Necessity is the Mother of Revolution

Because 22 year old Molly Katchpole, a recent graduate of Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, didn’t have a full-time job, she felt she couldn’t afford the $60 annual fee that Bank of America wanted to charge its debit-card customers who didn’t hold a BofA mortgage or have a deposit of at least $20,000.Ask yourself: what would a Millennial do? She started an online campaign of course. And it went viral, leading to the collection of over 300,000 signatures.

How The Revolution Went Viral

In her original letter to Bank of America, Katchpole wrote:

The American people bailed out Bank of America during a financial crisis the banks helped create. You paid zero dollars in federal income tax last year. And now your bank is profiting, raking in $2 billion in profits last quarter alone. How can you justify squeezing another $60 a year from your debit card customers? This is despicable…American consumers can’t afford these additional fees. We reject any claims by BofA that this latest fee is somehow necessary. Please, do the right thing. Reverse your decision…”

Change.org, who hosted the viral campaign,  said Katchpole’s efforts became “the largest consumer advocacy campaign ever run” on their site. According to their records, the campaign was attracting more than 3,000 new supporters an hour and as many as 40,000 a day.

The Mouse that Roared

In two weeks’ time, as the online outcry expanded, Bank of America decided to scrap its plans to charge a $5 monthly debit-card fee. Additionally, both JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. said that they were nixing their own tests of debit-card fees as well. Bank of America co-COO David Darnell said in a statement:

We have listened to our customers very closely over the last few weeks and recognize their concern with our proposed debit usage fee. “Our customers’ voices are most important to us. As a result, we are not currently charging the fee and will not be moving forward with any additional plans to do so.

As quoted in Maureen Mackey‘s November 1, 2011 article in the Fiscal Times,  Molly herself was overwhelmed by the efficacy of the social revolution:

“It’s overwhelming. It’s very exciting. I drew up a petition and more than 300,000 people signed it – it wasn’t just me who did this. I want to stress that. It was the people who signed it and passed it around to their friends and family and took the time to post it to Facebook and write emails.

Slackers?

Just because Katchpole was unemployed doesn’t mean she’s lazy. She worked as a nanny and did freelance work for a political P.R. firm in Washington, DC.  Before graduating with a degree in art and architectural history, she had been politically active with the College Democrats.Propelled by need and encouraged by the Occupy Wall Street protests, she noted:

And they didn’t respond to the petition until almost two weeks later. Clearly, they were not expecting any outcry. I’m glad that they decided to [change course]. It would be my biggest dream for other people in America to stop being passive if they hear something that they’re upset about, to speak out about it and try to do something. [Politicians] are not ever really responding to things that are going on in the news. And I think something like this would be an interesting thing for them to debate. Or the Occupy movement. They haven’t. I think politicians need to start acknowledging this, or acting like it actually counts and matters to them.

A Spontaneous Outcry

In an earlier interview with Business Insider, Katchpole said that her activism wasn’t part of any other cause or organization, including Occupy Wall Street, which had been calling for consumers to celebrate “Dump Your Bank Day.”

The important point is that Katchpole wasn’t a political agitator, but a typical Millennial with limited income but a social voice. She said:

I’m literally living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “I couldn’t handle any more fees from the bank. Using a debit card was the easiest way for me to access my money. And I really felt there were other people who would feel the same way about this.

Snap! principle of consumer social influence:

The consumer model has changed. Servant marketing’s time has arrived.

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