Dec 312000
 
Part of the Cool Books Series -         Next in series

I was VERY interested in reading this book after hearing the author (Lee Stringer) talk about it on NPR. Unfortunately, when I finally tracked it down, I was disappointed.

Mr. Stringer IS an excellent writer and his prose flows freely into the mind while the reader can easily visualize the scenarios being written about. However, as someone who has been homeless for the last half-dozen years I found the book lacking real grit. More time is spent on platitudes, personal quasi-philosophical soundbites and repeated stories then on actual ‘stories from the streets’ as promised by the book’s subtitle.

If you’re really interested in reading about what life on the street’s is like then I’d highly recommend the following two books:

Living at the Edge of the World: A Teenager’s Survival in the Tunnels of Grand Central Station by Tina S. and Jamie Pastor Bolnick
ISBN-13: 978-0312200473

The Mole People : Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City
by Jennifer Toth, et al.

Neither of these works have a foreward by Kurt Vonnegut, but the tales in each are far more compelling then those told here.

Grand Central Winter: Stories from the Street

ISBN-13: 978-1888363579

Recommended:
No

Part of the Cool Books Series -        Next in series
Dec 152000
 

Our tale begins in December 1999…

Finally achieving some semblance of financial stability after a typically unhappy divorce followed by a year of complete apathy towards life I start looking once again to join the rest of society and open a bank account. Unfortunately, it turns out my old accounts were closed during the divorce due to overdrafts and I have been reported to Chex Systems (sort of like a credit agency for checking accounts). This means that I will be unable to open an account at 99% of banks.

May 2000

I’ve visited the aggrieved banks and made full restitution on the closed accounts (including hefty penalties). The banks tell me they’ve informed Chex Systems. However, Chex refuses to clear my record because the law does not require that they do so. Their policy is that all reports remain for five years, regardless of their dispensation. At this point I’ve paid over $1000.00 to banks (on a total of $186.00 in overdrafts) and received nothing but a clearer conscience as I am still unable to open an account at any bank in Santa Clara County until 2004 (the same time I would be cleared as if I had not payed).

August 2000

Even with a decent job I am still unable to get an apartment as I have no bank account. The two small businesses I’ve started are beginning to show signs of profitability, but growth is being stunted by the need to channel funds through friends’ personal bank accounts. I search the internet for a solution and eventually find G & L Internet Bank.

First Impressions

G & L seems to meet my needs superbly: the initial deposit is low ($100 [now $300]), they’re focused as an internet bank (I work graveyard shift, so am asleep during “banker’s hours”), and they don’t use Chex Systems. I wade through account descriptions, disclosures, fee charts, etcetera and find nothing alarming.

Finally becoming hopeful at the prospect of rejoining mainstream society, I begin the application process. Unfortunately, my break ends before completing the application so I choose “save info and return later to finish” (or something similar) and log out. When I return later that evening, however, I am unable to locate a way back into my partial application. Frustrated, I start a new application only to once more run out of time.

The next day I receive a reminder email telling me that I have not completed my application. Luckily an URL in the message leads directly to my partial application as I still couldn’t find my way in from the main site.

At the end of the application process I print out an agreement and signature card I am supposed to sign and mail in with my initial deposit and am informed that I will receive a confirmation email the following day. The paperwork is set aside to await funding from my next paycheck.

The confirmation email never arrives and I forget about the paperwork until October.

October/November 2000

Having rediscovered the paperwork I send a $100.00 money order in late October. A week later (having still not received an email since August) I go to the site. Navigating from the home page the only way I can find to check on my account status requires a Member ID Number that I have never been issued. Attempting to follow the link that had been emailed to me in August leads to a page stating I have no outstanding applications. My account (and my $100.00) have apparently disappeared.

Attempts to reach G & L prove futile. Any route of contact via the web leads to a “no such email address on file” message. Emails receive essentially the same response. They have no 24 hour customer service phone so I’m out of luck there,

Then, the car I was living in is impounded (along with all of my paperwork including the receipt for the money order) so I am left without any proof that I’ve ever completed an application, much less sent them money.

I gave up and wrote off both the cash and the attempt to get a bank account.

Summary

I do not hold G & L solely responsible for the difficulties I encountered trying to set up an account. A portion of that responsibility lies on me and the highly unusual life that I lead. Nor do I think I was intentionally ripped off by G & L or that they or running a scam of any sort.

Had I moved on things in a more timely manner perhaps G & L would count me amongst their happy customers today. I do feel however, that more effort could have been made on their part to assist in the resolution of these issues. Their site navigation and feedback systems could really use an overhaul with special attention paid to tracking individual’s data.