The leader of an education advocacy group in Connecticut is shocked by a recent transaction at her local TD Bank and suspects racism was at play.
Gwen Samuel, who is Black, said a teller at a branch in Southington, Connecticut, refused to complete a withdrawal for her a few weeks ago, and she was forced withdraw the money at another branch.
Samuel, CEO and founder of the group Connecticut Parents Union, which advocates for equal educational opportunities for children in Connecticut, said she went to the bank to withdraw just over $1,000 to pay a vendor, according to Fox61.com.
Since Samuel has been a TD Bank customer for 16 years, she figured it would be a simple transaction.
“I go inside, I had my TD Bank card and my license,” Samuel told Fox61. “They were cordial. I’m not even gonna say they were rude.”
However, the teller spent a lot of time going through Samuel’s account before coming back.
“She hands me my license and she says, ‘I don’t feel comfortable giving you the money,’” Samuel told the station. “So, I got confused, so I said, ‘You don’t feel comfortable giving me the money,’” she said. “She said, ‘Well you just deposited the check yesterday.’”
Samuel then pointed out to the teller that she had already verified the check had cleared.
She was shocked by the teller’s response.
“And she said, ‘Oh yeah, it cleared. The money is available. I just don’t feel comfortable giving it to you,’” Samuel said, adding that the teller never explained why she felt that way.
“I was so hurt and I didn’t want to start crying,” she told WFSB TV.
Since there was no policy preventing her from withdrawing the money in her account, Samuel checked the ATM outside of the bank and had no problem taking money out of the account.
She then went to another branch and withdrew what she needed to pay the vendor with the help of the employees there.
“I just had to make sure I am not overreacting because we’re such a racial 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 told NBC Connecticut.
She organized a protest on Monday at the bank to make sure its policies treat everyone fairly in the future.
“Even though it happened to me, I don’t want anyone else to have the terrible experience,” Samuel told WFSB. “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.”
In a statement to HuffPost, TD Bank said it proudly serves diverse communities and customers and does not discriminate in the services or products it offers.
The company also claimed security concerns prevented it from explaining why the teller wouldn’t let Samuel withdraw money from her account:
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.
Samuel told HuffPost that a bank official contacted her on Tuesday morning and they discussed how to move forward.
“I mentioned diversity training, but not their typical training, because clearly it doesn’t work ― at least for this branch in Southington,” Samuel said. “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.”
Samuel told MyRecordJournal.com that “what happened to me should not have happened,” adding, “We need to make sure that these institutions aren’t making it hard (for families) to access their own money.”
Samuel isn’t calling for a boycott of TD Bank, but has filed a complaint with the Federal Reserve and the banking committee of the state General Assembly.
“I want them to be held accountable which they will, one way or another,” Samuel told MyRecordJournal.com.