Thursday, August 30, 2018


The following story is true.
No names were changed to protect the guilty.
Sorry for the length of this tale of woe but it spans more than one year.

My mother in law (mom) had her money in three banking institutions, Astoria Federal, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and J P Morgan Chase (Chase.)

The main reason for Chase & Astoria accounts were their proximity to her home. Both conveniently had branches within a couple of blocks.

Since she was a sprightly 93 last year we decided we should be able to monitor her accounts for obvious reasons.

I always felt it was a good idea to start consolidating our accounts as we get older since we might forget where one or two were.

Complicating matters was the take-over of Astoria by Sterling National Bank and their decision to run parts of the new the division separately.

So, mom now had 2 small IRA CDs and a checking account at Sterling* and the interest offered on all was an embarrassment, so we decided to start moving all out. The first to move would be the IRAs since at her age she has to take out a required amount every year (RMD.)

My wife has Power of Attorney (POA) for all her mom’s financials, so we drove to the nearest Sterling branch and sat for nearly an hour on a Saturday morning before an officer could see us.

BUT their computers were down, so we could not do a thing except be ready with all the papers to sign and documents to present at a later date.

I went in the next business day with the 16 page POA document and was told the long form POA was not going to be accepted by the Sterling legal team. I had to find and fill out the POA short form!

But they could not give me a blank and my subsequent searches for one were unsuccessful.

The response from the people at Sterling was a frustrating, “Your mom will just have to come into the bank and do it herself.”

But mom left for the Florida portion of her snowbird life before we could straighten this mess out so we now had to wait until her return in April.

Five months later we had a better idea than trying to work with Sterling directly. We had Mom open an IRA account at RBC and asked them to take the Sterling accounts over which they did within a week.

Of course the next time we looked at mom’s Sterling statement we noted they charged her a $15 fee TO TAKE HER OWN MONEY OUT OF HER OWN ACCOUNT!

This was not an early withdrawal fee or a penalty for taking money out of an IRA since it went right into an IRA. And when you are over 71, which by any method of counting 93 is, you are allowed to even close an IRA CD without any penalties, by law!

No, it was merely a BWC (Because We Can) by Sterling.

Sterling was now in the process of fully taking over Astoria and dissolving them into their brand. They must have realized that just charging 93 year old ladies the occasional unfair surcharge or inane fee was not going to be enough for the CEO to buy another yacht so they started laying off ‘redundant’ workers and closing branches.

Of course it was not personal but naturally they were closing the branch my mom used.

That necessitated getting her checking account out of the non-customer friendly bank.

But once again Sterling would not take our 'legal anywhere else in the country' POA so my wife had to go to branch just before they closed with her mom and get herself added as a co-owner of the checking account.

Now all we had to do was wait for her automatic debits and credits to be switched over to her Chase account and we were ready to close out Sterling for good, in more ways than one.

We are now in August, one full year after we started trying to end mom’s relationship with this awful institution.

My wife left work early and we visited our local East Meadow Sterling branch once again.

As soon as we walked in the door we noticed two officers busy with customers, another woman sitting in the back corner alone but talking on the phone and one other officer available.

We told him we needed to close out an account. He told us he couldn’t help and we had to wait for one of the female officers who were both working with other customers.

We sat for 45 minutes before getting very angry and asked the one woman in the corner cubicle if she could help. This woman was on the phone the entire time we were there making doctor’s appointments and taking personal calls.

She said we had to wait  for one of the the ladies to which my wife said, “Is there a bank manager here I can talk to?”

You guessed it, that useless woman WAS the bank manager!

Now both of us were speaking quite loud calling this the worst bank we ever had to deal with etc.

Finally one of the officers took a break from her marathon with her customer and told us she’d be with us in a minute. She also asked what we wanted to do and when she heard we needed to close out an account she said, “Oh, all you have to do is go to one of the tellers and she can take care of that.”

By the way that guy left for home a few minutes later so it was obvious why he didn't want to take the time to help us. JERK!

The teller asked all the right questions and while it took 15 more minutes at least she was able to get us the final amount in the account and hand us a check for it.

End of story, right?


A week later my now 94-year-old mom called me all upset. She just received a letter from Sterling telling her she owed the bank $35.10 DUE TO AN OVERDRAFT!

I asked her if she had possibly written a check on her Sterling account and she reminded me my wife took her checkbook away so that wouldn’t happen.

With no nearby branch for her to go to, and I wouldn’t let her do so even if it was still open I asked her to mail the letter to me.

I took the letter along with the receipts from our last visit to the branch from hell and asked what new fraud were they trying to pull now.

When the officer explained she couldn’t talk to me about this since I wasn’t on the account I nearly lost it!

I explained as calmly as I could that NOBODY IS ON THE ACCOUNT SINCE IT’S BEEN CLOSED!

I also told her I do not want to know anything about the account other than why they are dunning my mom for money she does not owe.

After sitting in the bank for another half hour of my life I will never get back she explained what the charges were for.

When Sterling closes an account, they do so as if as if it’s the day before the action took place. In other words, closing the account after hours on a Thursday and their computers are programmed to make believe it’s Wednesday.

This meant that when the teller told us how much was in the account she was giving us the correct and final amount for Thursday night but Sterling corporate wanted her to give us the Wednesday amount.

So what?

There was 10 cents worth of interest to be added on Thursday and Sterling did not want to give it to the customer.
Name change imminent to Scrooge National Bank?


If we ignore this Sterling would continue to go after mom until she passed away and probably then go after her estate for the 10 cents and the over-draft fee. And knowing what a crooked corporation this disgusting bank is I'd bet they would be adding interest charges and compounding them so in a year or so we'd owe them around $100!

I’m not certain what caused the officer to waive the $35 while I was sitting there. Perhaps it was my bulging eyes and reddened face but nevertheless she asked the bank manager, who was on the phone talking to another one of her friends, if she could waive the fee. The manager raised her head and when she saw who I was immediately said, “Just do it!”



I tweeted corporate Sterling over and over asking to speak with someone but never got a response. I really did not expect one since they are the worst.

And so all I can say is:

Tuesday, August 21, 2018


According to the play & movie, 1776 Mr. Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island said of the issue of Independence, “Well, in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yeah! I'm for debating anything. Rhode Island says yea!”

While we settled the issue of our Independence long ago we face many other issues that are nevertheless in need of a debate. It’s understandable that partisan politics will be at work on both or even all sides if there are more than two. But we must not be afraid to talk about them in open for all to see.

Some may not seem like the most important thing to spend time on such as, should schools offer more free time or teach sex education or demand teachers carry guns?

I have my beliefs, but I am sure many have opposing views and that’s fine. We can debate and if we listen calmly to all ideas and thoughts we may just come up with a fair and equitable answer.

Let’s examine an issue from the recent past that is sadly still causing divisiveness in our government.

Can anyone deny the fact that in the past many coal miners developed a life-threatening condition commonly known as black lung disease and that many if not all of them eventually died. Can we also agree that those with occupations in the field of, say farming never or rarely came up with this ailment? If so, then it will not take a huge leap of intelligence to conclude that black lung disease should be associated with coal mining.

Once the issue is decided we can then deal with the prevention of the problem. However, continue to refuse the idea that black lung disease has anything to do with coal mining and we are condemning workers in those mines to a painful and unnecessary death.

Why would we do something as inhumane as that?

For one thing there is or was a mother lode of money to be made by the owners of coal mines. It was necessary for the mines to remain open, free and clear of too many regulations that could strangle their profitability. Mine owners knew this all too well. So rather than lose most of their profits they used a portion of them to lobby, or bribe lawmakers into leaving them alone.

This is what’s known as a win-win-lose scenario in which the owners keep most of their profits, our leaders in Congress get large donations for their upcoming campaigns and workers die.

Clearly two of the three factions involved are happy with this outcome. The trick then becomes how do you sell it to the third group?

That’s where ‘dark money’ funded advertising comes in.

First, start by marketing your product as warm and fuzzy and necessary for the American way of life. To wit: Coal gives us ‘clean energy!’ In fact, we only deal in ‘Clean Coal!’

Then you vilify those who are trying to save the workers’ lives as lily livered liberals hell bent on destroying your livelihood, namely your jobs.

Congress could then insidiously allow some small regulation to go into effect and owners could respond by laying off some workers further cementing the idea that regulations demanded by the liberals will in fact ruin your lives.

The effect of this full court press against safety is the workers rallying together to vote against the politicians trying to save their lives. In other words, the people vote against their own best interest!

So let’s go back to the beginning and wonder what would happen if leaders on both sides of the Congressional aisle were to discuss the matter calmly and without partisanship. Suppose they did not allow or could not take money, or if we call it what it really is, bribes from one side of an issue. Scientific fact and medical certainties would enter into the discussion and lives would not be lost. Who knows, the leaders might even realize the future futility of coal mining and come up with ways to retrain some coal miners for work in other industries.

Oh wait, I seem to remember a candidate for President who suggested just that and was destroyed by a partnership of mine owners and their bought and paid for politicians.

There are so many issues we must deal with today that are equally as life threatening but with much further reach such as climate change, which threatens the entire planet.

One side says humans are causing this and points to at least 97% of scientists and experts in the field who agree as proof.

However, the other side agrees with their friends in the fossil fuel industry that the whole matter is a hoax. They, like their brethren in the coal mining fight are happy to close their eyes to the real and present danger of inaction while accepting favors to help them stay in office to do nothing but collect salaries. They realize the odds of climate change affecting their longevity is slim, so they don’t mind kicking this can down the road before they themselves kick the can.

If there is no open debate without partisan factions getting involved, we the people of Earth will continue down the path of destruction.

If the oxymoronic Citizens United rule remains in effect dark money will continue to flow into the coffers of Congressional nay-sayers and do-nothings.

And while the nation’s collective attention is being deflected and occupied 24/7 by the childish rants of a former reality show host and long-time multiple failed businessman our future hangs in the balance.

The following are some of the issues in need of a rational bi-partisan debate in Congress. These, like many others, are being ignored or pushed in one direction by and in favor of ‘Big Business’ and corporate interests by the current GOP majority.

Women’s Rights
Social Security
Environmental Protection
Our Educational System
Immigration Reform
Infrastructure Repair
Real Tax Reform

Any one of the above could spell disaster for a large portion of society.

Sadly, those of us affected do not have the monetary power of a partisan lobbyist to demand action.

But collectively we have something almost as powerful as a bribe and that’s called our vote!

If history has shown us anything it is that one political party has been on the wrong side of every issue noted above.

The only way we can fix the mess they have gotten us into is to remove them from power before it’s too late! We can no longer trust the GOP with our lives.

Let's bid a fond 'Blue Wave' farewell to the Repub Party.

This November and every November from now on use your head and vote your own best interest: