Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Complaint on the Declining Status of Marriage

No, I’m not talking about gay marriage, which I will probably vote for someday, if it comes to a state referendum. And I’m not talking about widespread divorce, either, although that is certainly a problem, and is perhaps related to my beef.

My complaint is that businesses no longer take marriage seriously. Yesterday, I noticed that my life insurance information was still being forwarded from my old address. I called the firm up, to change my address. No problem. How about changing my wife’s address? “You can’t do that, only your wife can change her address.”

A couple days earlier, I had trouble logging on to my bank account. I needed to reset the password. I called the bank, which informed me that they could set up a new online identity accessing the same account – which would have none of the information on the bills I pay regularly – or I could have my wife call them up to reset the password on the existing online identity. You see, the online identity was linked to my wife, not me (even though it includes my name!).

In each case, the firm has instituted a security measure which may seem to occasionally make sense given the sleazy behavior of some divorcing couples. But treating your married clients like they’re all in the throes of an ugly divorce is both inconvenient and disrespectful.

And it doesn’t actually do anything to improve security. As I explained to the bank, my wife and I have a joint checking account, and I could, if I so wished, write a check to drain every penny from the account, and my wife would have no recourse. Further, I have legitimate access by various means to all of the past transactions in the account. Since a checking account’s value is limited to the money in it, and perhaps also to the information incorporated in its history, there was no logical reason to keep me from using the online banking system (even apart from the fact that I had in fact been using for over a year). Q.E.D. – but not to the bank.

Further, as with the insurance address change, if I were acting improperly, I could have done my evil deed with the aid of any woman – say, one of the many mistresses I’d be leaving my wife for. Just as I could have been any male voice claiming to be me, as long as I had certain account information in front of me, if I had had any adult female in the room, I could have put her on, to claim to be my wife, and no one would have been any wiser. For that matter, I could have done this even if my wife kept a separate account, provided I found one of her statements, something a departing husband would likely have had access to. (And as far as our life insurance is concerned – it’s a cheap term policy with no cash value whatsoever.)

As I explained to the bank’s customer service people, one of the economic advantages of being married has long been that you could combine various properties and accounts and B.S. errands, so that one member could take care of the business of both, saving time and consolidating resources. This is increasingly not the case. I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s helpful to any civic purpose, and it’s not a good way to treat your customers.


Southview said...

Another example of corporate stupidity because they are more concerned with protecting their bottom line than customer service. A rash knee jerk responce put forth by some mid-level wannabe corporate, type trying to make a name for themselves. Of course it doesn't make any sence because no one took the time to think about the policy and ask questions..."what if?" Welcome to the world of GREED at any cost! And the cost is usually customer service!

DWPittelli said...

I don't think greed and butt-covering are the same thing. Even a maximally greedy firm should more rationally try to please its customers. A firm avoiding a narrowly defined downside, at the expense of pleasing customers overall, is not more greedy, just less wise.

Mike said...

Greed & butt-covering are different. But butt-covering, i.e,, litigation protection is tied to greed: it costs a lot to litigate, even more to settle, and most of all to fight and lose.

Welcome to America, Version 0.7. It's only getting worse.