We are in 2021, aren't we?
We should be putting racism... behind us... Right?
But that's not how Gwen Samuel, a successful, Black businesswoman in Connecticut felt a few weeks ago.
While visiting the TD Bank in Southington, Connecticut, where she has been a customer for more than 16 years, Samuel attempted to complete a simple task: to withdraw some of the funds that had recently come into her account. After completing an event, Samuel went to her local bank to withdraw $1,000 to pay one of the vendors in attendance.
But a simple transaction turned out to be not so simple.
You can see local news coverage here:
Samuel confirmed her identity as she usually would.
"I go inside, I had my TD Bank card and my license."
"They were cordial. I'm not even gonna say they were rude."
But that was when she ran into problems.
"[The teller] hands me my license and she says, 'I don't feel comfortable giving you the money'."
"So, I got confused, so I said, 'You don't feel comfortable giving me the money?'"
"[The teller] said, 'Well you just deposited the check yesterday'."
But along with her identity, the teller already confirmed Samuel's check cleared the day before.
Apparently, that wasn't the teller's concern.
"She said, 'Oh yeah, it cleared. The money is available. I just don't feel comfortable giving it to you'."
The teller left it at that and did not explain her reasoning.
"I was so hurt and I didn't want to start crying."
Samuel then confirmed for herself her available balance wasn't the core issue.
She proceeded to withdraw a little bit of money, right outside TD Bank's front door by using their ATM machine instead. Samuel experienced no complications when doing this.
To acquire the rest of the money she needed to pay the vendor, Samuel also visited another branch of the TD Bank and was able to withdraw the funds with no objections from the second teller.
This culmination of events led Samuel to believe her engagement with the first teller was an issue of racial bias—where someone experiences different treatment because of another person's biases.
Samuel stated frankly:
"I just had to make sure I am not overreacting because we're in such a racially tense time right now, so I just wanted to give the benefit of the doubt, but that doubt went away when I got the money from the ATM and Bristol."
Samuel hosted a protest outside of her home bank on Monday afternoon, organized around the ATM machine where she was first able to confirm her money was available for withdrawal.
Samuel challenged the bank to improve its standards for diversity and inclusion, both in its mission and among its employees. She wanted to use this as a "teachable moment" with the bank, rather than breaking ties with them.
"Even though it happened to me, I don't want anyone else to have the terrible experience."
"I just want them to do better. I could pull my money. I could prove that point, but I could also prove that point by trying to work with them."
"I mentioned diversity training, but not their typical training, because clearly, it doesn't work ― at least for this branch in Southington."
"I did state I will get back to them on how I would like this issue to be resolved that promotes both unity and healing as well as accountability."
"What happened to me should not have happened. We need to make sure that these institutions aren't making it hard (for families) to access their own money."
"I want them to be held accountable which they will, one way or another."
Some Twitter users were outraged.
“The money is available. I just don’t feel comfortable giving it to you.” WTF??? https://t.co/so9eMcDcJA— VirtualBarrio (@VirtualBarrio) 1615994616.0
@thereidout Banking while BLACK. https://t.co/MxCmAY2mIV— Karen (@Karen) 1615988643.0
Others demanded immediate action.
Wow. This is terrible. All banks need to do better. TD Bank Teller Refused Withdrawal For Black Businesswoman I… https://t.co/HYlNb5mzcA— Cheryl D. Feldman (she/her) (@Cheryl D. Feldman (she/her)) 1615988397.0
@blackvoices The same thing happened to me at a #TDBank @TDBank_US in Wyckoff, NJ. They never explained it. They n… https://t.co/jKJnx9A3mR— J. Duran, Marine Veteran (@J. Duran, Marine Veteran) 1615995134.0
@blackvoices Lawsuit! This isn’t right— Rainey Scribbles (@Rainey Scribbles) 1615932819.0
#blacklivesmatter https://t.co/VLIF7B0fIv— Keith (@Keith) 1615994584.0
A few also called out TD Bank directly, especially given their recent advertising.
We are committed to engaging with Black communities to fight anti-Black racism. Every day.— TD Bank (@TD Bank) 1614032093.0
This is not just another #BlackHistoryMonth. Learn more through the voices of our customers, colleagues, and commun… https://t.co/odplu38nEZ— TD Bank News (@TD Bank News) 1612279941.0
This #WomensHistoryMonth captures the true spirit of empowerment and resilience, and our own Kellee Rivers shares h… https://t.co/2WcfCgDZqm— TD Bank (@TD Bank) 1615903483.0
@TDBank_US Helpful tip #1: don’t bank at @TDBank_US if you are a woman of color. If you’re not a woman of color, d… https://t.co/km3Z1D7cFI— Spock’s Brain (@Spock’s Brain) 1615946843.0
@TDBank_US Actions speak louder than words. Save the Women’s History Month and Black History Month tweets. Custom… https://t.co/heMZilNNcQ— Robert Landwehr (@Robert Landwehr) 1615944354.0
@TDNews_US Y'all have nerve. https://t.co/ovq1b6I7hv— Ivy 😷 (@Ivy 😷) 1615993537.0
After Samuel's protest, TD Bank responded in a statement online:
"The security of our customers' accounts is a top priority and we regret that the specific reasons why the transaction could not be completed may not have been explained to Ms. Samuel at our Queen Street store in Southington."
"Due to privacy concerns, we cannot discuss the account activity of particular customers, although we can confirm that the customer's transaction was completed at another TD store in the vicinity."
"We regret that Ms. Samuel did not have a positive experience, which is what we strive to provide, and that she did not receive a satisfactory explanation regarding her transaction."
"We are contacting her to review her transaction and to understand and address her concerns."
It's unclear what this bank will do about what Gwen Samuel went through, but it's important others are aware it happened, to ensure that it doesn't happen again.