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Man sees negative balance, robs bank

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Posted: 7 pm ET

It's understandable to be frustrated with your bank when you find out you have an unexpected negative balance at an ATM. Deciding to rob the bank then and there in response? Not so much.

From Bay News 9 in St. Petersburg, Fla.:

Police arrested a man they said robbed a Bank of America branch after asking the teller why he had a negative balance in his checking account.

James Patrick Andrews, 43, entered the branch at 2335 34th Street North last Friday morning and tried to use his ATM card in the bank. When he learned there was no money in his account, police said, he approached a teller and asked her why.

According to the arrest report, Andrews then passed a note to the teller, demanding $1,000. He told her not to walk away from her window or press any alarm button or people in the lobby would be hurt. No weapon was implied or seen, police said.

The teller complied, and Andrews left the bank with an undisclosed amount of money and got into a Hyundai Sonata driven by another man, the report said.

According to another report from the Tampa Bay Times, Andrews had a pretty urgent need for the cash. He owed money to his drug dealer.

While you probably don't have to worry about being knee-deep in debt to a crack dealer, there are some lessons we can all learn from Andrews' experience.

As Andrews could probably tell you, flying off the handle or panicking when you get a negative bank balance probably won't end well. Aside from affecting a customer service representative's motivation to help you solve your problem, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees who are confronted with verbal aggression perform worse at their jobs because they're having to expend mental resources coping with the bad behavior emotionally rather than concentrating on their work.

So acting rashly when dealing with a customer service rep may cause them to be less able to remember the details of your bank account and solve your problem quickly and effectively, even if they want to.

Secondly, your negative balance may be the result of fraud or a bank error rather than you unexpectedly running out of money. These days, debit card fraud is rampant, thanks to frequent data breaches at retailers.

Lastly, if a severely negative bank balance is the result of a bunch of overdraft charges for small purchases, banks may be willing to work with you and forgive some of the charges.

What do you think? What's the best way to get good customer service from a bank? Have you ever had to negotiate with a bank over a negative balance? How did it turn out?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

Senior banking reporter Claes Bell is a co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book written by Bankrate editors and reporters. It's available at all the major e-book retailers

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Bugs Preston
August 20, 2013 at 12:57 am

The best way to get customer service from a bank?
Don't ask for any.

August 17, 2013 at 4:20 pm

"What's the best way to get good customer service from a bank?"

Make tracks and join a credit union.