Safety Box | Three month odyssey to check out his diamonds stored at BMO

In this day and age where everything is computerized and backed up in the clouds, bank safety deposit boxes are both precarious and unsettling. But when you wonder for three months where yours is, and no one responds, the vault becomes a description of poor customer service.

Posted at 6:30 am

François Deschênes was stunned by the “surreal steps” he was forced to take to see and take into his hands the jewelry of his deceased sister. A “good value” diamond necklace and earrings, which he deposited in a safety deposit box at BMO about ten years ago.

The case began in November 2021, when he discovered his bank branch had moved to Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal. To make sure his box complied, he went to the new address. It was mid -December.

Surprise: the employee could not determine where the box was, because he could not find the carton where some important information appeared, including his number, François Deschênes said. We promise we will call him right away.

Still no news after the holidays, François Deschênes returned to the branch. Same scenario. He entered the vault carrying his key, but it was impossible to find the box without the famous box. And the BMO computer system doesn’t help.

I have never witnessed a bank move, but I think everything is done according to the rules of art. That it is not the brother -in -law who carries the clients ’papers, money and safety deposit boxes with him pick up. But where is that damn card? Mystery.

In February, a request was sent to headquarters. “Investigating the client’s safe, do not find the safe file + not placed in the system. Investigation: search safe contract + check safes sent to Revenu Québec”, it read. In March, François Deschênes wanted news. author of the request will be gone for an indefinite period.He writes immediately to the branch manager, but there are no more answers.


Overview of safety deposit boxes at a bank in Montreal

“I started to get bored. I contacted the ombudsman who suggested that I meet with the branch manager … the woman I wrote to! »

In rummaging through his belongings, François Deschênes found the number of his box, which he had forgotten. He returned to BMO. We let him turn the key on the lock. It works, but he’s not allowed to look inside, he says, because the bank can’t make the connection between him and the box. This is the uplifting part of the thing.

But François Deschênes asked himself. What if he was not allowed to preview the contents because the box was empty? He invented Hollywood scenes …

“The more time passes, the more I realize that it’s not serious. A box is supposed to protect our property, but it is managed incorrectly. It is the nature of the product that is symbolic. »


On Wednesday, I contacted BMO to understand what could have happened. On the same day, François Deschênes received a call of apology from the bank. The next day, the branch manager gave him access to his safe. Everything is there. The sixth visit was the good.

“If someone goes to BMO to access his box and only gets there after three months thanks to the intervention of a journalist, that’s a problem,” the Montrealer said furiously. . Fortunately, he didn’t need the content quickly.

At BMO, spokesperson Marie-Catherine Noël assured me that “all safety deposit boxes, keys, paper have been moved in an orderly and appropriate form”. But he could not explain to me what had happened “for reasons of confidentiality”.

As for François Deschênes, he did not know either. Now that everything is fixed, he is even more insulted by the lack of responses to his emails and follow-up.

Beyond the insane part of this story, it should be seen as a clear example of customer service breakdown. Have you ever tried to call a bank in the last year? A colleague from The Press waited recently in line to fix something with the credit card in … 8 hours and 19 minutes!

I also try to get answers from my card issuing bank. The waiting time is always more than two hours, I was warned at the beginning. So I went down. And I use a different method of payment. Last summer, when I wanted to open a bank account for my son at another institution, the branch told me to continue online. Online, I was forced to go to a branch. On the phone, employees told me something and vice versa.

The lack of staff will certainly have an impact. But this argument seems to have a wide back. Like a pandemic, of course. I prefer to see it as a form of apathy fueled by the fact that customers feel captive to their bank and that the level of competition is low.

“I would say that the service is not good quality at all banks and that it is even worse for credit cards,” summed up HEC Montreal Sales Institute director and customer service expert Jean-Luc. Geha. . This was true before the pandemic and it is even more so now, he says, because remote work brings security and staff management issues.

In addition, technology is playing with us. It allows us to do many things on our own. That is, when we picked up the phone, it was for complex business. “There are only serious cases that last. »

Is that progress?

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