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Bank of America's Latest Gaffe Is Uber-Creepy

By Amanda Alix - Feb 9, 2014 at 1:12PM

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For a bank trying to polish its image, it makes quite a few high-profile blunders.

It's common knowledge that Bank of America (BAC 0.53%) 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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