The stock trading app Robinhood has been making headlines in recent weeks, after it was at the center of the Gamestop stock trading frenzy.
Now, it's coming under criticism from Congress for the way it handled the unusual surge in trading. And one of the biggest issues concerns its customer service.
Michelle Castator's husband, Michael, passed away last year, leaving behind a Robinhood stock trading account among other assets.
Castator is now trying to settle his accounts, and has had sympathetic ears at her banks and other creditors.
But the Hamilton, Ohio, woman hit a roadblock at Robinhood.
"I didn't know what the steps were going to be, since it was me and not my husband who had the account," she said.
She found no way to call the company, so she emailed Robinhood three times, she says, before finally getting an email response.
"I needed to send them the death certificate and my driver's license," Castator said.
She did it, but a month later, nothing had changed after several email exchanges, nor had she spoken with any human.
"You know, this is just ridiculous," the frustrated widow said.
Robinhood is appealing to prospective traders because it makes stock trading so easy.
You don't even need a laptop. Just get on your phone, and the interface is so simple it is like playing a video game.
There are no fees, no commissions, but according to some members of Congress, there is almost no customer service either.
Congressman demonstrates customer service frustration
At a virtual hearing in D.C. last week, Illinois Congressman Sean Casten demonstrated what happens when traders try to get phone help. He claimed the company hangs up on callers.
So Casten dialed the company's customer service number live on TV, and played the recording he received.
"Please visit us at Robinhood.com or on our app for support," an automated voice said. "If you have an urgent need, please be sure to include details on your order before reaching out. Thanks and have a great day!"
Robinhood CEO and founder Vlad Tenev told the committee that Robinhood is not a full-service brokerage, which is how they keep stock trades free.
"We dreamed of making investing more accessible," he told Congress.
But Tenev, in a blog post shortly after the hearing, now promises a new investment in customer support, with phone reps.
Michelle Castator is thankful she is only fighting for a couple of thousand dollars.
"If Mike would have had more money in that account, I think I would have been beside myself," she said.
After we emailed Robinhood, a company spokesman told us they will contact Castator, and make the widow's case a priority.
As always, don't waste your money.
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