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David Miller Online: I Don’t Hate the Banks

It is interesting to read the articles published so far on Scoop as to why people hate banks. Given the material published thus far, I cannot decide whether the whole exercise is aimed at Auckland Mayor John Banks or those institutions that take your money and give you next to nothing back in return. Given that we now have a petrol tax forced upon us to pay for Auckland’s roads, both subjects both engage in this activity and both are often in the news drawing criticism for some activity or statement. I do not live in Auckland so I cannot comment on Mr. Banks’ performance as Mayor. So I will direct my attention to the money lending institutions with which we are forced to do business with, and thanks to Jim Anderton, all New Zealanders can say they now own.

I have to admit that I don’t hate the banks. They may be instruments that are utilised by the international capitalist system in its bid to oppress the Third World, pollute the environment and lend to all the major corporations that keep globalisation moving forward, but I still don’t hate them. Admittedly the tellers are never in a hurry to find out how well my day is going or the reasons why I might look tired or stressed but we must remember that this is not their business. Their job is to smile, deal with your business politely and above all else efficiently and get you out of there as quickly as possible and serve the next person in line. As long as I get a friendly hello and I am not in there any longer than I have to be, I am satisfied.

Before you tell me to that I am wrong and that this is not an example of good customer service, ask yourself this: do you really want to end up standing there telling a complete stranger the ins and outs to your day when you could be doing other things? I certainly don’t. I find going to the bank very much like getting petrol for the car and doing my grocery shopping; something I have to do and that interrupts my day and week. The fact that these activities usually take no more than 5 or 10 minutes at best and 30 in the case of the shopping is irrelevant. It is still an inconvenience forced upon me. I also suspect that the last thing the poor teller wants is to have yet another customer start giving them a complete breakdown of their day and worse still, their life.

You should also imagine how it feels when you are in a long queue of people waiting to be served for something and someone holds up the queue. Do you remember the frustration? Usually the person responsible for this state of affairs has failed to read the instructions properly on their withdrawal slip or has got the wrong end of the stick and has since become completely irrational over the reasons why their overdraft has been terminated. This happened once to me while I was waiting in the line at a bank in downtown Christchurch. Here we were all lined up waiting our turn when this old man starts getting upset at something. No one quite knew why he got so angry but he refused to listen to all the explanations the young girl behind the counter was offering, started shouting abuse at her and the staff and then in a fit of pique decided he was withdrawing all his money.

The answer to all of this has come in the form of telephone banking, plastic cards and automatic bill payments. But once again people are not happy. They complain at the fact that when they use telephone banking they are left listening to an automated message and the whole exercise is impersonal and lacking the human touch. Personally I could not care less. As long as the voice on the end of the phone tells me I have something left in my account and that my credit card is not to far in the red, I am happy. I also make the most of the automatic payments system and anything that comes along that keeps me from physically having to go to the bank as little as possible. Other than that who cares if I am not talking to a real human being.

I believe the reason people hate the banks is that most of us have to deal with them on a weekly basis and short of digging a hole in the back garden we need them to help us manage our money. Most of us owe the bank a certain amount of money, which will never endear them to us and when we give them our money to look after we never seem to get much back in return. Occasionally we get poor service but then that is now commonplace in retail and I have had more bad experiences with poor sales staff in shops than I have the bank. No, I don’t hate the banks.

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