May 24, 2002
"Hi, I was calling about the notice I
received saying that you're increasing my monthly banking fee."
"Oh yes, and how can I help you?"
I swear in the background I can hear the
sound of people rolling around in folding money. Tens and twenties,
if I'm not mistaken.
"I want to cancel my credit card and go
back to having a plain savings account."
Through the phone I hear the sound of
computer keys being clicked and my entire life history being paraded
on the screen before the bank employee.
"I see. It says here you're one of our
preferred, extra-special customers. We'd hate to see you lose all
those special services you have with your current plan."
"What kind of services?"
"Well, you get free cheques."
"I don't write cheques. Nobody in the
world tries to write cheques anymore unless you're a cat lady. I do
all my banking at bank machines and on the computer." It's
true, I haven't set foot inside a bank in years. Every time I do I
end up in line behind someone trying to cash a double-endorsed US
cheque using an "I'm With Stupid" tee shirt as ID.
"You know, if you leave our premium
plan, you'll have to pay a service charge to keep doing your banking
"So let me get this straight - you're
going to charge me for sitting at my kitchen table with my computer
and doing all the work you'd normally have to pay a teller to
"That's right. And we'll now have to
charge you a service fee every time you want to take your money
"A service fee for getting my own money
back? How much if I just want to come and visit it at the
"Oh, it's not here" - more sounds
of crinkling bills and jingling change - "It's out working hard
in the community."
At a heck of a higher interest rate than I'm
getting, I mutter under my breath. If I got any less interest, I'd
owe the bank. Wait a minute, when you add up all the fees, I do owe
Deeply buried in the bank's website is the
amount of interest they pay on a regular savings account. If you
have under five grand in the bank and leave it there for the whole
year, you get one tenth of a percent. That's right - ten cents a
year interest on a hundred dollars.
"We could increase your credit card
limit, if that helps."
"I pay it off every month. I don't want
to pay eighteen percent to borrow money when you're paying me a
tenth of a percent for me lending you my money."
I do some quick calculation. The bank is
charging me 180 times as much in interest for my credit card as they
are paying me for my cold hard cash. Sweet deal. Does the Mafia know
"We value you as a customer. If we
didn't, why would we send you so many colourful inserts in your
statement saying that we do?"
"About that - while we're at it, is
there any way you could stop sending me so much junk?"
"I'll look it up, but there may be a