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Bank of America's Latest Gaffe Is Uber-Creepy

It's common knowledge that Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) has the worst reputation among banks, an issue that prompted CEO Brian Moynihan to launch a campaign early last year centered on a more "customer-friendly" approach.

No doubt, some of the big bank's higher-profile public-relations missteps have left permanent scars, such as the now-infamous $5-per-month debit card fee -- from which B of A eventually retreated in the face of public outrage.

There have been numerous other bungles, and the latest is one that would tickle the funny bone, if it wasn't quite so unnerving. A freelance writer living in California very recently received a credit card offer from Bank of America -- a not-unusual occurrence, except that the offer was addressed to "Lisa Is A Slut McIntire."

The New York Times story, complete with photos, notes that McIntire was initially quite disturbed by the mailing, noting that she is a "feminist writer on the Internet." However, the printing of her name appeared to be the only weird part of the marketing letter, which was pitching a rewards credit card product. She now believes that the mailing was not a personal affront.

Other well-publicized incidents of customer disservice
Bank of America has been in the news several times lately for its troubling treatment of consumers, episodes that -- in the following cases, at least -- involved errors or questionable decisions made by B of A.

Last year, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported that the bank continued to deduct a monthly fee from the account of a deceased man for months after his death, despite having full knowledge of the customer's status.

Last November, a man from B of A's hometown of Charlotte, N.C., sued the bank for bringing on his heart attack -- which he claimed was precipitated by the bank's own negligence. Apparently, B of A lost his mortgage payment, which prompted bank employees to begin calling his home, alleging that he was "in jeopardy of foreclosure." The man had a heart attack while at a branch location, where he was trying to straighten out the whole mess.

The same month, the bank also reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on behalf of two women from California and Texas. In that case, Bank of America had refused to refinance the women's mortgage loans, solely because they were on maternity leave. It wasn't an oversight, either: In one case, the plaintiff and her spouse noted that, when the bank was told that its actions were discriminatory, the loan officer actually changed his stated reason for the loan denial.

And, of course, there was the highly entertaining B of A Twitter fail last summer, in the face of an Occupy protest regarding the bank's foreclosure practices. As the original tweet regarding protest artwork outside of Bank of America's Manhattan offices took off, a Bank of America "Help" bot repeatedly tweeted its desire to help each person commenting on the artwork, in obviously canned responses.

Clearly, the credit card incident was a mistake, albeit a very disturbing one, and Bank of America has apparently apologized to McIntire. While some may think the incident has been somewhat blown out of proportion, I don't think it would have been given such attention if not for B of A's rather lousy track record in its treatment of customers. For that, inarguably, the bank has only itself to blame.

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Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Questioner5001 wrote:

    Poor Amanda! After blaming Bank of America for all the world's ills, and taking the side of everyone who sues the bank or makes unproven charges to get back at their former employer, you're now left with scraping the bottom of the barrel with garbage news that used to be restricted to sensationalist tabloids.

    Well, by constantly whining about a popular stock like Bank of America, you at least get people to check out your "articles", even though you employ teeny-bopper terms like "uber-creepy". Who are you, Katy Perry?

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 7:56 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    Bilk of America…this fraud-infested bank and its corrupt brokerage unit, Merrill Lynch, is run by grossly overpaid thugs and goons of the worst type. No amount of massive PR campaigning and dirty tricks by PR operatives can camouflage or cover it up!

    Investors beware and be wary when it comes to this disreputable financial institution. Ultimately a culture of ENRON ETHICS destroys, does not create shareholder value!

    Merely the individual opinion of one retail investor heavily invested in reputable community and regional banks, such Glacier Bancorp, BB & T, New Hampshire Thrift Bankshares, undsoweiter…funfun..

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 8:06 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    Looks like the author, Amanda Alix, in articulating facts keenly embarrassing to Bank of America officials has been systematically subjected to a vicious and sleazy personal attack. Some dirty PR damage control, indeed, investors! We have seen this before when independently-speaking investors or analysts have discussed critical BAC issues in various investment forums.

    Any bank whose rabid supporters and Management surrogates have to resort this kind of vindictive misconduct is one sick unethical operation, indeed! What is being covered up here?


  • Report this Comment On February 11, 2014, at 1:51 PM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    Case in point of the bank's embedded culture of ENRON ETHICS:

    Reuters) - A former Bank of America executive pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to defraud cities and towns, looking to invest proceeds for municipal bonds, the Justice Department said.

    Feb. 10, 2014.


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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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