Wachovia: $211 trillion "word-processing error"

Wachovia: $211 trillion "word-processing error"

Summary: Here's a real oddball one for you. Wachovia Bank sent a letter to one customer complaining he was overdrawn on his account.

TOPICS: Banking

Wachovia: $211 trillion “word processing error”

Here's a real oddball one for you. Wachovia Bank sent a letter to one customer complaining he was overdrawn on his account. According to WSBT television in Atlanta:

A Cobb County man got a letter from his bank with that very shocking news.

“And I open up the letter and I look at it and I’m like, ‘No, you’ve got to be kidding me,’ said Joe Martins.Martins said he recently closed an account at Wachovia Bank and made good on an outstanding check. He just got a letter about the closure and his negative balance -- $211,010,028,257,303.00. That’s $211 trillion.

Wachovia blamed the letter on a word processing error and the office of the president is sending a letter of apology.

Word-processing error? That implies the letter was manually typed by a bank employee, which seems unlikely, since a real person would have noticed the nonsense number. More likely, there was a back-end system bug, and bank doesn't want to disclose it.

Topic: Banking

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  • Not necessarily manually typed

    It was probably a mail merge and the fields got screwed up (the number was actually his account number, so it wasn't a random made up number or a data puncher leaning on his keypad). That could have happened at either the back end or the front end, but most likely it was the person who created the mail merge word document who screwed up. And don't tell me you've never heard of something like this happening at your job because there are a lot of people who have no idea how to use a word processor even though it's a critical tool of their job, but hopefully someone at your job would have caught it before it got mailed out.
    Michael Kelly
    • You could be right

      Mail merge usability has long been a real problem -- so you very well could be right on that one.

      Thanks for the tip.
    • Why not more?

      It seems like you'd hear more if this was the account number put in an amount field.
      • It sounds as if

        this particular customer had an ax to grind with Wachovia, and rather than go through the usual channel of pointing out the problem with Wachovia itself (I mean come on, even they would have quickly admitted and rectified the mistake in this case) he closed out his account and went straight to the news channels.

        And besides, would you let the media publish your account number if you had no plans on closing your account?
        Michael Kelly
        • Beef with Wachovia

          He actually said that they'd made mistakes on his account prior to this, that the account was already closed [i}(so he no reason to hide the account number)[/i] but what really concered him was that they were reporting him to an agency that rates risky bank customers.
          • Still

            going straight to the media before going to the people who sent the letter reeks of spite. I am not saying Wachovia isn't getting what they deserve, because they deserve a bit of egg on their face after a mistake like this. But I've had my bank make mistakes on my account, and all they took was one phone call to the local branch's manager to straighten them out (and I got a verbal and written apology in each case). I highly doubt he would have been stonewalled if he called his branch to point out an obvious blunder like this.
            Michael Kelly
    • Uh Oh

      So now everyone knows what this guy's account number is?
      • re: Uh Oh

        > So now everyone knows what this guy's account number is?

        What it USED to be, anyway. He was closing the account and settling up when the screwup happened.
  • RE: Wachovia: $211 trillion

    Too bad there wasn't a plus sign. Would have been fun to try to cash it.
    • RE: Wachovia: $211 trillion

  • TeleChek will still blacklist him

    If Wachovia actually reported this nonsense to TeleChek, it might raise a few new legal problems for itself, besides merely looking like incompetent fools...
  • RE: Wachovia: $211 trillion

    As they say, "to err is human, but to really &%^& up, you need a computer".
  • Walkallovaya strikes again

    When will people learn that these megabanks are not places where you want to put your money?

    And what does word processing have to do with a form letter like this?
  • RE: Wachovia: $211 trillion

    I've worked at banks in various positions and in one (it's easier than it seems), I accidentally over-posted someone's checking account with $51 million dollars from the previous nights FDIC account balancing (one digit caused the glitch). I had the bank president (yes the bank president) in my office in the morning asking... "Hey, you wouldn't have seen $51 million dollars lying around here anywhere, would you?" I nearly had a heart-attack, but his demeanor told me "don't worry about it - we'll find it," but he had to razz me about it. The operations department found it three days later (the head of that division still won't speak to me some 14 years later).
  • RE: Wachovia: $211 trillion

    Probably had a $19 overdraft charge too.
  • Hilarious and scary

    That's both hilarious and scary. Hilarious because there's no way a human would manually type out all those letters, it quite likely was a cover up for some back-end configuration error. Scary because a back-end configuration error that miscalculates money stats can result in errors much more serious then this, such as a negative effect on the active account balance. Lets hope that this is the extent of this mistake...

    - John Musbach
    John Musbach