Wells Fargo sends out renewal notices dated 1900

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Published Tuesday, December 21, 1999

Wells Fargo sends out renewal notices dated 1900

Dee DePass / Star Tribune

Wells Fargo & Co. experienced its first public Y2K glitch last week when it mailed 13,000 certificate-of-deposit renewal-notices with the year 1900 on them.

The bank said the notices told customers in 10 states that their certificates would expire in January 1900 instead of January 2000. It isn't known if any Minnesota customers received the letters.

Wells spokeswoman Teresa Morrow said the error was attributable to a statement-printing vendor who forgot to change the date on its printing machines. Morrow said Wells sent statements to the printer that said 1/15/00 and the vendor mistakenly translated the 00 as the year 1900.

The mistake was discovered Dec. 13, and officials immediately sent out letters apologizing for the error. Customers were told they would receive revised renewal notices in a few weeks.

Morrow said, "We asked [the printer] if it was Y2K related and they said, 'It was just us not setting our date on our printer.' "

Morrow said she didn't know if the mistake would alter Wells' relationship with the vendor. She added, "If that is the worst thing that happens to us with Y2K, then we will be set for life."

Still, observers called the error an embarrassing blow to a company that just last week declared it and its critical suppliers were ready for Y2K, after having tested all its computer systems three times.

Federal regulators and the Minnesota Bankers Association have repeatedly said all banks in Minnesota are ready for Y2K and don't expect any problems.

Even so, Wells Fargo and its competitors are staffing technical command centers for four or five days after New Year's Eve, just in case a more serious glitch occurs. While most banks will be closed for the New Year's Day holiday, many will have technical staff in the branches checking on lights, heat and computers.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), December 21, 1999


Yep, sounds like they are compliant all right.

-- Larry (cobol.programmer@usa.net), December 21, 1999.

Wells Fargo called me and asked what I wanted to do with my $400k T-note that had matured, put it into my account or re-invest? I don't even HAVE an account at Wells Fargo, and I sure as H*ll don't have $400k!!!

-- Porky (Porky@in.cellblockD), December 21, 1999.

Do you have an account with Norwest Banks by chance? With the merger, various Norwest accounts now are adminstered through Wells Fargo. Regardless, you should've told the person you wanted to cash it out and go pick up the money... ;-)

-- Ford Prefect (bring@your.towel), December 21, 1999.

"It was just us not setting our date on our printer."

Oh yeah, maybe their Linotype operator choked while typecasting the notices.... I know that I often forget to run down to the printer and change the date on it before printing my database reports...

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), December 21, 1999.

Good thing I have my beans and rice!!

-- (i@am.prepared), December 21, 1999.

Don't worry. Nothing can go wnorg...

-- ariZONEa (in_line@wells.fargo), December 21, 1999.


I have a business account I'm forced to keep with Wells Fargo. Call 'em back, and tell them to deposit the $400K in my account and I'll split the lucre with you!

-- (RUOK@yesiam.com), December 21, 1999.

..they said, 'It was just us not setting our date on our printer.

This is a bunch of bull. Anyone who has worked with a printer knows that the printed info comes from the software. I've never heard of setting a date on a printer! I'll bet the '19' was hardcoded in the printing software. They will probably just change this to '20' in order to make it "compliant".

-- Darla (dnice@hgo.net), December 21, 1999.

On my last Wells Fargo statement, I noticed what looked like a duplicate account. I called WF and asked what it was and the very pleasant help-person told me that it was the new "Y2K-compliant account" which would replace my old First Interstate account number after 01/01/2000. I asked for clarification and the poor guy got rather nervous, explaining that the First Interstate account numbers weren't, um, compliant with their new system, so they had to create new accounts and change all of them over. I didn't press him on it, as I'm sure they're under a fair amount of stress as it is. This new account showed up on the November statement for the first time, so it obviously just went into production.

Just another example of how odd and counter-intuitive some Y2K problems are. WF obviously caught this one and took the necessary steps. Just imagine an org that was rolling along on their conversion plan and then discovered in December that, say, tens of thousands of account numbers don't work in the remediated system. Can you say "deathmarch"? I knew you could.

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.com), December 21, 1999.

I posted this on a parallel thread:

Actually, this is perfectly reasonable. Anyone who's used an outside printer should be able to verify. The printer often hard-codes headers, field fragments, etc, to reduce the total file size that has to be shipped. This is done in the text-handling software, not on the image. That is, you don't run it through a printer that prints the "19" and then through another one that prints the 2-digit year from the data file. Instead, the print software adds the hard-coded century to the date as the file is being read.

We've seen a couple of these reported, and it's EXACTLY what you'd get if the printer forgot to change the hard-code field. Data is good, calculated interest or whatever will be fine, but the date is simply shown wrong.

You know me, I'm no polly. 25+ years on big iron, heavy duty batch world. This is just a printer error and is NOT a "y2k problem" meaning a 99/00 computation error. It certainly is a date-related oversight, and it's happening because the century is changing, so in a very limited sense you could call it "y2k", but I don't.

You can have the printer do lots of calculations for you as they read the file - cross foot totals, zip sorts, you name it. They don't just cast lead slugs, anymore.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), December 21, 1999.

Just curious BW, why would forgeting to change the "hard-coded century from 19 to 20 not qualify as a Y2K problem? Too crass for you. In fact if a clerk had handwritten the wrong century 3000 times why wouldn't that count as a Y2K problem. I wonder if a CD with such a date on it is legally speaking anything other than funny money? Hope so. Of course if you have a CD legally dated from 1900 what kind of intrest should it have accrued, I mean the face value from 1900 is there plain as day. A rose by any other name.

-- PD (PaulDMaher@att.worldnet.com), December 21, 1999.

Actually, looking at the article, uh, I guess that helps, it is only the renewal notice, in error. It is still valid that the mechanism of this error is not relevant to whether in fact it is or is not a Y2K error. I mean step back for a minute, they put in the the wrong century on their notice, that I would say by definition is a Year 2000 error.

-- PD (PaulDMaher@att.worldnet.com), December 21, 1999.

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