|by Jason Steele|
Last week, I told you about a Bank of America customer, Ms. Ann Minch, who made a YouTube video in protest of her interest rate being hiked. At that time, I applauded her for her strategy of making a public appeal to executives, yet criticized her for encouraging people to default on their credit card debt in protest.
Now comes word that her strategy worked, for her. Specially, she did hear from a BofA executive with whom she was able to negotiate her rate down. The article reports that her video received 240,000 views on YouTube, and that she has since posted a follow-up video boasting of her victory. It is unclear if she still is encouraging others to default on their credit card debt.
No matter what your grievance with a company is, they will cave if you can give them enough bad publicity, or make a credible threat of doing so. So long as her YouTube rant continued to be viewed, it was only a matter of time before the bank decided the bad publicity was not worth it. This is called the Unscrewed method, as described by Ron Burley in his book by the same name. The idea is that companies, large and small, are in business to make a profit by any means necessary. Some may still believe that the customer is always right, but most just want to make as much money as possible. According to Burley’s book, often the only way to compel a company to do the right thing is to take actions that will make it in their best interest to give you what you want.
When seen through this paradigm, it is clear that BofA thought they had more to gain by acceding to her demands than not. Sometimes, it takes some creativity and a little bit of chutzpah to successfully pull off an Unscrewed attack. A close relative of the unscrewed attack is the Executive Email Carpet Bomb (EECB). This is the strategy of sending your complaints directly to the executives of a company, rather than be denied by customer service. I personally have had success by combining the EECB with the Unscrewed method. When I have been seriously mistreated, I merely threaten to make my complaints public in an email to a company’s executives. It is not an empty threat, and companies prefer to do the right thing before I go public, rather than after I publicize their mistreatment. In the end, everyone wins.
Where She Went Wrong
What bothered me about her approach was that she was encouraging others to behave in an irresponsible way. If she wants to ruin herself financially, or threaten to do so, that is one thing. It is an entirely different thing to incite others, who may not be very savvy, to ruin their own finances to be part of her “revolt”.
Over at CreditLaw.com, they have an interesting post detailing some of the consequences of her threatened actions, and some of the steps that could have taken.
The other thing that I found objectionable, was her personalization of the problem in which she referred to Bank of America executives as “evil, thieving bastards.” Just because a company raised the interest rate they are charging you, that doesn’t make it right to slander people. It is acceptable to refer to a policy or practice as being evil or thieving, but not individual employees of that company.
I have never actually used an EECB or the Unscrewed method on a credit card company. The credit card business is an extremely competitive marketplace, especially when you pay your bills on time and maintain a good credit score. When I have problems, I often get them fixed very quickly over the phone on the first try. That is rarely the case with the airline industry for example. When my problems are not resolved quickly, I can always just cancel my card, another benefit of not carrying a balance. There are so many other cards to choose from, I don’t loose much sleep over dumping a bank that is not acting reasonably.
Ann Minch put herself in this situation by incurring debt on a credit card that can vary it’s rate at any time. She got out of this fix with a clever video in which she threatens to default on her debt while encouraging others to do the same. I am glad she had her situation resolved, but I hope none of her viewers were inspired to follow her off a financial cliff.