Thursday, February 15, 2007


When I'm at work, I wonder sometimes if I've become too removed from the average customer, too knowledgeable about banking to understand where they are coming from. I worry that maybe this all seems so normal to me, so logical, that I don't get why THEY don't get it. I try to remember what I knew about THE SYSTEM back before I was a part of it. Because honestly, how hard is this? I deal with the same problems over and over again.

Losing your debit card. Happens to everyone. Has happened to me in the past. We don't charge anything for new debit cards, even though it's a pain to block the old one, order a fresh one, give out a temporary one. But I think there should be a reasonable limit to how many times someone can lose their card. I think that there should be a one-new-card-per-year free, and any losses after that should get charged. Because who loses two debit cards in, say, three months?

Overdrafts. Is this as hard to comprehend as the customers make it seem? I can't remember. I know that before I worked at the bank, I did overdraw my account. But, I understood WHY that happened. I knew that it was my own error and not the banks. Here's how banking works, and honestly, not that hard, right?

You put money in the account. You then spend the money, either with checks or with debit-card purchases. Responsible people keep some kind of record. The rest of us use online banking combined with a healthy just-in-case-I-forgot-something balance. If you are going to spend close to the edge (that is, spend right up to the whole balance of your account) then you better be damned sure that you're keeping track of your purchases, because here's the major catch: they don't always show up right away. If you write someone a check, they have six months to cash it, so don't forget that you wrote that check. Store purchases frequently take a few days to "post", so if you go to Starbucks on Tuesday, that may not be reflected in your balance Wednesday. YOU have to remember that you already spent that money. Let's say your balance at first is 100.00. You spend 5.00 at McDonalds. You check your balance, say at an ATM, and it says, "$100.00". You then buy concert tickets for 99.99. The next day, your balance is negative 24.99. Because you over-drew your account with the concert tickets, and got charged an over-draft fee on top of that.

What I'm trying to figure out is, have I been doing this for so long that it seems too obvious? Every day I have to explain that no, it's not a bank error, it's a customer error. YOU are the only person whose responsibility it is to not over-spend your account. The bank did not "let" your concert-ticket purchase "go through" in an attempt to "nail" you for the overdraft charge. The bank does not know about your McDonald's 5.00 purchase until it hard-posts to your account, which could be days later.

Sometimes I feel like one of those computer-expert-people on the phone, who start yabbering on in computer jargon as though you can just follow along. But banking... everybody does it. These people, they come to the bank at least once a week. Why do they look at the deposit slip as though it's a foreign item?


Benjamin said...

Ah, customers. What is it they say about a fool and his money?

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