Mike Photo
First published NZ Herald

Banks

My bank BNZ boasts several account options tailored to my individual banking needs. After careful consideration I chose the 'Flexirape' plan. A well balanced package of poor service and fees that would make an Asian protection gang blush.

We pay to put money in the account. For the privilege of letting them lend out our money for profit. Then we pay service fees on that account. Then we pay for an overdraft facility. Then we pay for the cheque. Then we pay interest on that money.

Now we must also pay a giant 'Acceptance fee' if we slightly exceed an agreed limit. Even if it is by less dollars than the years we have been at the bank. If they didn't think a customer could pay, they wouldn't honor the cheque at all. Then charge the fee for that.

If they know we can pay, just charge the interest, the fees and be happy. I think seven dips at the trough is a might greedy. But I know they have a think tank working on number eight.

Our banks just keep inventing these scams. They have pushed their luck like a horny teen on a date. One step at a time. Seeing how far they can go. A few years ago their hand was up our collective skirt, but now we are just being screwed.

No. I take that back. A horny teenager is bold. Banks are like jackals. They all wait for one to work up the courage to go in for a nip and if that works they all join in the feeding frenzy.

With that new con then being accepted as 'Industry standard'. I don't know why banks make you sign a contract any way. All it says is "We are going to make stuff up as we go and see if you let us get away with it".

Simple money orders have crept up to $25. That's a hefty fee for a minutes typing. Some dentists don't make that much as an hourly rate and I bet the teller didn't go to school for five years.

I now have to pay $5 before I can get one cent of foreign currency. At their extortionate exchange rate! The teller invariably shakes their head and says "I know. It's a rip off. But I think you will find its all quiet standard".

So is getting attacked by a machete in parts of Africa.

This I should add is to gain access to the branch's vast stockpile of "We have one ten dollar note and one five, Sir".

Any government watchdog has clearly failed us.

I recently had to call an after hours banking line to check if an error on the part of the bank had been remedied. Mr. 'English as a fifth language' answers ready to offer nothing in a very professional manner.

"I can't give you that information".
"Why?"
"You can't answer the required questions to confirm you are you".
Try me.
"I can't".
Why not.
"I can't say".
I have not had this problem before. Why now?
"I can't tell you that".
That's insane!
"Do you want to speak to my supervisor?"
Yes.

(Repeat above process)
They confirmed that my home number was listed in front of them. I suggested they simply call me back. "We can't do that. It's policy". The conversation continued like a comedy sketch until I gave up. Apparently "Swearing at me won't change anything".

Try that in the real world. "No I wont tell you if we have lamb pies – nor will I tell you why". I since went to an unfamiliar branch with no ID, dressed like a bum and was given a large amount of cash from my account. So much for security.

Many believe banks have a demonstrated policy or driving away small customers with high fees and poor service. Their massive profits rivaled only by length of their queues.

My father gave up changing banks each time he encountered service too appalling to tolerate. He just ran out of banks. God help them if we ever charged banks for the countless errors and wasted time they cause us. Then pursue it in small claims court.

Oh, if there are any bank consultants listening to this this, here is an observation. People bank on their lunch hours. So that's going to be a busy time for you. Thusly a bad time to take your own staff to lunch. Little tip there.

My favorite mystery is why when I give someone a cheque the money is gone from my account as fast as fiber optics can carry it. Yet when I bank a cheque it takes a week for me to have access to those funds.

Where does it go in the interim ? Maybe it gets counseling to help it deal with the upheaval. There is no such thing as a 'personal banker' any more. That's a myth. The system is as rigid as the menu at McDonalds. The branch doesn't matter. Hell, it doesn't differ bank to bank. You will find inflexible, mindless automatons with formulae to apply and that's that.

My friend has a small mortgage to pay on his two homes. He is between work, by choice, to pursue his acting and applied for an insignificant sum to improve the rental property. His employment status put him just out side the magic formula of acceptance.

The manager said "I know it's silly but it's out of my hands." Even the managers are an illusion. Banks are just a chain of KFC for money. The service offered is reducing at the same rate their fees increase and their staff uniforms should include a balaclava. Because we are being robbed.

Mike Loder, 2007

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