Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sign of the Times?

Friday I had to stop by the bank in the city where I work to ensure my aunt's original Will was in the safe deposit box. My brother and I opened one when she went into the nursing home in order to store her valuables. Having it in our names meant that when she dies, we will not have to do a legal waltz to obtain the documents we need. I thought HER bank had kept the original Will yet in the back of my mind a faint memory whispered, "No, I think the Investment Guy sent it back to you for safekeeping."

Safekeeping. And I wasn't sure of it's location. Not a good sign.

So I dutifully went to find out, only to run into the same problem as the last time I accessed the box to retrieve the deed needed to sell her house. My name wasn't "on the computer". Didn't matter I'd handed them my driver's license and bank membership card or that I was wearing a photo I.D. from work which also pointed out that yep, it's me. The teller, a young man who looked about fifteen, sat there flustered, telling me he was sorry but I couldn't look in the box. Holding the key to the box in my hand like some talisman, I explained that this had happened the last time I needed to get in the box.

"Guess no one fixed it", he muttered, looking from the screen, then back at me. My guess is he hoped I'd just go away.

I explained the box was set up under my brother's account number. It's a long story. Suffice to say male chauvinism is involved from a centuries old practice. Even though hubby and I have a joint account, since I was "added" to his existing account when we married, I'm not the "Primary" party. This means big decisions are not allowed by the little woman. Apart from making deposits and transferring funds [for which I have to give them HIS Social Security number] I can't legally change anything to our account. No, I've just written out and delivered the check for the house payment for years....but, I digress.

Teller Boy wasn't happy that I didn't know Bro's account number but he played along and politely agreed to look it up. He asked me to verify Bro's birth date, which was funny because he GAVE it to me, instead of asking me for it. It was correct and we continued with this dance as I politely and calmly explained I'd been sitting right next to Bro as we'd both signed the form giving only the TWO of us permission to go into the box.

Obviously, I wasn't going away. He sighed and called over his supervisor. I think she was sixteen.

Same dance. She shook her head sadly and said, "But you're not on the computer."

In a polite tone, with a forced smile, I replied, "My signature is on the original form."

"Well," she offered slowly when it was apparent I wasn't going to drop my head and trudge toward the door in defeat, "if you signed the form and you're not on the computer, then we have a problem."

You think?

No, I didn't say it out loud. I just continued to smile as she scurried off to pull a file and enter the Manager's office. He was leaning back in his chair, chatting on the phone merrily. He hung up, I saw her mouth move and the smile slid off his face as his chair returned to the upright position.

I'm pretty sure this conversation took longer than necessary but, what can you do? I asked Teller Boy if I should move aside so he could aid other customers. I thought he was going to pin me to the counter when he said "No!". Seems the appearance of helpful is better than someone standing off to the side, steaming slowly.

As I stood there, looking up into the security camera with my frozen smile and thinking, "Yep, this is what an unhappy patron looks like," out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign. I wasn't suppose to be able to see the sign, but someone had left the door open. It read, "Believe half of what you see and nothing that they tell you."

I guess Customer Service ain't what it use to be.

On one hand, I appreciate that the bank isn't handing over cash to anyone who asks for it....just because they ask. And yet, I was somewhat insulted, realizing our relationship was built on a foundation of mistrust. Didn't matter that I'd never missed a house payment or that, in fact, we're actually a month ahead of their schedule. The world has changed and not necessarily for the better. Sad thought.

Ms. Sixteen came back, tripping over her apologizes, showing me where I'd signed on the form. I noted that my address was no longer a rural route number but a street address. She glossed over it, saying as long as it was correct on my account, no problem. Teller Boy went with me to the vault and I asked if he wanted my key. The last time I did this dance, the old spinster in charge demanded that I turn my key at "precisely the same time" as she did. For a moment, I wondered if we were arming a nuke. Teller Boy merely took my offered key and asked me to sign the paperwork while he retrieved the box. I noted with irony that the only time the box has ever been accessed was, when I came for the deed to my aunt's house. Handing the box to me, he asked if I needed to go to a privacy room. I told him no, I only needed to verify that the Will was present. And so he did a very secure, by the book banking move.

He turned his back to me, put his arm over his eyes and leaned against the wall.

I almost lost it. The box. It took everything in me not to burst out laughing. Teller Boy looked like an overgrown five year old sent to the corner for a Time Out. Balancing the box in one hand, I swallowed the giggle threatening to burst forth as I flipped over the paperwork inside. The Will was there. All was right with the world. I thanked him for his help and he turned around, one eye peeking over his arm to ensure the box was closed and he would not be privy to all the secrets which dwelt within. He apologize. I suggested he should be Employee of the Month for his patience. He blushed. He held the door open for me as we exited.

As I walked out of the bank in the city I work in, I felt slightly homesick for my small town bank we use for checking and hubby's business. Do you know why I love small town banking? They know who I am, by name. Even without the photo I.D.. And they never, ever would've blamed their error on the computer.


Matthew S. Urdan said...

What a great story! I lost it when you referred to the kid as "Teller Boy". Pretty crazy all the hoops they make you jump through these days.

Since I left Ohio, I've had fun with banking bank, US Bank, doesn't do business in North Carolina. My local branch is still in Columbus, Ohio. I'll let you figure out the implications to that!

Nice post.

Susan said...

ROFL You make the most everyday events into such great stories!

The Adventures of Teller Boy and Ms. Sixteen....sounds like a great pilot for a new kids' tv show, too. Heh heh

I'm glad you found the will: both your aunt's and your own to break through the stalwart guardians of Banklandia.

You're so right about country banking. When I walk in, they say Hi Susan, and have my account on screen before I'm at the counter. Superb.

hope said...

Matt, I do not envy you. Perhaps you could threaten to tie any errant banker to a raft and send them down river...all alone. :)

Susan...all I can say is God bless country living! I'm glad someone else can relate.