Thursday, July 9, 2009

Surviving in the land of IOUS

It is not easy living in California these days. Everyone is depressed and nervous for good reason. Would you accept this thing as payment?

But, let's try to look at the bright side of all of this. I am trying to do my best to make people that I meet feel good about themselves. It's not easy, but it's worth a try.

A couple of days ago, I walked into my bank, currently known as Chase Manhattan, previously known as Washington Mutual, known before that as Great American Federal, and before that, who knows? I have only lived in San Diego for twelve years, so I would have to turn to the old-timers, who might remember the beginnings of this fine institution. Anyway, I walked up to the teller to make my deposit, and I observed that this woman, probably about age 50 or so, looked quite depressed. That is hardly a surprise based on her employer's emergence from the ashes of the previous incarnations of this financial, ex-high flyer, which has lived to enjoy another day thanks to the devoted attention of we, the loving taxpayers. Unlike our financial institutions, the only stimulus packages that we have, are......I don't want to lose my G rating, so I will stop there.

This teller was quite down, perhaps because, as one Chase Home employee confided in me, her employer was trying to maximize their return on investment by several astute moves, including, first of all, taking away some of the earned vacation of some of their employees. I think that was a clever move. After all, why should we, the taxpayers, pay for time given to their employees, who are overjoyed to have this job, when they are, gasp, not working hard enough to keep us, the customers, happy?

Another brilliant move, from what I was told, is that their employees were asked to no longer have water bottles at their desks. After all, if I have come to the bank to deposit my hard-earned paycheck, watching an employee drink from a water bottle could get me so upset that I might walk away from this bank and take my multi-dollar accounts to other elite institutions across the street. Another reason for this move could be that a customer might surmise that perhaps the employees might fill their water bottle with hard liquor, and then take the liberty of swigging it while we, the customers, would watch in horror.

Finally, back in the good old days, when this bank was known as Washington Mutual, the bank decided to take away all of the safe deposit boxes of their customers in most locations. Again, a truly outstanding move. Apparently, the reason for this move was to maximize the business potential in every square inch of every branch. All that newly gained space may have contributed to the fact that the geniuses running this bank invested millions of dollars in either loans that people could barely afford, or, perhaps, placing bets, known as "reverse credit swaps," (with the entire civilized and uncivilized world's economy as collateral), that these people taking on these loans would (would not?) be able to pay their mortgages. Thanks to this move, I was forced to either take my multidollar contents of my safe deposit box and put them under my mattress, or, take my safe deposit box elsewhere. I opted for option number number two, where I got the pleasure of paying a fee for the privilege of using of another elite institution's safe deposit box.

I do feel bad picking on this institution, because it is probably no worse than the other ones, and I do appreciate that they have stuck with me for all of these years, but there are a couple of other interesting moves they have made. On the one hand, one of my accounts went below their minimum, and hence I was charged a fee for something like "inadequate balance maintained." . However, I was using another account to fund this account, and I made such transfers so often that my other account I was charged an "excess activity fee." I was told that to avoid such fees, I could make such transfers either with the teller doing the transaction , or by using an ATM machine. I suppose that this move was to prevent me from trying to do an online transaction and then suffer the indignity of being unable to access my bank account in the event some catastrophe stopping the Internet from functioning, such as the recent passing of Michael Jackson. I feel good though; I am just doing my little part to help this bank be successful in such a difficult time.

Anyway, the woman teller was wearing a very sharp looking Chase Manhattan shirt, blue with a couple of buttons and a nice collar. I complemented her and told her, "Hey, things can't be that bad. After all, you are wearing a nice shirt with Chase Manhattan insignia." Alas, she told me that her nice new shirt was actually torn in a couple of spots, and that one of the buttons was coming off, which lead me to thinking, how many times a week do these employees have to wear these shirts? Do the employees get a new shirt to wear every day, or do they have go home every night, to wash the one shirt that they have been issued, and then repeat this ritual every day to the point where their shirts start falling apart and become shabby-looking? I am afraid to inquire more into this, so I have let this one go.

Anyway, as you probably can guess, the morale of this story is : Accentuate the positive. Do your best to cheer up everyone you meet, even bank employees. You might try to do your best Michael Jackson dance moves in the bank lobby, by doing some spins, standing on your tip toes and doing some Moonwalking. You will definitely put on the smile of everyone in the bank (except for, perhaps the security guards, who might, unfortunately, deduce that you are a threat to the bank in light of your behavior, and arrest you, or even shoot you. ) But, do not fear. America will survive this economic meltdown, as long as we and all consumers keep a smile on our faces, and, as the old saying goes, "Don't let'em see you sweat."


  1. Appreciate your insight on the lot of bank tellers. I was fortunate throughout my work life to never have a pointy haired boss, but my job for many years was associated with banking, and then I went through multiple mergers, till I couldn't take it anymore and worked on my own. In banking during normal years, and most workplaces during reorganization times, pointy haired bosses reign.

  2. Hello Timecheck,

    Thanks, pointy haired bosses can make our lives very difficult. I have worked for many of those myself, and I am thankful now that I am not in that type of environment anymore.

    Bank tellers can really be inspirational to the rest of us. I recently expressed my displeasure to a teller about their various charges, as discussed in my blog. She listened patiently, and then gave me a written list of every fee that their bank had been charging, as well as listing their interest rates on all of their accounts (which were mostly .01%). After that, she was still friendly, and even offered me the opportunity to be one of the lucky winners of a contest which I could enter, as long as I authorized the bank to pay automatic payments out of my accounts. I declined (because I mostly pay bills via the Internet already), but I appreciated her ability to have a positive attitude, in such a difficult business environment, where she probably has to take abuse all day long from customers.