When Great Brands Go Bad: A Day in the Life of a Reluctant TD Ameritrade Customer
- Posted by chicagosean
- on October 1st, 2011
At 8:31 local time in Chicago yesterday morning (Friday, Sept 30), for all intents and purposes, the lights when out at thinkorswim. The trading platform went dark, there was no way to contact customer service, they were nowhere to be found on Twitter or StockTwits, and for the next one hour and fifteen minutes during some of the most volatile market conditions many of us can remember, thousands of thinkorswim customers were left to wonder where their positions were and whether or not their open orders were being executed. You can imagine the panic coursing through the veins of big options traders holding short options to cover on expiration day for quarterly and weekly options.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. My positions were safe as the market cooperated with me. Lucky. But I’m certain others weren’t as lucky.
What makes this a hard piece for me to write is that I love thinkorswim. Seriously. Love.
I’ve been a staunch supporter of their platform since the very first day I became a customer and would recommend them to every person that inquired of me who to select as their options trading platform. Never a doubt – “choose thinkorswim” would be my pat answer. “…They are the Gold Standard.”
I love that they are local to me. Love their customer service. Love their educational offerings. Love their platform. Love their mobile and iPad apps. Love their features. Love their stability. Love their reasonable commission rates. And love their commitment to being cutting edge, customer-loving, and constantly improving.
But perhaps I should have said LOVED, in the past tense. Because the thinkorswim that I loved and had been instrumental in my early options trading education was recently sold to TD Ameritrade. And since the handoff took place, thinkorswim has become a shadow of its former self.
Up until about six or seven months ago, I couldn’t remember many serious data disruptions on the platform that lasted more than a couple minutes. Even during the “Flash Crash” they performed admirably. Not perfect, but in that situation they certainly earned the benefit of the doubt.
These days, it seems almost inevitable that data will stream slowly during the frequently busy open and closing trading periods and also whenever any major market moving news is breaking. Alerts that I’ve set are constantly late in triggering, and often orders go unrecognized for far too many agonizing seconds when speed of execution is of paramount importance. And when I need them most, the customer service that used to be the front window to their amazing support is now too often slow to respond to my inquiries.
Yesterday was a tough day in a series of exceedingly bad days for the platform. They made people upset, no question. But one way they could’ve alleviated some of the bad will that was created yesterday would’ve been to take to StockTwits and Twitter to announce to their thousands of actively trading customers what was happening, what the next steps were, and when we could expect to be back up. Customers needed this yesterday… badly. Instead, we were met with unanswered phone calls and silence everywhere else.
Part of me wants to just place all the blame on TD Ameritrade and keep my trusty thinkorswim free of guilt. But I know it’s not this simple.
Customers and employees are always on edge when companies merge. It may make sense when evaluating balance sheets and statements of cash flows. But it doesn’t always work in the real world with humans. Many longtime customers (myself included) were unhappy when we heard the news of the impending merger. We hoped for the best but feared the worst. Sadly, our fears are beginning to be realized in real time. And it hurts.
It may be a stretch comparison, but there was a time when thinkorswim customers were as loyal to its brand as many longtime Apple customers are to Apple. Could you imagine if Apple was bought out by a competitor and began tinkering with its OS and famous products? And could you imagine what would happen if the user experience that Apple is famous for began to seriously deteriorate due to products malfunctioning? The outrage would be epic. Well this is what thinkorswim users, in our admittedly smaller world, are going through right now. It’s sad and it sucks.
I’m far from thinkorswim’s most important customer. In fact, I probably rank among the least important. And I’m fine with that. I know my place in the trading ecosystem. But my old thinkorswim used to make me feel important when I needed them to. I don’t get this same feeling from TD Ameritrade.
I know I speak for hundreds perhaps thousands of longtime customers when I plead: “please give me my old thinkorswim back. I miss you, buddy.”
The information in this blog post represents my own opinions and does not contain a recommendation for any particular security or investment. I or my affiliates may hold positions or other interests in securities mentioned in the Blog, please see my Disclaimer page for my full disclaimer.blog comments powered by Disqus
Sean McLaughlin - Editorial, Curation, & Investor Relations Solutions at StockTwits. Also, former Member of the Chicago Board of Trade who trades his own account in Boulder, Colorado. More »
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