Can you ever stop shopping around?

July 29 2009 by Ellen Roseman

In today’s column, I talk about a small business owner who believed in the values advertised by his Big Five bank. He thought that RBC had his best interests at heart.

He was turned down every time he asked for a Euro account until he said he was going to move his business elsewhere. Then, the bank offered to give him what he had been denied for two years before.

This kind of behaviour is commonplace in the business world. Companies fight to increase their market share by offering juicy incentives to new customers. Meanwhile, they ignore their existing clients, who only get their attention when they threaten to leave.

This means you have to change your behaviour as a customer. Instead of being loyal to a long-time supplier, you have to keep an eye out for bargains offered by competitors and always have one foot out the door, ready to decamp.

You can’t take it for granted that the companies you patronize are giving you the best deals. They don’t take you seriously until they’re about to lose you — and that’s when they hand over the discounts.

You can never let down your guard, assuming that you have the lowest prices or most attractive service plan. Instead, you have to keep checking what’s offered by others and asking your own supplier to match them.

It’s exhausting, time-consuming and disruptive to keep moving your accounts around. But in the new world of cut throat capitalism, it’s the only way to make sure that companies really value your business.


  1. PL

    Jul 29 2009

    I read your column today concerning Mr. Gold’s attempt for a Euro credit card.

    I had the same experience trying to get a US dollar credit card from HSBC. They just wouldn’t give me one, even though I have a “Premier MasterCard” from them.

    Well, Ellen, there I was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and what did my wandering eyes see?? A branch of HSBC.

    So in I went, and in less time than it takes to tell, after showing the agent my Canadian Premier card, I had my US dollar MasterCard, and, I might add with the same limit as the Canadian card, $40M.

    So there !!! There is more than one way to “skin a cat”.

  2. DC

    Jul 29 2009

    RBC lost me also. I’ve been a client since 1962, with a line of credit for a lot of that time. It was negotiated to be prime + 1%.

    I was in the taxi business for 12 years, purchasing about 20 cars, all financed through RBC.

    My wife and I have purchased 4 properties for rental units, all financed through RBC. Never, ever, have we missed a payment on any of our loans in 47 years.

    I received a form letter about three weeks ago, informing me my rate had been reviewed and would now be prime + 3.5%.

    I paid off what I owed and am in the process of changing my automatic deposits and payments to the TD bank. I’ll be closing that 47 year account on August 4.

    Their head office staff could use some tips from the great people they hire to meet the clients in the branches!

  3. JF

    Jul 29 2009

    My mortgage payments are automatically deducted from my RBC bank account each month, as I suspect nearly all mortgages are set up to do.

    In the last few years I’ve been keeping a minimal balance in this account and transferring money in as required.

    When the August Civic Holiday (in Ontario) falls on a weekend, and when my deduction should happen on the Tuesday (first non-holiday banking day), I have been dinged for an overdraft charge when the money was withdrawn from my account on the Monday with insufficient funds.

    There have always been sufficient funds on the Tuesday via a tranfer.

    In every case, I have complained and been reimbursed the fee.

    I suspect many people either accept the overdraft fee, thinking they goofed, or can’t be bothered to complain, netting RBC a little windfall each summer.

    There are likely 10% of accounts (3/30) who might
    potentially get hit every year. That’s not a small number.

    I suspect this is happening because I am in Ottawa, and my
    mortgage account is being administered from Montreal, which
    has no holiday on the Monday, swapping it for Fête nationale du Québec (popularly known as Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day) in June.

    As this weekend is approaching, you might want to publish an advisory to those in the same situation. I don’t know if this is common in Toronto, however.

    While I have decided to ensure the account is solvent for the Monday this year, I will be watching to see if the withdrawal is made from my account on Monday or Tuesday.

  4. Thomas

    Aug 1 2009

    I built a house during the boom times in Alberta and had been let down by RBC on multiple fronts.

    As my mortgage was with RBC, insurance was also included with it. Sounds good right? Insurance never happened, as they repeatedly lost my information over a six month period. Even though I faxed it from one of their insurance branches multiple times!

    The mortgage was a horror story on its own. Numerous mistakes and the frustration involved in getting them to fix it in a timely manner. Even the mortgage specialist assigned to me was a joke! Weeks went by before my voice mails and emails were answered. And even then I had to force the issue by calling her manager.

    All this for a multi-million dollar house. You’d think they’d have their act straight by now and try to keep a client like me. After the fiasco with my house, they even had the nerve to tell me how great they were, and that “…(I) should move my commercial interests over to them”

    The first month of living in my house a few more things happened and I had had enough. I moved the mortgage over to another bank much to their “surprise”.

  5. Bargainmoose Canada

    Aug 2 2009

    Your final line:
    Forget loyalty. Brute force is often the weapon of choice when negotiating a better deal.

    I whole-heartedly agree. Perhaps 10 or 20 years ago, loyalty was a big thing, and the loyalty to one particular business was even passed down to kids, through the generations.

    But now, there is absolutely no incentive to stay loyal to one particular company, be it a bank or a cellular service provider.

  6. Paul Fraser

    Aug 3 2009

    RBC Bank President Gordon Nixon – Salary $11.73 Million


    I’m a commercial fisherman fighting the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) over a $100,000 loan mistake. I lost my home, fishing vessel and equipment. Help me fight this corporate bully by closing your RBC Bank account.

    There was no monthly interest payment date or amount of interest payable per month on my loan agreement. Date of first installment payment (principal + interest) was approximately 1 year from the signing of my contract.

    Demand loan agreements signed by other fishermen around the same time disclosed monthly interest payment dates and interest amounts payable per month.

    The lending policy for fishermen did change at RBC, from one payment (principal + interest) per year for fishing loans to principal paid yearly with interest paid monthly. This lending practice was in place when I approached RBC.

    Only problem: The loans officer was a replacement who wasn’t familiar with these type of loans. She never informed me verbally or in writing about the new criteria.

    Phone or e-mail:
    RBC President, Gordon Nixon, Toronto (416)974-6415
    RBC Vice President, Sales, Anne Lockie, Toronto (416)974-6821
    RBC President, Atlantic Provinces, Greg Grice (902)421-8112 mail
    RBC Manager, Cape Breton/Eastern Nova Scotia, Jerry Rankin (902)567-8600
    RBC Vice President, Atlantic Provinces, Brian Conway (902)491-4302 mail
    RBC Vice President, Halifax Region, Tammy Holland (902)421-8112 mail
    RBC Senior Manager, Media & Public Relations, Beja Rodeck (416)974-5506 mail
    RBC Ombudsman, Wendy Knight, Toronto, Ontario 1-800-769-2542 mail
    Ombudsman for Banking Services & Investments, JoAnne Olafson, Toronto, 1-888-451-4519 mail

    “Fighting the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC Bank) one customer at a time”