Excellence vs. B of A

The Excellent Adventure is the name of the blog. Its subhead is The tale of TeamHudson, as they discover that all they need is a tall ship…. Its About page says,

  In July of 2006, Laureen and Jason were startled to discover that despite all the various hopes, dreams, and aspirations of their youth, they’d somehow found themselves being garden-variety desk-driving SUV-owning suburbanites. And they were slightly ill. So late one evening, after the boys were tucked in and the lights were low, they dared to start dreaming again. They told each other stories about what they wanted out of their life together. And in no time at all, they’d discovered that the shape of their collective dream was a ship. And that the children’s futures were the stars they had to sail her by. And that was enough to get started with.

What happened since then isn’t on par with Job, but it hasn’t been fun. Today’s post is titled, My Loan with Bank of America: A Study in Customer Service Fail. The introductory grafs:

  We moved aboard the boat full time, and got the house ready to be put on the market. As my American readers are painfully aware, this is when the bottom started dropping out of the US real estate market, and my family watched in horror as our home lost $275,000 in value in under a year, the city the house was in wobbled around declaring bankruptcy, and my husband’s home construction business collapsed. Suddenly, we were supporting a mortgage, a boat payment, and five people on one salary. We held it together financially, but as the American Economic Death-Wobble increased, I was laid off from my Technical Editor job at Sun Microsystems, with 5,999 of my friends, and the whole thing was no longer do-able.

  Throughout this debacle, we kept making payments on the boat, s/v Excellent Adventure, as she was our home, our primary residence. We had attempted to do a loan modification with Bank of America, the loan holder, early on in the cycle, because continuity and commitment in our dealings with them seemed important. Because it was a boat, and not an on-land home, they refused, although they were quite good about tolerating missed payments, and even set up a three-month deferral for us at one point.

  We declared bankruptcy in February 2009.

What follows is a tragedy of errors, mostly on the part of the Hudsons’ creditor, Bank of America. The low point:

  I tried to ask a few questions, like, how come they felt they could repo with zero prior contact or request for payment, and if payment was so important, why would they not accept partial now and partial Monday when I had it, but was greeted with more screaming. Oh, and this:

  “Have a good weekend, Mrs. Hudson.”

  I hung up, thoroughly upset. I had never been screamed at like that in my life. In the space of five hours, Bank of America had gone from “don’t call us, you’re in process, we can’t help you” to “we’re repossessing your home.”

The saga continues, and gets worse:

  So here’s where we stand. Bank of America is unwilling to do a loan modification, despite having taken billions of dollars in TARP funding, which was supposed to go towards loan modifications. They would prefer to demand completely unrealistic payments and force repossession/eviction on a family than to adjust to the reality of the American economy, even temporarily. Forcing the eviction and repossession will give them an asset of negligible value, compared to the over-time benefit of the loan modification. They are happy to rely on bullying, scare tactics, and brutality, and seem to feel that they can crush people at will.

Their fight is now legal as well as financial. However…

  Another fact that is not widely known at all is that in the State of California, as of October 12th, it is a felony for an attorney to get payment up front to work on loan modification cases. I can see how, on the one hand, this is to protect people from the unscrupulous. But the net effect will be to prevent attorneys from taking loan modification cases. Banks are known to drag these things out as long as possible, thus making it financially untenable for attorneys, who have their own bills to pay, from taking on cases like mine. And Bank of America has proven that I, as a customer and individual, have no voice and no hope with them, without legal representation. This is backed up by their August 24th decision to not only scrap arbitration as a means of settling dispute, but also to continue with their ban on customers joining class action lawsuits. This means, effectively, that if you don’t have access to a lawyer and funding for that lawyer, you’re screwed. Against Bank of America, you stand alone.

Of course I (and most other readers) only know the Hudsons’ side of this thing. But they’re friends of friends, and I’ve been asked to pass along their story, in hopes that spreading the word might do some good. This blog has a lot of readers. Maybe one of you works at B of A, or knows some soul who does, and can help work this thing out. If the Hudsons are in a position to keep paying and avoid reposession, the bank should work with them.

3 comments

  1. Mike Warot’s avatar

    Doc, if you possibly can… find and talk with this colleague of yours at Harvard

    http://www.people.hbs.edu/ffrei/

    She has a VERY interesting take on what excellence in service really requires, in my humble opinion.

    –Mike–

  2. Jared Goralnick’s avatar

    Thanks for sharing this story, Doc. It’s irksome…wish I had someone to connect you/them with.

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