Following on from Monday’s post (if you missed it click here) …
So what’s the problem? Police make mistakes, arrest the wrong person, even charges them. Justice will win out we are taught and Mr. Shinnick walked free … eventually. The problem is that the story wouldn’t have ended there. When most employers hire someone they check our records. Mr. Shinnick had to clear his name and $14,000 and the time he put into it, is an injustice in itself.
“The court wants to protect people when reporting criminal activity,” said Paul Glusman, a Berkeley attorney who has written about the Hagberg case. “But this can be abused. At this point, there’s nothing that will protect ordinary citizens from a false police report.” (source)
Shinnick works as a salesman in a San Francisco clothing store. He understands the client:customer relationship and this served only to infuriate him all the more. He felt that Bank of American should not have called the police until they were sure that a crime was in fact happening and that the person in their store was the criminal and not another victim.
“I’ve been in retail for 18 years,” he said. “I know about customer service and dealing with fraud. The way to handle something like this is to take the person into a back room and work things out before you call the police.” (source)
Shinnick felt violated not only by his wrongful arrest, but the way that Bank of America treated him and their refusal to help with the costs he incurred.
Enter a Superhero: Clark Howard doesn’t walk around with a cape (actually he might for all I know), but he is as tenacious as any Batman or Wonder Woman. Clark Howard is a Consumer Advocate. He has a syndicated radio and TV show and is known throughout the country. According to his website, Howard “advises consumers how to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off.”
Howard took up Shinnick’s cause and highlighted it on his website. He spoke with bank officials, and actually offered to pay $7,000 of the fees if the bank would pay the other $7,000. They refused the offer.
Clark then requested that his listeners withdraw money from their accounts. Many indeed closed the accounts which cost Bank of America between $20 million and $50 million (I have two separate sources) from their Bank of America accounts.
Bank of America had a change of heart.
I actually have a small amount of sympathy for B of A. They could easily have been the victims and need to work to crush fraud which eventually costs all of us – banks and customers. But could they not have found a way to help this victim?
What I really want to point out is how impressed I am with Clark Howard. Beyond anything, he proved that if people stand together over injustices, the little person can receive justice.
Thank you, Clark. You have taught us all a powerful lesson.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).