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Issue2 Page4

Common Courtesy at Bank of America
By Nolan Darilek
I, like many, closed my account with Bank of America late last year. Unfortunately, a surprising direct deposit re-opened the account, which was again closed with the support of five fellow members of Occupy Austin. The alert arrived early one morning, a "courtesy" balance notification from an account I'd thought was closed. An Amazon affiliate marketing venture had finally paid off unexpectedly, and the direct deposit reactivated the account. I had also unknowingly been opted into a minimum balance at some point during my twelve years with Bank of America. My account was thus being charged fees on these direct deposits, which existence was unknown to me. Finally, and most infuriatingly, my account was only selectively reopened. As someone who is blind, I rely heavily on debit alerts as receipts, electronic deposit notifications as pay stubs, and a number of other emailed alerts in lieu of paper which must be scanned or read by others before being tossed into our landfills. While Bank of America opened my account to the extent that it earned them money, they did not re-enable anything other than the courtesy balance notification, likely only in place to alert me that my closed account would soon be of no use to them unless I decided to start putting money in it again.

Closing the account was luckily rather straight-forward. With the help of fellow occupiers, we were able to both get the fees refunded and empty the account. I could write about a number of things, from the banker's unwillingness to explain how this 30-day window was anything other than a vehicle to extort fees, to the teller's unwillingness to accept a passport even though it was perfectly fine on several occasions in the past. Instead, I would rather focus on a unique aspect of this closure that highlights the degree to which this system is broken. I occupy for a number of reasons, some usual, some not. There were two interactions that stood out for me, one of which I'd missed because it happens so commonly to me that it slips into the background of my life unnoticed. I am used to people's experiences with blindness being defined by Helen Keller. This means that I am invariably spoken loudly or slowly to, as if hearing loss goes hand in hand with sight loss. At the doors, I was greeted by an overly loud call from one of the bankers in the lobby. I had assumed that this was because they were used to Occupy interfering with their business, but when it was pointed out during the post-closure rant session that this person may very well have been yelling at me because she assumed I couldn't hear, I had to admit that was a very likely possibility. The second was minor, but huge in its implications. Before the teller handed me my final account balance, she spoke of me in... Cont’d page 5

Below: Artwork by Nikaeal Valentina Roe Sainz