We're not dead yet!
Blog Post by Corinne Heather Copnick - Jul.31.2008 - 12:46 pm
Banking games are no fun, not unless you're the banker that is. If I sound disenchanted, you are right. I did not have a good banking experience today. It's a shame, especially when a win-win situation is possible. You see, I went to a bank today that shall be nameless to renew a risk-free (yes, under $100,000) CD that had matured. I went in person in order to take out my meager interest for living expenses and, at the same time -- as allowed by my four-day grace period -- try to negotiate a better rate for a renewed balance. "You can renew what you've got at 2.8 percent," the she-person at the desk informed me, "but if you put an additional $5,000 from an account at another banking institution, you get 4 percent. If you were a new account, we'd also give you 4 percent, but you're an old account." I assumed she meant "old" like "retained and desirable," not "old" like me. I'm 72, so sometimes I get a little sensitive when I feel I'm being marginalized, never mind being gypped in a banking game. "I would gladly put in additional money if I had it," I replied, "but I don't. This CD represents all the liquid money I have. As a loyal customer who has invested my money with this bank for many years, my CD should have the honor of 4 percent interest. Why should an upstart newcomer get 4 percent and a longstanding customer be denied that privilege?" "It's a promotion," the bank person explained. "You have to do it today. Don't you have some extra money you can put in?" "No," I answered. "This is it. It's called 'life savings'. I have some stocks but they tanked, and I can't sell them now. I want four percent. And what about my grace period?" "No," she said snootily, ignoring my question. "Actually, I can't even book you for 2.8 percent because the rate isn't settled until tomorrow." "I'm certainly not going to renew at a rate I don't even know what it is," I cried. "I'd like to speak to the manager." Turns out the manager wasn't in. He was at a banking games conference, I guess. So I spoke to the Assistant Manager-Without-Authority-To-Do-Anything. "It's bank policy," he said. "Very strict. We want to attract new money from other banks." "Just put my money in my personal account," I said unhappily. "This old customer will come in and speak to the manager tomorrow." The scene is now the next morning. I am meeting a smiling bank manager who shakes my hand and tells me he has no authority to do anything either. After the economic turndown, the nameless bank took away all the managers' discretionary powers. They just follow the hierarchic rules now. Bank policy. Seems to me you might as well install a computer for a manager. (I thought this but did not say it.)Computers do what you tell them to do (most of the time), but they are not required to exercise any judgment either. So I tried to be more creative than a computer. "What if you give me a certified check for my money right now?" I suggested. "Then I could take it to the bank down the street and open an account and put it in. Then tomorrow I could write a check to this different banking institution, and you could give me 4 percent for bringing in new money." I thought this was pretty smart. I could play a banking game too. "No!" he pronounced firmly. "The promotion ended yesterday. I have no authority to extend the promotion. And the rate today on risk-free CDs is 2.57 percent." No grace period here. I was so mad I had a brain wave (never fails when my electrical currents get revved up). After all, I don't work for a bank. I am allowed to think for myself. "You want to attract customers?" I asked the manager. "You want to bring in money from other banks?" "Yes," he replied. "That's what the promotion is -- er, was -- for." "I have a new promotion for you," I said excitedly. "It will bring in lots of overlooked people, older folks like me, who are in their 70s and 80s because we live longer now, even to 90 or 100. Older seniors -- not baby boomers, they came later -- who saved money by different rules. We figured if we put money in a bank like this nameless bank, we'd get a decent rate of return, like maybe ten percent (that was more or less the rule then, some 20, 25, 30 years ago), that we could retire on. And we'd diversify: some blue chip stocks, some savings bonds, a little property. It adds up. You know, conservative investing?" "Yes," he answered, but he meant no. He was NOT getting it. "Well, the money's running out," I continued, "because the rules changed on us, and we don't have enough to live on with these measly interest rates that can't stand up to inflation." The manager looked confused. "Don't you see?" I crowed triumphantly. "If you gave seniors over 65 a break, gave people in their 70s and 80s an incentive, like a couple of percentage points more than everyone else -- 4 or 5 percent at the moment, and who knows where it could go? -- we would run, even on our canes and walkers, to put OUR MONEY IN YOUR BANK. What a promotion! A potentially huge market that's staring you in the face. Like me, right now. I want 4 percent." Then, I said, playing my trump card, "And your bank wouldn't have to be nameless any more. People could say right out just like that, "The Bank of God Bless America is a good corporate citizen." Win-win?
Born in Montreal, Canada, and now living in Los Angeles near her children and grandchildren, Corinne Heather Copnick, C.M., M.A., is a multi-talented writer and performer. Her career in the arts has spanned radio, television, film, and stage. For several...
Corinne’s Favorite Books
Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage. Ray Kurzweil, Spiritual Machines; Singularity is Near.