Don't let Marlowe become a street cat!
I started this campaign a few months ago when my ex, Tessa, fell on some very bad times. At the time she was going to school, getting training to restart her life after we lost everyting in the old economy. She fell behind on her payments on a creditcard held by WellsFargo. When the living stipend she was receiving from the state of Washington as part of the program she was enrolled in arrived, WellsFargo drained the account. What they did was technically legal - though - morally reprehensible. I've saved the original version of this campaign below if you want the details. That's history.
During the original campaign, we raised about half of what she lost to WellsFargo, which was enough to carry her over for a while. She paid that month's rent and finished her program with flying colors and glowing recommendations. But, that means the stipends have stopped. She's had some short contract jobs and unrelated office temp jobs, but not enough to keep her from falling further behind. Last week, her car was repossessed and her current temp job is in another town.
Tessa is very good at what she does. She's trying to break into programing and/or web design. She has over ten years expreience as a technical writer in those industries. Her problem is not one of talent, it's one of social contacts. After her last tech writing job, she spent six years trying to grow a home business in a completely unrelated field. That's a whole generation in the tech world. Her contacts are gone, most of the companies she worked for are gone. She's starting over at year one. Her talent will be recognized. She just needs to survive till then.
Tessa has always been one to help others whenever she could. She would gladly run a fundraiser like this for her friends. She's not asking to become dependent on your good will. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a long tunnel.
The old version
What's the short version?
WellsFargo drained Tessa Murphy's bank account because she was delinquent on her credit card payments. They waited until her college living stipend had been deposited before doing this. Her rent check, written on that same WellsFargo account, will now bounce. She is also unable to buy food, gas, or pay any of her other bills. There might be some way to work things out with WellsFargo over time, but right now she needs to pay her bills.
How much does Tessa need?
The stipend WellsFargo siezed was for $4600. GoFundMe supports itself by taking a small cut of what we raise. The proceeds are taxable income, so we must put something aside for that. And, of course, WellsFargo will be slapping fees on every transaction that bounces because her account is empty. I'm aiming for a minimum of $6000. Anything over that will go to retiring her WellsFargo debt so she can close all her accounts and never have to do business with them again. She also might get a few cans of that fancy cat food for Marlowe. This has been very stressful for him.
Is that the whole story?
As promised in an earlier version, here's the long version of the story. For those of you who don't know us, Tessa is my ex. When we split up, she got custody of Marlowe. Both of us have barely been scraping by since then. Both of us have qualified for state assistance programs (that's all you need to know about me). In Tessa's case, she's been enrolled in a college program to buff up her programming to better fit the current market. The program comes with a living stipend so she can apply most of her time to studying. When we split up our assets, Tessa took two Wells Fargo bank accounts with her, her personal account and a business account for the crafts business we'd been trying to build. This where the problems came in.
We'll have more of the story in a minute, but, first, let's pause for a word from our sponsor. You might be asking yourself: “What's this crafts business of which he speaks?” If you haven't asked yourself that, I'll wait here while you do. Back already? Okay. For ten years now, Tessa has been making lovely scented things—soaps, lotions, incense, and more. Her products have a dedicated following of which I remain a member. You will be doing yourself a big favor if you go to her page Tessa Essentials and check out her products. By the way, she built that website.
A few months ago, Tessa decided she was running up too much debt on the business credit card and closed the account to avoid further temptation. She talked to someone there and thought she had a verbal agreement to pay as much as she could afford whenever she could manage it. (Please, don't tell us that's not how banks work; we know that, now.) She got behind on payments. Three weeks ago, Wells Fargo drained her personal account and applied it to the balance on her business account. They didn't do this on any old day. They waited for her living stipend for the quarter to arrive and then seized everything. She had already written her rent check on that account, so it was going to bounce and, of course, Wells Fargo would be able charge her fees for that.
The legal niceties
Was it legal for them to raid her account like that? Was it legal for them to raid her personal account for debt incurred on a business account? Was it legal for them take more than her current payment? Although banking laws vary from state to state, as best we can tell, it all three steps were technically legal—immoral, callous, and inhumane, yes, but still technically legal.
Back to the story
Some of you might have thought of a fourth question that needs to answered: Was it legal for them to raid her account without warning her? They did, sort of. When Tessa found out her bank balance was zero, she called Wells Fargo in a panic to find out what happened. They explained what they had done and said they had made several attempts to contact her in writing. She and her roommate sister have found no trace that they ever received written notice of this action. Tessa's original phone call to them bears some special scrutiny. Tessa was referred to Collections rather than Customer Service. That much makes sense. They had the facts and they also had her money. When she started to explain her situation to the WellsFargo employee, she was abruptly cut off in mid-sentence and told “you're not getting any of that money back.” The only written notice she or her sister can locate is one they received later dated the same day as that phone conversation.
What happened next
Like most institutional bullies, WellsFargo is fine behaving this way without witnesses. It's a completely different story when the world sees what they're up to. When I created this crowdfunder I posted in on my Facebook page and tweeted it—with Wells Fargo's Twitter address. When I checked in the following morning, I found three tweets from Wells Fargo practically begging me to get Tessa to DM them (back in private out of the public's eye). They offered nothing new. They're not giving a penny back and they'll be happy to work out some schedule to pay off her balance, assuming she doesn't end up on the street due to non-payment of her rent. Fortunately, her landlady was understanding and agreed to cut her some slack while I tried to raise money for her and she searched out her options for legal or social services relief.
- Janet Stemwedel
- Karen Davis
- Gregory Gbur
- Tom Sinclair
Organizer and beneficiary
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