Saturday, September 29, 2007


Banking On Failure

I very recently switched to a new bank. My old institution was fine, but doesn't have a branch here in the San Fernando Valley. Sometimes you actually want to go there. My new bank is the one that reminds one of San Diego's Sea World.......Wamu the Killer Whale. Actually, I sort of prefer the more generic "Wash Mutt."

Our new arrangement--the one in which I let them store my money, and they let me have it as I need it--is already wearing a mite thin. I had an account at Wash Mutt once before, but unfortunately, there seems to have been a change in their branch operations, and not one for the better.

They've decided not to trust their clients.

They've decided to treat every client as if he is a criminal, and up to no good.

They've taken a number of pages from the American Paranoid Airport Book of Security. You open a door and enter. There's a second door that remains locked until the first door closes and locks. At this point, you're locked into a five-by-eight-foot cell.

What if something goes horribly wrong? There is no food nor water. You can see out--the cell is walled in with (presumably bulletproof) glass--and others can see in, and watch the claustrophobe scream and pound vainly 'pon the glass with bruised and bloody fists.

Then, you have to pass through a metal detector to get to the second door. Only Odin knows what will happen to you if you happen to have a particularly robust ring of keys hanging from your belt. Knockout gas? A trap door and a ride down a slippery duct to a pool of hungry crocks?
Next, if you are not wearing your Rodeo Cowboy's Association bull riding trophy belt buckle, you may proceed to the second door. If you've passed all the tests, you may enter and face the Minotaur.

Actually, he's a very old minotaur, usually with no horns and with a gray, balding scalp, and he's usually about 5'6" tall, with a bored, but strangely welcoming smile and a deceptively "Walmart greeter-like" aspect.

He's the Security Guard. Against all reason, he's also unarmed. No one says it, but they put him there to be the first one shot--a sacrificial herald, as it were--should all other devices fail. The guard gets shot, you push the alarm button. Simple.

I think they keep the line fairly long, to make the prospective robber get more and more nervous should he get by the Minotaur unscathed (and without having raised the alarm). Wash Mutt has cleverly introduced the DMV method of helping its clients: each time the length of the line increases by ten individuals, they send another teller on break.

At length, well after you've finished reading Atlas Shrugged, or whichever novel you've brought along to help pass the time, you get to greet the often-pretty smiling face of the empty-headed teller. She (sometimes he) might be very nice, and even smart as a whip, but Wash Mutt doesn't want smart tellers, they want tellers who'll follow procedure. Always.

Make every arrangement possible that your transaction is simple and that your deposit slip is in order: t's crossed and i's dotted, and that all arithmetic is correct. Miss Teller will know if you've added 9 and 3 and got 13. They're trained to see these things. If she ever misses one, it'll be caught by the Supervising Teller watching on the monitor behind the wall. The teller will then be fed to the crocks in the pool under the bank.

Exiting the bank is exactly the same as entering: two doors enclosing a little cell--except here, there's no metal detector. A word of caution, though. If you've passed through the first door, then remember something, you can't go back! You'd have to go through the second door, then return through the first entrance door, with all the dangers and pitfalls enclosed therein.

I already know that I don't like this kind of treatment. I don't know how long I'll remain a client of Wash Mutt.

Ok, here's the deal, and this is the same at all banks and most other business locations: nobody is armed there. As I mentioned, not even the Ancient Minotaur.

How long has it been since someone robbed a shooting range? A gun store?

In a shooting range, everyone has a gun. In a gun store, all the employees are armed and trained in firearm use. Were I desirous of committing armed robbery, a gun store would be the last place I'd think of going.

Banks have a lot of money inside, and no one inside has a gun. All the robber has to do is get past those damned doors. Thus, a bank is like a school: if the evil-doer can get inside the premises with a gun, he's free to kill as many as he wants, without fear of opposition.

Yet I, who have no intention of ever robbing a bank, have to put up with this inconvenience, not to mention the presumption of guilt, this impersonal (yet very personal) system imposes 'pon me and every other honest client.

Every year, hiding my cash under the mattress looks better and better.

Warm regards,

Col. Hogan
Stalag California

4 comments:

MK said...

Well said CH, you'd be pulling your hair out over in South Africa.

Last time i was there, everywhere you go, you had to go through those doors, even at the post office, it's like you're moving from jail cell to jail cell.

You should see some of the armored cars that they use there to move money around, they look like smallish tanks rolling down the road.

The Wine Commonsewer said...

It's just cuz you live in LA. Okay, near LA. Okay, in the valley.

We still have the same account we had 20 years ago but through a series of mergers and buyouts we ended up at WaMu. Hate that Acronym.

Our branch is spacious and looks more like a cocktail lounge than a bank. The tellers all stand behind paneled stations out on the floor with high-tech gadgets. Nobody is behind glass or bars. No airlocks on the way in just a row of ATM machines. Lots of sofas too. And some games to keep the kiddos occupied whist you make that deposit. Plus there's an airhead chick that will tell you all about refinancing your mtg too.

The property used to be a nursery surrounded by lemon groves. The only thing left now is the row of Jacarandas they preserved along what used to be a rural road.

WaMu also sits next to that fine libertarian establishment known as Whole Foods Market.

Now, if you go to the branch off McKinley, you just feel like a Negra in Memphis in 1971. Nobody notices that you exist.

Col. Hogan said...

So, I guess modern civilization hasn't yet reached the 'burbs.

Aurora said...

Banks have always been the very epitome of red tape and impersonalized leeching of your money, no matter what a nice friendly face appears in their advertisements.