I had to renew my mortgage last month. 2.4% variable, that’s what I settled on. If the rates start to go up I’ll lock in, but for now I’m happy with that.
A few months before the renewal date I started to get calls from assorted sales reps at TD, all inviting me in for a chat about signing up again with them. But I was busy and hadn’t got around to setting up an appointment. Then, with time running short, TD sent me a letter, reminding me of the date, setting out their terms, and inviting me to do the paperwork online. It’s so easy, that was their message.
Trouble is, the rates they offered were awful. TD wanted to charge me thousands of dollars more than they would any good-credit stranger who walked in off the street. I wasn’t impressed. I’m still not. In fact I was insulted.
Another sales guy called me from the branch and I told him I’d decided to go elsewhere for my mortgage. He asked why and I told him about that letter.
“We’d negotiate with you,” he said. “That’s how it works. What have you been offered?”
I told him.
“We’ll match that,” he said cheerfully. It was a full half point less than the rate stated in the letter. Or about $40/mth on my mortgage. Every month. For five years. You're closing in on a $2500 saving, if the rate stayed constant.
I told him that I was troubled. I’ve paid TD an awful lot of money over the last five years, I said. I shouldn’t be offered a shitty rate. I shouldn’t have to negotiate. TD should offer me its best rate as a matter of course. I feel deceived. It’s about respect, I told him foolishly.
The sales rep was uncomprehending. He made some polite noises about being sorry that TD couldn’t earn my business. Gave me his direct number (I felt so special) in case I changed my mind. But he wasn’t really listening to me any more, I could tell. I was a dead lead to him now and he wanted off the phone so he could work on someone else. It was amazing how quickly he turned. But time is money, I’m sure that’s what he was thinking, what he’d been taught, and I was suddenly as useful to him on that snowy day as a beach blanket.
I think what bothers me most (and plenty bothers me about this practice, common to all the major lenders, I’m sure) is that it undoubtedly works, and works most often on those who can least afford to pay the higher bills. It works on those not tracking interest rates, and not doing their research for whatever reason. It works on anyone inclined to just trust their bank when the offer comes in on fine, soft-to-the-touch paper, watermarked and with a faux signature. My suspicion is it’s the less-educated and less wealthy bank customers who fall for this tactic most often. And so the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows a little larger still. Jesus. Will it never end?
I’m never surprised by this sort of thing, this sort of business tactic, of course; I'm just disappointed. And five years from now I’ll probably get a similar letter from my new lender. When that happens I’ll probably republish this piece and move my debt again.
There's no wisdom to be shared at the end of this little diatribe. All I know is that the ways we are mistreated by our banks are legion, and they are mundane, and they are, sadly, just about unavoidable.