When Great Brands Go Bad: A Day in the Life of a Reluctant TD Ameritrade Customer
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.