Wells Fargo employees caught up in the bank’s fake account fiasco lost more than their jobs if they did or didn’t meet sales goals: they also say they suffered physically and emotionally from the pressure placed on them by management to “sell, sell, sell.”
The New York Times compiled several first-hand stories from these employees, who recall coercing customers into opening accounts they never needed and the physical toll the job — and their illegal activities — took on their lives.
Angie, a former banker from Wisconsin, outlined the steps she took to meet sales goals, including opening travel checking accounts for customers by convincing them that it was unsafe to travel without a separate checking account and debit card.
She also opened and closed accounts without customer permission and coerced customers to open credit card accounts to use as overdraft protection.
“I started to have extreme physical stress-related symptoms as well as random panic attacks,” she recalls. “ At some point during that summer, the stress was so intense that I could no longer handle the pressure.”
After that, she says she began drinking hand sanitizer before meetings to help deal with “severe panic attacks” brought on by knowing she had to sell unneeded services.
The woman eventually took a leave of absence to seek treatment in December 2012, at which time she was drinking at least one bottle of sanitizer a day.
For Scott, who worked as a teller and sales rep in Illinois, the pressure from higher-ups to meet sales goals affected both his physical and emotional health.
“There were numerous days where I would hide in the men’s bathroom crying. It got so bad that one day I left work to go to the emergency room because I thought I was having a heart attack. It turns out it was an anxiety attack,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack or stroke if I stayed any longer.”
He tells the Times that the pressure from management was relentless when it came to up-selling customers. In fact, he recalls one day being scolded for not selling an elderly woman a credit card by telling her that she could use it as a form of ID.
Other tactics the bankers used included pressuring customers to open online banking accounts at all costs, even going as far as creating an email account for them.
Dennise, another banker in Texas, tells the Times she believes that management’s notion that nothing was ever enough contributed to her health issues while working for Wells Fargo.
Although she says she was reaching her sales goals, every morning she would have to sit with her boss and go over the previous day and her relationship with each customer.
“ I had to tell them why I didn’t force them into opening that third, fourth, fifth checking account that they could have used for Christmas, their son’s birthday, school, a pet and so on,” she recalls. “I had to explain why I did not feel comfortable with pushing people into paying for something they did not need.”
In the end, she says the stress was too much.
“I developed shingles,” she said. “The last straw was when the district manager laughed at me in front of my manager because I explained that I did not feel comfortable with the sales culture and the robotic paragraphs they had us memorize to force people into giving in. The following day I put in my two weeks’ notice.”
The stories the former Wells Fargo employees tell the Times are similar to those reported previously by other workers.
These stories include the former bank manager and retail banking employee who spoke about the sales goals they characterized as aggressive and often unreasonable — and the bogus accounts they claim that managers knew about but ignored – and the personal banker who recalled working late on Christmas Eve, after the bank had closed and her co-workers had all gone home, trying to persuade her family members and friends to open accounts with the bank so she could meet sales quotas.
Voices From Wells Fargo: ‘I Thought I Was Having a Heart Attack’ [The New York Times]
by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist