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How I Earned $201 and a Free Tractor from Three Hours on the Phone!

Jeff lives near a small town called Fennimore, WI, whose claim to fame is a small railroad museum, a small doll museum and five small banks!

The first Home Office of Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank of Blueberry, Wisconsin. (Photograph taken in 1958.)

The first Home Office of Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank of Blueberry, Wisconsin. (Photograph taken in 1958.)

October 31: The Day before I Called My Bank for Service

On October 31: My debit card was declined for the fourth time in a row while I tried to purchase five small items (for a total of $27.10) in the "Rush Lane" at our local Wal-Mart. I smiled sheepishly at the glowering line of people queued up behind me. (Inwardly, I was furious at my bank.) I have little cash - because I didn't need any! I eventually yell that I'm sorry to everyone around me and, by way of apology, I purchase the asthma inhaler for the wheezing old woman standing behind me, with all of my pocket change. Then I slinked out of Wal-Mart, humiliated and angry, while seething with the secret knowledge that I had over $3,000 in that debit card account!

Old picture of the Customer Service Department at the Home Office of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank in Blueberry, Wisc.

Old picture of the Customer Service Department at the Home Office of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank in Blueberry, Wisc.

November 1: My Morning of Phone Calls to the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Banks

November 1: I decide to call the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank the next morning, November 1st, before getting on to my farm chores.

I had calmed down after a night of screaming into my pillow and that morning I hurried my worried wife off to her job in town. Then, I start by dialing the local branch of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank, which just happens to be our only nearby bank, a couple of dozen miles outside Dodgeville, Wisc. It took me three tries to get through to anyone at the branch:

ME: Hello, I need to find out why my debit card didn't work at Wal-Mart yesterday.

MAN: No problem! What is your card number ... your expiration date ... your CCV number ... your Social Security number ... your secret password ... your username ... your wife's maiden name ... your wife's password ... your mother's maiden name ....your mother's birthplace ... your wife's username ... your father's birthplace ... and finally, your wife's secret code ... oh, and your wife's Social Security number?

(After four separate phone calls to my wife at her workplace and digging through my wallet for a few minutes, I finally answered all of these questions to his satisfaction.)

MAN: So, how can I help you, Mister Duff?

ME (almost spluttering): I told you, my debit card didn't work yesterday! Why doesn't my card work anymore? What's wrong with it?

MAN: You know, you and your wife have three different cards, right? Which debit card are we talking about: the card with Bugs Bunny on it, the card with the Green Bay Packers logo on it, or the card with Leo DiCaprio from the movie, "Titanic"?

ME (barely containing myself): Bugs Bunny!

MAN: Okay, okay, ... now let me see what's going on here. Just a minute ...

(I sit on hold for ten minutes, listening to the old Warner Brothers cartoon theme song, endlessly looping.)

MAN clicks back on the line (chuckling): All right, I see what happened now! Your account was closed by our Fraud Department ... because someone tried to use it with the wrong Social Security number. Would you know anything about that?

ME: No, not at all! What Social Security number did this person use?

MAN: Ha, I can't tell you! You must tell me the number.

ME (through gritted teeth): Grrr! Hold on ... it's 123-45-6789.

MAN (chuckling): Sorry, you gave me the wrong number again! According to our records, that is the incorrect Social Security number for your Bugs Bunny account.

ME: What are you saying? I just read it off my Social Security card!

MAN: Oops! Well, now I really DO have to transfer you to our Fraud Department.

ME: Where? Who? What did you say?

The Dodgeville Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank (the building was vandalized last year and will be repaired by next year, they say).

The Dodgeville Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank (the building was vandalized last year and will be repaired by next year, they say).

My Global Tour by Mobile Phone

The customer service guy puts me on hold for fifteen minutes, while I listen to a song that I later learned was the Canadian National Anthem, on an endless loop. Then, a woman picked up the line:

WOMAN: You've reached the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank. More precisely, you have reached the Department of Fraud. How may I service you?

(We repeat all of the security questions and identity quizzes asked by the customer service guy from my local branch office. After ten minutes, she came back on the line to announce that my Social Security number is not a match to the one they have in their computer system.)

ME: That's the number that's right here on my card ... you know, my blue Social Security card!

WOMAN: I don't know what your card looks like ...

ME: You don't have a Social Security card ...?

WOMAN: Sorry, I do not. I am in Toronto, Canada. I'm a proud citizen of Canada! Would you like to hear a little about the Canadian Social Retirement System?

The Toronto Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank.

The Toronto Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank.

I politely declined this opportunity to grow the cultural understanding between the United States and Canada. Then I returned to my Bugs Bunny card problem:

ME: Lady, what am I supposed to do? That's my actual Social Security number!

WOMAN: Just take it easy, eh? (She chuckled.) I'll pass you on to my supervisor!

ME: Great, great! I've been on the phone for over an hour now!

WOMAN: I'm very sorry, sir. I'm authorized to mail Canadian customers a gift card if we do something to make someone unhappy. But heck, you're just south of the border, so would you like a $50 gift card for your inconvenience?

ME: Yeah, that would be nice.

We work out the details of mailing the gift card to me and then she transfers me. I spend the next twelve minutes listening to elevator music that I think was Indian religious music (with lots of female singers wailing), and all of it on an endless loop. Finally, a woman answers:

A different WOMAN, who has an Indian or Pakistani accent: Hello, hello?

ME: Can you help me with this big problem I'm having with my debit card account?

WOMAN: First, you'll have to tell me who you are ...

We spend the next 10 minutes repeating everything I've already explained to the customer service guy at the Dodgeville branch and the woman at the Toronto branch. (I feel myself growing weak with thirst by the end of this discussion):

WOMAN: I am sorry to waste your time, but I don't know how you reached me! I am in the New Delhi branch of the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank. Sir, I can do nothing to help you in the, uh, United States.

ME: !@#$%^&*()_+!

WOMAN: I am sorry, sir, but I am authorized to give a small gift to our angriest customers! Would it help you, sir, if I mail you a 10,000 Rupee gift card as a token of our apology?

ME (after a pause to think): Really, a 10,000 Rupee gift card, you say? Sure! How much is that in American dollars?

She plays with her computer for a minute while I remember my dream of someday buying a nice lake home in northern Wisconsin.

WOMAN: Well, sir, at today's exchange rate ... 10,000 Rupees, it is worth about $51, give or take a few pennies. Isn't that nice for you?!

The New Delhi Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank.

The New Delhi Branch of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank.

The Current Home Office of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank in Blueberry, WI.

The Current Home Office of the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank in Blueberry, WI.

Next, the nice Indian woman transferred my call to a "top manager" at the bank's Home Office in Blueberry, Wisconsin (just up the road from me, you might say). After a series of beeps and an endless loop of old-time country and western music, lasting at least ten minutes, a deep-throated man finally answered the phone:

MAN: Hello, this is Mister ____________ and I'm a Vice-President with the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank Corporation. Who is this, please, and where are you calling from?

ME: I am Mister Jeffrey Duff and I'm calling you from down by Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

He and I then spent the next ten minutes reviewing my identification and security information, plus another twenty minutes discussing the favorite topics of most Wisconsin men: the Packers, the Brewers, the Bucks, and the current market price of milk, cheese and soybeans. (I started to get hungry as it was near my lunch time. Knowing I couldn't share it with him, I secretly cut up a raw onion and started to eat it.) Finally, after all other non-banking conversation had tapered off, he asked me:

MAN: Alright, so how can I help you today, Mr. Duff?

I took another ten minutes to explain the problem with my Bugs Bunny debit card not working and his underlings being unable to help me.

MAN: For heaven's sake, I can't help you with your debit card problem, either! Your problem is way below my pay grade. I'm sorry. But, hey, you're a farmer? We are offering some amazing rates on agricultural loans, right now! Could you use a new tractor on that small farm of yours', Mr. Duff?

ME: Well, it's interesting that you ask! I have had my eye on a new John Deere ZXL-8000, but what would I need to come up with, money wise?

MAN: You know, with all the federal money that's sloshing around out there for farmers, you could get yourself one sweet John Deere farm tractor! I've seen them, what a beautiful machine that ZXL-8000 is! If I were you, I would order the Warner Brothers' Special Edition tractor with a cartoon image of Foghorn Leghorn - you know, the rooster? - right on the side of the cockpit! Hilarious! I can give you an interest-free loan with the current government loan guarantees that are out there. What with the trade-in value for your lightly-used current tractor, it will be like you'll be getting your next tractor for free!

After a little more sales talk, he asked me if I wanted a new tractor loan at 'net-zero interest'? I agreed to go for it and we spent the next 30 minutes sharing loan and collateral information. Finally, he asked me if our business was done here?

ME: Umm, Mr. _____________, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you help me get my Foghorn - oops, I mean Bugs Bunny! - debit card re-activated?

MAN: Sure, you are one of our better farming customers! First, let me send you a $50 gift card for all of your troubles! Then, I'll tell you what, Mr. Duff, I'm going to transfer you to one of the top men in the parent corporation that owns us, all the way down in Dubai. I think he can help you! Just hold on the phone for a minute.

The World Headquarters of the Global Interstellar Bank Conglomerate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.  (The bank building is the curvy one.)

The World Headquarters of the Global Interstellar Bank Conglomerate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. (The bank building is the curvy one.)

After another twelve minutes of beeping and an endless loop of slow-moving orchestra music that I later learned was the national anthem of the United Arab Emirates, a different man picked up the phone. He introduced himself as a Senior Executive Vice President of the Global Interstellar Bank Conglomerate. He spoke to me in heavily accented English:

MAN: Hello, is this our good customer, Mr. Duff of Duff Agriculture? You are the one who obtains his many farm tractors with the help of loans from our subsidiary company, the Eleanor Sylvan and Brothers Bank System in the United States?

ME: Well, I don't know if you could call it 'many tractors', but I have bought more than a couple with the help of your, uh, bank in America.

MAN: Come, come, Mr. Duff! We appreciate our largest customers and want to thank you for your business! How can I help a big agricultural operator like yourself?

Well, then I went on to explain the mistaken deactivation of my Bugs Bunny debit card and that I had wasted a lot of time trying to sort out this annoying little problem.

MAN: I am so sorry about this, Mr. Duff. So sorry! There! I have reactivated your debit card with the push of just two buttons on my computer! By the way, as my very personal and heartfelt apology to you, can I mail you a $50 gift card today?

A John Deere tractor as large as the one that I purchased for almost free! Note the tractor in the photograph sadly lacks a cartoon image of Foghorn Leghorn.  (My huge thanks to Uncle Sam and the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank for my new tractor.)

A John Deere tractor as large as the one that I purchased for almost free! Note the tractor in the photograph sadly lacks a cartoon image of Foghorn Leghorn. (My huge thanks to Uncle Sam and the Eleanor Sylvan & Brothers Bank for my new tractor.)

____________________________

Who are Taking Many American Jobs?

If you enjoyed this humorous article and you want to know where all the good-paying jobs have gone, search this website for my semi-unrelated humor article, Dogs are Taking American Jobs (by Jeff Duff).

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