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Bank Fired The Wrong Person.

Emily James, was a senior banker at a U.S. Bank call center in Portland, OR until she was fired at the beginning of the new year.

James’ “crime’ leading to her termination?

An outstanding act of kindness and good will toward a customer during the Christmas season.

On Dec. 23, Emily James, a senior banker at a U.S. Bank call center in Portland, said she spent more than an hour trying to help [Marc] Eugenio, a bank customer whose paycheck from a new job had been placed on hold. The hold meant he couldn’t access the funds – just over $1,000 – and was essentially broke before Christmas.

She told Eugenio to visit his Clackamas bank branch in the morning – Christmas Eve – and ask a bank manager to verify the funds from the issuing bank. Eugenio went to his bank and got his boss to verify his employment, but the branch manager was on vacation, and the bank was closing early for the holiday. There was no one, he was told, who could lift the hold.

“(The woman at the bank) said, ‘My hands are tied, I can’t do anything,’ ” he said.

When Eugenio left the bank, he said workers locked the doors behind him.

Frustrated, he again called the U.S. Bank 800 number to speak to the woman who had helped him the day before. He said he was calling from a gas station in Clackamas, unable to even fill his tank.

“I said, ‘I wish I had just $20 bucks to get home,’ ” Eugenio recalled. “And she said ‘Wait, hold on.’”

James handled calls from customers across the country and said it was rare to speak to anyone local. But in this case, Eugenio was just a few miles away.

While Eugenio was on hold, James went to her supervisor, told him the situation and asked if she could take her lunch break so she could go to the gas station and give Eugenio some money of her own.

After all, it was Christmas.

The supervisor told her to stay on the clock and go.

After all, in the minds of these two people, they had a customer in trouble through no fault of his own. He had done everything right by the bank’s policies and still was not able to get access to his money for the holiday and much worse, even to get home.

Instead of turning Eugenio away like everyone else in the company had because of computer rules, or wanting to close early or not having the right people in place to actually help people, James hopped in her car and drove 14 miles to the gas station where Eugenio was waiting and gave him twenty dollars of her own money.

The money did come with a wish of a Merry Christmas, a hug and great appreciation from Eugenio.

James got in her car, and returned to work after making the world a little brighter and showing a little kindness.

She finished her shift and another shift on December 30.

The story then takes an ugly turn.

But on New Year’s Eve, she said, the regional service manager was waiting for her when she arrived at work.

“She said, ‘We’re sorry, we cannot keep your employment,’” James said. The reason, James said, was because of her “unauthorized interaction with a customer.”

“They were worried about my safety,” James said. “He could have kidnapped me or shot me. But I wouldn’t have left or even tried to ask if that was OK if I thought that this person would hurt me.”

The interaction with Eugenio happened in the middle of the day, at around 3:30 p.m., with other people around.

James said her supervisor, who gave her permission to deliver the money, was also fired, though The Oregonian/OregonLive was unable to independently confirm this.

After initially not commenting on “employee matters” such as the firing of James and her supervisor, US Bank decided to answer some questions.

U.S. Bank initially declined to comment. But Lee Henderson, vice president of public affairs and communications, confirmed this week that both James and her supervisor were fired over the incident.

“Our policies and procedures for call center representatives are in place to both help and protect our employees and customers,” he said in a written statement. “Ms. James’s employment was terminated because rather than using the proper processes and procedures to help the customer, she chose to pursue a course of action that placed herself and the bank at risk.”

[…]

“(James) had a solution that she knew about that was at her disposal that for whatever reason she did not use,” he said in an interview. “She knowingly broke the rules. She put herself at unnecessary risk.”

[…]

James doesn’t know what solution he means.

“I tried everything I knew how to do, and no other manager had another outside-the-box option for me,” she said. “If I was given another option, I absolutely would have tried it.”

The bank’s mouthpiece is belied by several facts. First, the interaction between James and Eugenio at the gas station in front of other people at approximately 3:30 PM. In broad daylight.

Secondly, people had been working with Eugenio to get him at least some portion of his money, but none were able to do so. The local branch didn’t have anyone there that could lift the hold on the check. They literally closed the door on Eugenio. James herself had spent an hour with Eugenio on the phone and then went and talked to her supervisor. Neither had a way to help Eugenio because the bank’s policies wouldn’t let them. They could not lift the hold on the check. Therefore when the spokesman said James had other “solutions,” it must have been a solution that neither James, her supervisor, or the employees at the bank location knew about because no one offered it.

No one said “we can do this…..” because “this” doesn’t exist.

Well, maybe it does…. sort of…

Eugenio said someone at the bank branch did offer him another “solution.”

“He offered me a credit card or a loan,” Eugenio said. “That was the most insulting part of all.”

James was the epitome of the above and beyond customer service that companies say they want.

For that, she was fired.

While James and her supervisor were the ones fired, it is clear that US Bank fired the wrong people. They should have fired the idiot / moron who made the decision to fire the pair.

This was a scenario that screams positive customer relations.

US Bank could have made James’ actions part of a campaign as to how much the bank cares and the lengths the bank will go.

It could have simple said “Merry Christmas to our great employees and our customers who make the season brighter.”

Instead, they kicked James and the supervisor to the curb. Told them to “get out.” “Leave.” “Don’t let the door hit you on the butt.”

The good news is that James is getting job offers from other businesses.

In the week since her story made international news, Emily James, the banker fired from a U.S. Bank call center in Portland for a Christmas Eve act of kindness, has been “overwhelmed and emotional” from the outpouring she’s received.

“It made me cry, just the fact that people actually care,” she said. “I’ve had more people reach out and just have something kind to say in the last (few) days than in my whole life.”

[…]

Then last week her account to The Oregonian/OregonLive went viral. She’s had several job interviews, including with other local banks, but hasn’t yet started another job. Several companies reached out over social media, wanting to hire her.

That’s great in our view. A person who actually cares about customers is an asset to any business. US Bank doesn’t deserve her or the supervisor, but the bank does deserve all the scorn that can be heaped upon it.

We see how much US Bank cares about its employees, but its lack of interest in customer service is exemplified even further by the fact that to this day, the bank has not called or spoken to Eugenio.

But that credit card or car loan offer is still available!



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