We have dealt with a large, huge actually, bank for about 30 years. They offered good service during that time including fraud protection in case our accounts were invaded by bad guys, which never happened until a few weeks ago. It’s reassuring that they’re on guard in our favor. Several months ago at their local “banking center” they installed new ATMs. These machines were touted as being easier to use. Instead of putting cash and checks into envelopes to make a deposit, the user could simply slide them into a slot and the machine would miraculously read the values of the checks. Trouble is, the machine could not deal with most people’s scrawls; it took a huge amount of time while not being very good at reading the amounts. So the customer stands there while the machine groans and beeps and makes an idiot of itself, then finally asks the customer to input the amounts manually.
What used to be a quick transaction was now taking at least ten times as long to accomplish. People line up behind a depositor, waiting and waiting. What the too-big-to-fail bank’s ATM is doing is making the customers do the work once done by bank employees—inputting the values of the checks being deposited—a great time- and money-saving tactic on the part of the bank.
I received a fraud alert from the big bank; someone had spammed my debit card. They canceled the card and told me I could get a temporary card at the banking center. I did so. To activate the card I had to go to its ATM and do something. I decided to made a deposit of $20 to my account. I put a fresh nice-looking $20 bill in the drawer and the machine almost bit it in half! I re-tried, placing the bill very precisely onto the cold steel plate in its nasty maw. The machine slammed its door and made the awfullest paper shredder sound, like it was tearing the bill into bits. Grinding, grinding, grinding. It went on for way too long. I was thinking I had lost my twenty when it finally declared that my deposit was accepted.
We are in a transition period, moving personal and business accounts from the big bank to a small local bank. Only minutes earlier I had made a painless deposit using a deposit slip and envelope at the really old ATM of our too-small-to-matter bank. It went so fast I was astonished. Boom! Over! Done! Go away and enjoy life! The small bank even provides huge shade trees to cool the parking spaces. The people inside the branch know my name. They provide a comfy chair in a private nook when I make a merchant’s deposit, and count the money by hand! The interior of the building is spacious and very attractive with a big walk-in fireplace set into one of the all-stone walls. There’s a copy of today’s Wall Street Journal on the table in the lobby, along with other newspapers. I haven’t seen any cookies and milk yet, but I won’t be surprised if they show up.
Another small bank in town has doggy treats if you bring your dog. It reminds me of the toys that accompany fast food kids’ meals. I can imagine a customer driving past the doggy bank and being nagged by Fido to stop and go in. Is that the bank’s intention? Hm-m-m.
I fervently hope the small bank can keep its identity and not get swallowed up by some unfeeling behemoth. The world needs more banks, not fewer.