The Checking Account

A couple of months ago, my wife and I went to add her name to my checking account. We have joint finances on paper, but we had yet to make reality match the theory. No, we’re not newlyweds. We’re just lazy.

My checking account is with Truist, which used to be SunTrust, which bought NBC, which is where I had a checking account since 2003. We walked into our local Truist branch, which is still labeled SunTrust, and the man behind the counter told me that adding someone to my account needed to be handled by one of the folks in the back offices. We went to the back.

After taking quite a long amount of time and asking my wife quite a few questions, he said he wasn’t able to add her to the account because Experian said that she shouldn’t be added to the account. I was befuddled. Of all the outcomes I had anticipated, this was not one of them.

I explained to him that he had made a mistake; we were not opening a line of credit. The money in my account belongs to both of us equally, both morally and legally speaking. I merely wanted to make this clear in the paperwork. Refusing to put her on my checking account because she failed a credit check would be like refusing to let her enter our home because she lost her driving license.

He very softly but firmly corrected me that he had not in fact made a mistake, and “the computer” would not allow him to add her to my account if the Experian check failed. He even tried two more times and it failed all three times. He told me regretfully that this probably meant someone had stolen our identities, or at least one of our identities. Of course, this is an unsettling thing to hear.

At this point, I felt as if I were in some sort of bizarro-world. Somehow I could not through any linguistic turn of phrase convince him to see the absurdity of the situation. But even had I done so, the fact was that (according to him) the ruling of “the computer” was absolute. Failed credit check, no name on the account.

He even helpfully printed off a sheet of paper with a phone number on it which I could call to find out why one of us failed the credit check.

Defeated, we went to go get brunch. While we were eating, I attempted to navigate this labyrinth. I called the number on the sheet of paper. The recording on the other end cheerfully informed me that I could go online and accomplish this task quicker, so I navigated to their website. I filled out the frankly excessive amount of information they wanted, and after several pages of information was submitted, their servers chewed on it for a moment and then told me that my query could not be serviced by their online system, I had to call the number.

I called the number back. I gritted my teeth through the cheerful spiel informing me that I should really be visiting their website. I managed to pluck my way through their phone menu, providing much the same information I had provided on their website. The phone system cheerfully informed me that they would be sending me a letter(!) via the United States Postal Service(!!) which had all the information on us they had on file. At no point in this process had I talked to a human who was able to explain to me why I could not add my wife’s name to my checking account.

The reason we were able to run this errand in the first place, given that we both normally work during the day, is that we were to get on a plane later that day and fly across the globe to New Zealand, where we would attend a wedding. So after tilting at this particular windmill for an annoyingly long time, I decided there was nothing more I could do at that point. We left on our trip.

Upon arriving back in North Carolina a week later, I picked up our mail and found several letters. There was one letter for each failed attempt (so, three) and also two large envelopes, one containing my financial data and one containing my wife’s. I pored over both, and found no surprises. Both of us have squeaky-clean credit histories and no unexpected lines of credit. Both of us have exemplary credit scores. Not to brag, of course. I’m just reporting facts.

After reading the data, I found myself even more befuddled than before. What is there in all of this to cause Experian to deny Truist’s attempt at adding my wife to my checking account? There was not even a reference to a failed credit check! In confusion, I looked at the letter sent (in triplicate) from Truist (printed on SunTrust letterhead) to see if it would yield more information. And, in fact, it did. At the bottom of each letter, it printed a short reason string for why the check failed.

The reason was “could not connect to Experian servers”.

At this point, realization came crashing upon me. I realized that we failed no credit check. Instead, Truist failed to connect to Experian due to some networking or server fault and a failed connection appears to the computer to be identical to a failed credit check.

But the deeper realization was how fully and utterly ruined we are as a society. No link in this chain was sound. The bank should not be able to tell me I can’t add my wife to my checking account. A failed connection attempt should not look like a failed credit check. A credit check should never have been performed in this circumstance. And, most importantly, the computer should not get the final say; a human should be able to override it.

I would love to say that I closed my account in a huff and moved our funds to an institution with less Kafkaesque policies. But I have a lot of auto draft stuff set up on that account, and, as previously mentioned, I’m extremely lazy.

The moral of this story is the inevitable and impending downfall of American society. Thank you for reading.

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