Where the hell is Wells Fargo? Out on the dusty trail, I presume

UPDATE: See this post for final resolution that came in a phone call from a Wells Fargo executive.

Here’s a superb lesson in how not to manage your customer relationships and, especially, solve their problems.

What if your business was dependent upon online ecommerce and one of the processing chain providers cancelled your account without telling you, while the organization that owns the relationship and process cordially ignored you?

That’s what happened to us, and the big problem lies with our prime relationship, Wells Fargo, and how they dropped the ball (or stuff off the stagecoach if you like that metaphor better) and have not helped me resolve the problem in any way.

There’s a reason Wells Fargo uses a stagecoach as their symbol since it’s illustrative of the state of their leadership in merchant services…more aligned with the 1800’s than the demands of business in the 21st century.

After six years of successful ecommerce running on one platform, our hosting company let us know in January they were pulling the plug March 31st. So we made a change, rebuilt our site on a new platform in the first quarter, and launched the third week of March before the old one went dark.

Our new platform required us to set up a new processing gateway (really the whole chain from payment gateway to back-end credit card processing with a third firm to bank and the money then in our account). I chose my personal and commercial banking company, Wells Fargo, since I trusted them. The bonus was there would be a single relationship point, they could set up the payment gateway with partner Authorize.net and the back-end processor, and it was actually less expensive then us going direct with the latter.

But it suddenly stopped working two and a half weeks after we launched.

For the first few weeks we received “successful transaction” settlement reports from Authorize.net and credit card orders were processing fine…and the last couple of weeks my staff flagged me that there were zeroes on these settlement reports. Since many people order by phone or fax even today — and our sales weren’t suffering dramatically and we didn’t have a mass mailing going out until this past Monday — we initially assumed it was the economic downturn, people getting acclimated to the new site and so on.

Yesterday two customers called about credit card payment failures on our site. I went online and tried two purchases myself with two different credit cards: they both failed. Digging in at Authorize.net, I was stunned to see dozens of failed transaction attempts.

You won’t believe what I’ve gone through to get this problem resolved and no, it’s still not fixed at 3pm CDT.

UPDATE as of 6pm CDT: See the resolution at the bottom of the post.

Starting at roughly 4pm yesterday and going on for three hours, I talked with eleven different people over seventeen different phone calls with Wells Fargo, Authorize.net, (and was mistakenly transferred to Card Service Int’l once due to confusion over my old account vs. new one) and ultimately to First Data (the current credit card processor Wells Fargo uses).

All three were finger-pointing at one another, there was confusion over old account vs. new account, and no one took responsibility nor would see the problem resolution to the end and help me get it resolved.

I finally discovered at 7pm last evening, three hours after I started and after telling the story at least a dozen times, that First Data “Security” had closed my payment processing account on April 10th without telling me, informing Wells Fargo or Authorize.net! Of course, the First Data Security department is on the east coast and was closed, so my calling was over for the evening.


Immediately this morning I called First Data (FD) Security and — much to my disbelief and the befuddlement of the several FD people I’ve talked with — no one can figure out why the account was closed and even now, six hours later, it’s still unknown. The one person that could help hasn’t been responsive to voicemails (“I’ll get back to you before close of business” it says on his voicemail) and I’ve been told three times by his minions he’s the only one that can help me (yeah, right).

OK that’s it,” I thought. So I launched a call and email to First Data Merchant Services head Elizabeth Grice and CC’ed the President of First Data USA, Ed Labry, in order to escalate this myself since no one else could help me.

A woman from the “Presidents office” called me, they’ve opened a case, and now I’m waiting and no resolution is in sight (and adding insult-to-injury, after two and a half hours *I* had to call to ask her for a status update!). It’s clear that there’s no real incentive to put Steve Borsch’s ecommerce on the front burner so I’m waiting and doing this post…which I’ll cheerfully provide to Wells Fargo and First Data PR, marketing and key executives.

But here’s the real question: Should I be figuring out why the Wells Fargo partner has made a mistake and work to get it resolved myself, taking hours to do so, or should this be Wells Fargo’s job?


What I really want to know is where the hell is the so-called relationship leader Wells Fargo in this mess? Why aren’t they helping me, a personal and commercial customer (with substantial assets at the bank) and managing a process they should have down cold?

Here’s the vision laid out by Wells Fargo to which I’d call “bullshit” to the face of Chairman Richard Kovacevich: We want to satisfy all of our customers’ financial needs, help them succeed financially, be the premier provider of financial services in every one of our markets, and be known as one of America’s great companies.

They are not helping me or my business succeed financially when they don’t handle the basics of Merchant Services and it’s up to me to chase down a problem like this and get it resolved. Their employees and systems are geared solely around transactions and not a relationship comprised of people who have needs, goals and objectives.

The most telling part of how they’ve fallen down with service is this from Wells Fargo’s “Vision and Values” Customer Service page:


  • you make me feel at home. “No you don’t. In fact, it’s implied that my small business actually isn’t all that important”
  • you care about me. “No you don’t or you’d help me”
  • you make me feel special. “No you don’t…it’s just boilerplate lip service stuff”

Delivering value

  • you give me the right advice. “No you don’t. You pass the buck”
  • you provide me value. “Mostly you do”
  • you keep your promises. “No you don’t nor have you come close to achieving your vision or living up to your values”

Following up and building relationships

  • you help me when I really need it. “No…you really don’t”
  • you know me. “No you don’t”
  • when you make a mistake you make things even better. “No you don’t and you haven’t”
  • you thank me. “No you don’t…not even once nor did you apologize and instead told me all the reasons why you were unable to help me”
  • you reach out to me. “No you don’t. I have to reach out to YOU again-n-again”


In a day when our economy is tanking, lip service is paid by politicians and business leaders about the “engine of innovation” that small business represents, and that mapping business to the Internet and Web is more important than ever before, ecommerce needs to be simpler and organizations like Wells Fargo need to step-up and be there for their customers (especially small businesses) especially when their value chains fail.

In interviews with Dick Kovacevich, he’s made it clear that his strategy includes ways to “upsell, cross-sell, have relationships with our customers over their lifecycle”.  In situations where partners or alliances like First Data and Authorize.net own a big chunk of a mission-critical process (which credit card processing certainly is!), it’s an absolute imperative that the bank have relationship management as their #1 focus vs. the finger-pointing and baton-passing of the customer that I’ve experienced and is a nightmare with seemingly no escape.

I’ll update if and when this gets resolved.

UPDATE at 6pm CDT: Turns out this entire fiasco is the fault of Wells Fargo and not First Data.

At roughly 2pm, First Data Security gave me the punchline: they couldn’t help me and instead referred me to my original Wells Fargo account person (who’d set up our account but couldn’t help me) and I asked to escalate it to a supervisor. Deana Zizi got on the phone and we discussed the situation at length.

I should note that on all of these 11 or so hours of calls with these three entities, I “agreed” to allow my call to be “recorded for quality assurance purposes” and legally recorded the call on my end too. So I own all those calls and have a nice audit trail.

In any event, turns out that Wells Fargo risk management made a determination — without consulting anyone nor bothering to call us — that because we “sold subscriptions” to a newsletter we were an unacceptable risk of possible chargebacks.

Huh?  We’ve been selling this newsletter subscription for 19 years and doing transactions (first with a credit card terminal in our offices; then via ecommerce since 2001; and right up to the present day with Wells Fargo) so how could this possibly come as a surprise!?!

So some Wells Fargo drone made an arbitrary decision, there was apparently some email that never was responded to (from Ronald Jackson our account guy to risk management) so risk management apparently just pulled the plug on our account without bothering to call us or even to have the common courtesy to let us know it occurred!?!

Ms. Zizi made a call to “Debbie” in risk management who she said reversed her decision and now has reinstated our account and it should be online and functional by tomorrow morning. If not, Ms. Zizi provided me with her phone number to call immediately upon trying a test transaction if it happens to fail.

I am so damn glad that this 13 hour adventure is over. My hope is that someone at an executive level (specifically the Chairman) at Wells Fargo reads this and changes their process surrounding arbitrary account cutoff and communication with the customer before a cutoff (and slaps around customer service for baton passing and finger pointing instead of helping a customer resolve a mission-critical business issue). This cutoff has cost us roughly $4,000 in lost business, unknown customer goodwill, my own angst and the fact that I wasted an entire day and evening doing Wells Fargo’s job.

They should be ashamed and revisit their “Vision and Values” one more time. Either live the values and strive toward the vision or remove those words from the website.


  1. Ken Kennedy on May 7, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    One thing I’m glad of is that you’ve done this excellent writeup, Steve. We ALL need to start doing more of this, and expecting more from unresponsive, disconnected corporations. We have to leverage our ability to share our experiences; thanks for doing so.

  2. Eric Remer on May 8, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    I’m sorry to hear this happened to you. As we’ve all dealt with being ignored by corporate customer service, your situation sounds especially frustrating. We run an organization focused on small business and have heard stories like yours time and time again involving large corporations with lousy customer service. The problem is, companies have become so big, that to them it seems more costly and time-consuming to employ a compassionate staff of individuals than to lose a few clients due to poor customer care. We pride ourselves on caring for each of our client’ needs and resolve 80% of our customer service issues within the hour. We also offer your described hosted ecommerce payment needs as well as ACH, eCheck, merchant account, recurring billing, and email invoicing functionality within one robust system–-at prices much lower than what you’re probably paying. You’ll be amazed at how much a company focused on serving small businesses like yours can not only meet your needs but truly HELP your business succeed and grow. Please contact us at 800-466-0992 and mention your story—-we’ll give you free setup of our solution (normally $200) if you want to sign up. Once again, sorry to hear about your unfortunate experience, but we hope to hear from you!


    Eric Remer
    CEO of PaySimple

  3. Ed Labry, President First data on June 4, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Look no further than the president who is nothing more than a corporate raider. Check out his federal court dockets. Just ask any lawyer to type in his name and see all his past and present lawsuits.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Posts by Category

Archives (2004 – Present)

Connecting the Dots Podcast

Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.