E*trade sucks: false and misleading website information

From time to time, I like to point out effective and infective company websites.  Recently, I had an unpleasant website experience with E-trade Financial.  I won’t even link to their website because they suck!

Last week, the Dow Jones Industrials and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had it’s worst beating since the 1930s.  I once heard a very affluent man tell me that financially smart people buy low and sell high.  Well, seeing incredible bargains in the market and watching irrational selling of high quality stock, I decided that I wanted to get in NOW!

So, I went to E-trade Financial whose website claimed that, “It’s fast and easy to get started,” in big bold red letters:

When I clicked on the Apply > button, I saw another claim, “Opening your account should only take 10-12 minutes.”

I could have gone with other firms, or simply called up my broker and made the trade.  But, seeing that I was in the web design business, I wanted to support my industry.  Besides, I do everything else online from paying my bills to finding my next girlfriend (just kidding) to getting my entertainment.

However, after I opened my account and moved all of my cash into the account I realized that it was NOT fast and easy and it does not take 10-12 minutes.  In fact, it actually takes 10-12 days in order to make a trade.  What you don’t see, that is buried in fine print in one of those scrollable boxes where the only way you would catch the fine print is if you scrolled that little box all the way down to the bottom is that E*Trade Financial sits on your money for about 10-12 calendar days before you can do any trading.

Given that cash is king nowadays, they are using my money for their liquidity and depriving me of a once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalize on irrational market fears.  Indeed, last week we saw the worst decline in the markets since about 1930.  On Monday of last week, I pulled everything I had out of cash and savings and moved it into E-Trade.  I waited and waited.  On Friday, when the markets were rock bottom I made my move.  But guess what, I couldn’t do anything because of their 10-12 day hold that was buried in fine print, in a tiny scrollable window, that few people see.

The opportunity cost was huge.

Today I am reading headlines about the biggest gains since the 1930s.  Indeed, after a week of seeing the biggest crash since the 1930’s we saw the biggest rebound.  Friday afternoon was a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity and I couldn’t take advantage of it because of E*Trade’s BS policy.

Had they not proclaimed their system was, fast and easy to get started, in big bold red letters and that you could, “Open your account in 10-12 minutes,” I would have gone somewhere else.  Their false and misleading website claims cost me significant opportunites.  The worst thing about it was that I couldn’t even close my account and get the money back out for the same 10-12 days.  Once my money was there, I couldn’t touch it for 10-12 days.  I couldn’t trade and I couldn’t get it out.  I couldn’t take my money to my other, more traditional broker, Northwestern Mutual.  Bastards!

Check out Google, one of my investing targets:

Last year, Google was trading at close to 700.  Last week, it was a bargain in the low 300’s.  I was ready to buy on Thursday and ready to buy on Friday.  But, E*Trade denied me service and overnight I watched it go up 15%.

So, here is my recommendation.  If you’ve got serious money to invest, don’t trust it with E*Trade Financial.  Put it with a company that will respect you and give you real customer service.  Put it with a company like Northwestern Mutual.