Simple, the banking startup, raised $15 million in venture capital by promising "no worries" and "no fees." Thousands of customers hung around on a waiting list for years to sign up for CEO Josh Reich's crusade against our fragmented banking system, a decision some recently regretted.
A tipster wrote into Valleywag late last night to say he hadn't been able to access his funds for an entire day:
Banking startup simple.com approaches 24 hours of downtime after a botched upgrade....I've been trapped outside of my account since yesterday at 11pm PST, unable to withdraw, or use app.
We've reached out to Simple, which was acquired by the Spanish bank BBVA in February but remains independent, for comment. You can see a timeline of the maintenance gone awry on Twitter.
One customer complained that this wasn't the first time their account had been "held hostage," while most were trapped by maintenance window that extended well beyond its early morning time slot. Instead of ending at 9am Pacific, it went on until 11.15pm.
Whether the possibility of system outages outweighs the pains of sneaky banking fees and lack of transparency is up to Simple's users. But with more startups seeking to replace foundational infrastructure—and more politicians co-opting their cause, it's more likely to feel disruption where we want it the least.
Update: Krista Berlincourt, the communications lead for Simple, offered the following statement about the downtime:
"Card functionality returned within the scheduled downtime for well over 90% of Simple customers. Our team worked with and proactively messaged [those customers who were impacted past the 6am window] directly, alerting them of the initial extension beyond the 6 am window, providing updates until all cards were available once again."
Update II: Simple user @SoundGuyAndy, whose tweet we quoted above emailed Thursday evening to say that "a few of us are still stuck in a Kafka-esque hell without access to our funds." He also adds that the reason he was locked out was that Simple changed his PIN without notification "and there's no person in the world who can override it." They did send a gift certificate to a local restaurant for him and his wife "after spending two entire days screwing us."
First, I want to put it out there that I absolutely, wholeheartedly have nothing but sympathy for Simple's customer support team. I'm a support rep myself, and I know they're dealing with a lot of very rightfully angry customers, and taking a lot of flak from us for something that they as support reps didn't cause, but are stuck trying to fix.
So, the update….while Simple proudly proclaims that it has managed to get the majority of its customers up and running, a few of us are still stuck in a Kafka-esque hell without access to our funds. As of their last check, they tell me I'll finally have access at midnight tonight (what timezone, they didn't specify). I hope they're right, since tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm hoping to not spend it fighting with my bank all day.
But I digress… It turns out that the reason at least some of us were still getting declines was that, in the changeover, Simple managed to accidentally reset our PINs. Oops. And either didn't realize, or just didn't bother to notify us. Bigger oops.
End result, my repeated attempts to use my PIN to get to my money failed, and flagged my account as suspected fraud for exceeding the PIN attempt limit.
According to them, this flag is magical, and there's no person in the world who can override it, so I just have to wait it out until midnight. But no worries, they said, just try using the card as a credit card instead of a debit. That will almost certainly work, they said.
Nope, that declined, too. Okay, they said, there's still a way. Just find a bank that's still open, and you should definitely be able to do a cash advance against it as a credit card, to get some cash to get you through the day. This was after 6p, I should point out, so it took some hunting to find one and get there before they closed. But well worth the hunt, because Simple says it's totally going to work.
Yeah, right. De-clined.
But hey, while they waited until after spending two entire days screwing us, they at least had the decency to make arrangements with a local restaurant to buy my wife and me dinner…
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