Is Bank of America Using Bots Posing as Real People to Handle Customer Inquiries? (BAC)
An interesting story has been making its way through the Twittersphere lately and it has Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) in a bit of hot water as the story continues to attract attention.
Here’s how it went down. On July 6, a tweeter that uses the name @dathmarkh said that he was “chalkupying” in front of the Bank of America headquarters in New York when he was chased away by New York City police. You can see a picture of what he was doing here.
You’ve likely never heard of chalkupying. It is an extension of the Occupy Wall Street movement where people create chalk drawings outside of government and corporate buildings protesting practices they find to be unjust. In the case of Bank of America the person drew pictures on the sidewalk protesting alleged illegal foreclosures.
But that’s not the story. Once word got out that @dathmarkh was chased away, the Twitter community wrote to the bank letting them know what they thought of the incident. One person tweeted the bank and got this response:
@stevetimmis Hi Mr. Timmis, I work for Bank of America. What happened? Anything I can do to help? ^sa— Bank of America (@BofA_Help) July 6, 2013
Not exactly the response you would expect but then OccupyLA joined the “conversation.”
And Bank of America said:
@OccupyLA We'd be happy to review your account with you to discuss any concerns. Please let us know if you need assistance. ^sa— Bank of America (@BofA_Help) July 6, 2013
From here, @BofA_Help answered other complaints with similar responses that seemed to have little to do with the message sent to it. (You can see more exchanges here.)This led people to accuse the bank of setting up @BofA_Help as an automated Bot that appears to be real people but actually is not.
Benzinga reached out to Bank of America for comment. Anne Pace, a Bank of America spokesperson said in an emailed response, “We don't use automated responses in any way. All of our interactions are personal and handled by a team of over 100 social-media servicing reps. We respond to mentions of the bank to help identify underlying customer issues in addition to direct requests for help. Our social media servicing reps have assisted thousands of customers through our Twitter service.”
The incident may have escalated because of a recent court case in San Diego where another chaulkupier, Jeff Olson was charged with 13 counts of vandalism for drawing similar protests in front of a Bank of America building in the city. He was recently found innocent of all charges by a jury. Read more about that case here.
The conversation has turned to one of freedom of speech. Does a person have the right to draw on public property even if it’s chalk that will wash away during the next rainstorm? Is this another PR nightmare for a bank that has had its fair share in the past few years? What do you think?
Disclosure: At the time of this writing, Tim Parker had no position in Bank of America stock and does not do business with the bank.
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