Mark Phillips was at the Sports Bar & Grill in St. Petersburg on Tuesday night when it happened. His Wachovia-branded debit card wouldn't work, leaving him in the lurch to pay the tab.
He soon found out he wasn't alone. Both the bar manager and a server said their Wachovia cards weren't working.
Turns out the conversion of Florida's most widespread bank, Wachovia, into the Wells Fargo system — a switch nearly three years in the making — hit a few bumps along the way.
Wells Fargo spokesman Kathy Harrison confirmed that some branches reported scattered customer complaints this week about debit cards being deactivated.
In the weeks leading up to the Florida branch conversion in June, Wells Fargo initially said all of its Florida customers would be able to continue using their Wachovia cards after the transition. But it found that about 18,000 of its older Wachovia cards in the North and Central Florida region (less than 1 percent of its 2.2 million debit cards issued in that area) could not be converted to the Wells Fargo system.
The affected customers, Harrison said, were alerted in a letter that their Wachovia cards would not work effective July 12 and that replacement cards would be sent in the mail before then.
Phillips, for one, said he watches his mail closely and never received a replacement card. When he went to a Wells Fargo branch in St. Petersburg to complain early Wednesday, he was told he was the third customer that day citing the same issue.
What bothered him most, Phillips said, was not the glitch, but that he couldn't get a straight answer from the bank's customer service.
During his first phone call, he was told he had multiple Wachovia cards (which he didn't) and that the wrong one had been turned off. The second time, he was told the card was deactivated as a security measure because Visa alerted the bank it may have been compromised by an online merchant.
It wasn't until he went to the bank branch that a teller told him the issue was connected to the Wachovia-Wells Fargo conversion. "It bothers me that they would cover it up, not tell me and then lie to me about it," he said.
Phillips considered himself fortunate that the Sports Bar & Grill manager was sympathetic, letting him come back the next morning to pay his bill.
"Right now I'm looking for a replacement bank," he said. "Or maybe a credit union."