Complain Like a Slacktivist, Protest Like a Hipster

But in attempting to reclaim the card at my local Bank of America this week, I thought, why not try to turn lemons into spiked lemonade?

The bank’s Sept. 29 announcement that it would begin to charge some customers $5 a month to use their debit card had been a PR nightmare of Netflix proportions; surely I could milk the vulnerable old place for free express shipping on a replacement card (or at least a card with a photo on it).

The personal banker I spoke with tried to lighten the mood: must be partying a little too hard, losing your debit card on a Saturday night! All business, I reported that I had merely left it an ATM. I wore a button-down shirt that hopefully emphasized my serious adultness. The most valuable bank in the richest country in the world didn’t stand a chance against my wrinkled forehead.

Until, obviously, it did. I’m still waiting on the replacement, and the photo ID has always been free. But others have stronger powers of persuasion. Kristen Christian (her real name) is the 27-year-old mastermind behind Bank Transfer Day, a push to get big bank customers to move their money to local credit unions.

As for Christian herself? She’s a 27-year-old art gallery owner from Echo Park in L.A. — a description that, I am convinced, pales only to “graphic designer from Berlin” in hipster cred. But she’s a hipster changing the world, which I personally consider preferable to the chain-smoking, Foucault-quoting variety.

Christian chose Nov. 5 to align Bank Transfer Day with Guy Fawkes Day — a little piece of 17th century British history that, both shamefully and fittingly, proved a little too obscure for this history minor at first mention. (Reader’s digest version: the holiday’s about fireworks.)

While Christian’s initial intention was just to promote the event among 500 or so Facebook friends, it went viral in a big way: By Nov. 5, the event had attracted 85,000 attendees. I’d ordinarily be inclined to dismiss that as a strong showing of slacktivism, but that’s not the case.

According to the Credit Union Association of America, some 650,000 customers have switched to credit unions since Bank of America announced its plan a month ago — a 700-percent increase in growth over the rest of the year.  
With all my persistence and eyebrow raising, I feel a little tinge of slacktivist guilt for staying with Bank of America for the time being. The
fee was called off on Nov. 1, and I’m still waiting on that shiny red card to come in the mail. Plus, with graduation a few months off, I’m reluctant to jump ship to a local credit union.

Still, I feel empowered in knowing that a 20something’s Facebook rant has the power to shake things up (or spare us all an extra $5 a month.)

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