do whatever it took to put me in contact with the young man.  I then gave her the card number after which she asked if I could hold for a minute as she would try and contact the card holder.  In less than 90 seconds she was back on the line saying she had the young man on the other line and was going to merge the calls so we could talk.  The young man was indeed from California doing some short-term contract work here in Omaha, hoping to head back home in two days and worried about how he was going to get on the plane with no identification.  We made arrangements to meet the next morning so I could get his wallet back to him.

After my chat ended with the young man, the Citi rep came back on the line to make sure all was okay and to thank me again for helping out their cardholder.  I took the time to let her know that she was the real hero in this story – and briefly told her of the contrast between her response and what I experienced with Wells Fargo.

Policy Should Never Trump Common Sense

Wells Fargo has had a good amount of bad publicity over the past couple years.  In response they have spent millions running ads saying they are going to again earn the trust of their customers.  From this admitted ‘n’ of only 1, they have more work to do.

Perhaps they could adopt MindSet’s suggestion for what should be added to every company policy manual: Nothing in this policy shall be allowed to trump common sense.

On the positive side, big props to Citi.  It was great to see how committed they were to helping their cardholder.

Related Articles – Customer Trust: The Right Goal & Beyond Service: A Partnership Example.

 

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