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Don't Bank On It

by Stephen Lautens


January 12, 2001

Here it is only the middle of January and I'm breaking one of my New Years resolutions already.

I told myself I'd go easy on the banks this year. Not because they've been particularly good. Far from it. I just don't want to be one of those people who goes on whining about the same thing over and over again.

But darn it, they just seem to go out of their way to be unloveable. And with $12 billion in revenue last year, my bank proves that money can't buy you love.

First of all, I just got a notice that my bank is closing and my account is moving again. This is the third time my branch has closed. That means new cheques, account numbers and tellers. It's enough to give a guy a complex. I'm starting to feel like the kid in the motorhome whose house ran away from him.

It also means I have to get to know a new group of tellers so they don't give me a tough time whenever I need to cash a ten dollar cheque. I used to have one manager who I could call and move money around or ask about the state of my vast financial empire. She even had a real office where I could drop in and say hi.

She's gone and now it takes three people to look after my account, which means no one ever knows anything. I'm not even sure where they are, since all I have is a phone number. Probably outsourced to a prison call center in Alabama.

Last week I went to the business teller and said I needed a money order. He asked me if I had a business account. I said I had both my business and personal accounts there.

"I'm sorry, we don't do money orders here." He replied.

"Then why did you need to know if I had a business account if you don't do them here anyways?" The dazzling logic was lost on him. He told me to go to the guy who looks after the safety deposit boxes in the vault.

Of course - and the nightwatchman must be in charge of the RRSPs.

So off I went to the vault guy, who said he did money orders, except of course the computer was down and a simple transaction my giving them real money in exchange for a piece of paper was out of the question. Real money is quickly becoming an annoyance.

I've also been trying to close a bank account for a deceased relative for four months now. It's at that bank run by a grocery store. All the proper papers have been signed, sealed and sent to them. I called to ask what the hold up was. After half an hour on hold, the answer was no one knew, but they would put a trace on it and I should call back in three days.

I gave it four to be on the safe side (four and a half if you counted the time I again spent on hold). It actually ended up taking three weeks, which makes you wonder whether those expiration dates on their milk mean anything.

"You'll be happy to know the trace has been completed," she said.

"So where's the money?"

"It doesn't say," she reported. "But the trace was successful," she said full of pride at her bank's efficiency. I still haven't seen a nickel of it.

So I wish the banks the best of luck in 2001. I'll be keeping my money in a jar on my dresser, where I know the teller and can always get at it.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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