I'm Right Again Dot Com

A new commentary every Wednesday   -  March 25, 2015


    It had nothing to do with one bank offering more interest that the one with which I've done business for many decades. The new bank did not have a sale on loans, or a lottery. It did not offer a cash bonus for opening an account. The bank I chose was "handy," just a few yards from my old bank. Both banks use attractive personalities in their advertising schemes. In the media, actors playing the part of loan officers exemplify everything in the Scout oath: trustworthy, earnest, courteous, kind, etc. The eager borrowers shown in their media images are young, but old enough to have one child of either sex.

    After entering a cathedral-like atmosphere, these beautiful, happy people are shown being met by an attractive (always female?) representatives out in the area where customers are led to modern and well appointed offices. The tops of all the desks are uncluttered; a monetary Disneyworld, where only good things happen to grateful people. None of their kids have to rely on a student loan or work at Burger King.

    Our move to another bank was precipitated by a combination of things. It all began to percolate in the first quarter of 2015, when I got my statement of earnings from my old bank.  My wife and I have a modest nest egg and continuing retirement income, but hardly any of it comes from doing business with one of the largest financial institutions in the world. It was able to pay obscene bonuses to its many executives all the way through a recession that is still leaving good, honest, hard-working persons bereft of employment and home after a lifetime of striving to attain the "American Dream." Somehow, many of the unemployed were persuaded to borrow far beyond their ability to make payments on a home loan if "downsized" out of a job. 

    When we got our statement from Bank #1, it said that my wife and I had earned $47.12 in interest on our Time C.D.s. in 2014. Too bad for us that this meager sum was outpaced by inflation.

    Let's stop and think about this for a moment, a paranoid little voice whispered to me. I tried to ignore it by focusing on other concerns. They're borrowing my money at 0.04% interest and loaning it out for say 3.6% or so, on a home loan. That adds up to 90 times appreciation.

     We expect no more from Bank #2. God forbid that we should ever be late with paying our Visa credit card charges. A $35.00 late fee and penalty on the balance of 29.99-percent, will begin accruing on any unpaid balance. Once upon a time, gangsters were sent to prison for doing less.

    My father once said, "Money is just for banks to keep score." We, the scufflers in the crowd, the little people with concrete on their clothes, are not supposed to have money. 

    It was also apparent that my old bank has cut back on tellers... to make even more money, even though it discomforts their regular customers.

    Unfortunately for all parties, the MetLife insurance company had sent me a $24.00 dividend check from their enormous profits. It was lunchtime and only one teller was on duty. Three other employees, including the branch manager, had their eyes locked onto computer screens, ignoring the line that kept growing and growing—a few feet from their desks. None had customers sitting across from them.   

    The situation could not have been more annoying. The one customer had obviously come in ahead of our growing line; an owner perhaps from some burgeoning business had a lot of transactions to make, with the assistance of that lonely teller. Deposit slips were prepared, totals were tallied and entered into first one bankbook or another, money was counted and recounted, before being secreted in one of those enormous compartmental purses. Again and again, a card was swept through a small computer and verified. Computations were made in check registers. Books were being "kept," even as we looked-on. We peasants began to grumble. I sneaked a look at my watch. I had been in line for six minutes.

    At that moment, three young men, 25-35, in impeccable suits, haircuts and ties over white shirts (and dead-giveaway name tags) came in the front door. The three "banking consultants" rushed to greet them. The servile line of customers and I were treated to some sort of celebration. Six people were in another world, five feet away from a line of tired, hungry, irritated clients. I threaded my way out of the cattle guards and approached a young person holding a clipboard.

    "Do any of you work for Bank XXX," I asked. The look I got from every one of them is the same that the fishmonger receives when he delivers his herring to the rear door of Downton Abbey. A young man, who from his demeanor held an office higher than the rest, asked if he could help me. "Yes, would you please explain why three of your employees are being entertained with your presence while the rest of us wait there in the line for so long?" Too bad for him, I looked as if I had just been ejected from one of those "dream pods" for the homeless being removed from downtown.

    The young bank executive neglected to say, "I'm sorry," in my view, a cardinal sin. With some condescension toward the elderly, bearded gentlemen in jeans and "U of A" cap, he proceeded to lecture me in banking protocol and procedures. "We provide the number of tellers sufficient to give service to however many customers are in the line."

    If had been the young bank exec, I would have walked behind the teller's counter (there were six unfilled positions) and help reduce the line of supplicants waiting to do business with him and his bank. I don't suppose a person with a degree in business management would ever have thought of doing that. The people in Bank #2 were far more solicitous, when we asked to open accounts. We were happy to see that every window had a teller working behind them.

-Phil Richardson, Observer and Storyteller. 

PS: Bank #1  also owns a major stock brokerage house. Since I have not heard of my account executive for over a year, I transferred that account also to another firm.

I only hope that this "teaching moment" was helpful to someone engaged in any field of endeavor where one is expected to deal with the public.


    THE PROSPERITY COAL COMPANY: My book about hard times and union wars in the coal fields, in times past.  

   $9.95, plus shipping  For details on the novel, click: http://www.Amazon.com  and enter "Prosperity Coal Company" in the search window.




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