Dear Washington Mutual

Dear WaMu — can I call you WaMu?

If I seem snippy, it’s because I’m that perturbed with your web site’s user interface to download my transactions. I’m writing you because I need to vent. I don’t expect anything more than a form letter back from Firstname LastInitial concatenating various blurbs+ to express unspecific sympathies and hands-thrown-in-the-air gestures. If you must know, reading your “Frequently Asked Question” list — yes, that’s the singular form — put me over the edge.

First, the system insists I enter preceding zeros for months and days, and the full four-digit year. Entering 9/16/2005 results in a forbidding message. I didn’t even try 9/16/05 for fear it would trigger a Y2K-style brownout. Might I suggest you add a little more javascript to the page to map these to your system’s rigid format? Heck, I’d even be happy to write it for you the next time I’m in my local grocery store’s WaMu kiosk, just entertain my kids for a few minutes.

Second, your back-end system limits transaction downloads to 90 days. This… is a problem for me. You see, um, I’ve been a very bad boy. Summer was, well, really fun. So fun, that it’s been, uh, four months (to the day) since I’ve last downloaded transactions. Life is too short to want to retype my May statement in just to coax Microsoft Money into balance itself, and putting a giant -$3,141.59 seems like such a hack. Pretty please with whipped cream and chalupas on top, increase this to six months?

Third, that reminds me, the user interface expects me to calculate 90 days from today. Go ahead, try it. If you said 6/17/05, excuse me, 06/17/2005, you made the error I did: July and August have 31 days, and the system counts today against my 90-day transaction limit, hence the correct answer is 6/21/2005. (Bob, what’s the consolation prize – a year’s supply of Turtle Wax, the San Francisco Treat!*) You know, it would help if, instead of throwing the red, forbidding box o’ error message you actually told me what day to use.

Fourth, when I attempted to download transactions for my checking, savings and mortgage files, I received an incomprehensively obtuse error message like “PRODUCT CODE INVALID.” (I tried to see it again, and now your site is giving me an error:

.mainfontred, th.mainfontred {color: #Fb561c; font-weight:bold;font-size:10px; font-family:verdana, sans-serif;}

div.error {
padding: 5px 2px 2px 15px;
background: #FFFDEB url(../images/icon_alert.gif) no-repeat;
background-position: 5px 5px;
font-weight: bold;font-family:verdana, sans-serif; font-size:10px;
border: 1px solid red;
margin: 0 0 1px 0;
text-align: left; vertical-align: middle;
color: #fb561c; }

We’re sorry, we are unable to process your request at this time. Please try again later.

Please call customer service at 1.800.788.7000. Thank you.

Customer Care Number: 3000
Date/Time: 09/17/2005 01:01:01 PM Pacific Time

Here are my reactions. First:

What the hell does this mean


Please enter a valid phone number in the format (xxx) xxx-xxxx
Now dance for me.

But I digress. The real cause is I asked for the export in whatever proprietary format Microsoft Money uses. The mortgage computer only exports CSV format. (Your site would benefit from some good QA.)

Fifth, while we’re at it, could you possibly remember which financial program I specified last time? I mean sheesh, you already share my information among your subsidiaries, what’s another data point, especially one that’ll be useful?

I’m sure there’s more, but I’ll save that for another visit. In the event an actual human reads this and takes the initiative to whittle down my sarcasm into specific and actionable suggestions for your web squad, then you get a gold star and I’ll be sanguine that my sarcasm was well-received.


+ Blurbs are standardized responses approved for customer support use.
* Yes, I know a year’s supply of Turtle Wax is one container and Rice-a-Roni is the “San Francisco Treat,” even though I’ve never actually eaten any while visiting San Francisco. (Is it a tourist food like poi or Japanese pickles?)

4 thoughts on “Dear Washington Mutual”

  1. It is, perhaps, the same logic that requires them to use an insufficient length of string on the stylus used by the signature-recording tablets. You don’t notice this unless you’re among the 10% of the population.

    I’ve already expressed my opinions on Home Depot’s self-checkout.

  2. I’m reliably informed by my native, still residing in Hawaii friends that poi is NOT a tourist food.

    And this letter is exactly why I maintain that all engineers should be forced to use what they build. Explain to me why the idiot who put together the new checkout stands put the pole support for the credit card swipe machine on the right side of the check writing platform when 90% of the population is right handed? Is this a subtle encouragement to stop using paper checks or just crappy engineering?

    WaMu’s interface sounds beyond fomplicated. I think you need a new portmanteau my friend.

  3. Four years later and their interface hasn’t changed. Except now they are Chase, and Chase is moving all the account information to – but leaving the downloadable transaction data behind!

    They say they’ll keep all your transactions after the switch available for seven years, which is nice and all, but data from more than 180 days prior to two days from now will be gone forever. So if you want it, download it.


    But you only get 90 days at a time. But not three months, so if you want the download files easy to deal with, you should do two months at a time and just have three files.

    Hey, at least they let you download all your accounts at once so even though I have ten accounts, I’ll be able to get them all in three file downloads.


    When you select them all, it tells you that “When selecting format, you must choose only 1 account at a time.” And it says that for all the offered formats.

    Uh, that means I have to do this thirty times!

    I called Chase and suggested that since they’ve chosen to throw their customer transaction histories in the bin and are forcing customers to download them all if they want to have them, that maybe they should (for just the next two days before the switch) change that 90-day-per-file limit to a 190-day-per-file limit so that the customers they are inconveniencing will be less inconvenienced.

    He said he’d notate that in my account.

    I asked why he would notate a suggestion meant for the IT department in my account. He claimed they would read it there.

    Clearly, he’s certifiably insane. That’s disturbing enough. But what if he isn’t insane? What if the IT department really reads every notation made in every account every day? That’s even more disturbing. For the sake of living a more carefree life, I’ll have to assume that all telephone customer service operators are insane axe-wielding maniacs. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

    Pity. I was kind of looking forward to what Chase might offer in terms of improvements. Looks like it’ll take another bank for that.

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