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I feel the pain of online investors these days because they’re so freely sharing it in e-mails that arrive hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month.

The tone is testy and getting more so. These do-it-yourself investors feel abandoned by their brokers, and they’re quite justifiably looking to share the experience. The same thing is happening on Twitter. If you’re angry at your online broker, I suggest you check these comments.

There is such excitement about investing in stocks right now that online brokers are slammed. Their websites bog down periodically and phone lines are jammed well beyond capacity. Brokers are trying to add capacity to service clients, but demand for service takes two steps forward for every single step brokers take in adding staff or beefing up their technology.

Twitter can help address your broker problems in a practical way. Here and there, brokers will respond to client complaints made on Twitter. Brokers engage in these situations by asking clients to send a Twitter direct message – a DM – to the firm. Set up a tweet to catch a broker’s attention by using its Twitter name – @TD_DirectInvest or @Scotia_iTrade, for example. You can also use the parent bank’s Twitter name, if applicable, like @CIBC or @RBC.

Another reason to check out the complaints is related to your morale. DIY investing can be a lonely endeavour, but you’re not alone if you’re trying in vain to get a broker to take your call.

I use the TweetDeck app to organize my tweets, and I have feeds following all the big online brokerage firms. Here’s what I’ve learned in monitoring these feeds lately:

  • The bank-owned online brokers collectively have the bulk of the market, and they are receiving by far the most criticism.
  • Independent firms like Questrade and Virtual Brokers have far fewer complaints, but not zero.
  • Two-hour waits seem common, according to complaints on Twitter, and one investor recently reported waiting almost five hours; investors also report trying for days in a row and not being able to connect.
  • Some firms are still using the “high call volume” excuse, as if long waits on the phone haven’t been a chronic problem for months.

What will finally end this broker service breakdown? A sharp stock market reversal, or brokers getting ahead of demand with new hires and technical upgrades? For clues on how this turns out, I’m keeping an eye on Twitter.

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