Just recently, I walked into my bank (will not mention any names) where I requested some checkbooks, an appeal I have been making since I opened my very first bank account over 40 years ago. The teller advised me that my bank could no longer issue them through this method. Why? Because they wanted their customers to pay bills online.
“I don’t want to pay online,” I advised her. “I want checks, please.” She was steadfast and informed me that if I did want to obtain checks, from now on I’d have to order them online. It seems nowadays that every question, answer and issue is dealt with online. Online this and online that. I’m getting irritated.
“Miss, look around you; this is a bank. A bank with no checkbooks is like a fish with no water. I want my checks and I am not going online to get them. I am the customer here.”
She gasped, obviously not sure how to respond. This left room for my tirade to continue.
“And Miss, what if I don’t have a computer? Are you saying I must now purchase a computer so I can get a checkbook online in order to write a check to purchase a computer?”
At this point, we were both confused. She relented and suggested that I see the manager of the bank. “Great,” I agreed, “which way to her office?”
“You need to make an appointment with her,” the teller replied, as she proceeded to write down the manager’s email address.
“Why are you giving me her email?” I asked. “I need my checkbooks this week and I have no way to email. I have no computer or smartphone.”
(That was a lie.) Upon hearing that announcement, she almost went into shock. I knew what she was thinking: everybody has a smartphone.
I took advantage of the silence and continued my disapproving bombardment.
“Young lady, I have been banking here before you were born. I am the customer; without customers, you have no job. Without customers, there is no bank. I want my checkbooks.”
Some banks are changing the way accounts are operated. Banks are encouraging customers to move online as they close branches around the world to save money … my money. Some are even becoming bullies, giving the customers no choice, insisting they must use online technology. Well, there is something wrong with that picture.
When I finally got to see the bank manager, she was a bit more tolerant of my internet ignorance than the younger teller. She went on to explain that online banking is the practice of making bank transactions or paying bills via the internet. People no longer have to leave the house to shop, communicate, or even do their banking. Banking online allows a customer to make deposits, withdrawals, and pay bills all with the click of a mouse.
But I want to leave the house. I want to touch what I buy and speak to a human rather than a keyboard. I like to pay my bills in form of a check, envelope and a 25 cent stamp. In fact, I like to stop at the post office in Bodden Town and talk to the nice lady behind the counter while she’s listening to gospel music on her radio.
As “behind the times” as I may sound, many of my local friends don’t use checks or computers, yet they are super conscientious and still line up at their utilities providers to pay their monthly bills … in cash. So, why pressure customers to pay bills online when they don’t want to, or have no means to do so? We. Are. The. Clients. What is so hard to understand about that old cliché, “The customer is always right,” a motto which exhorts service staff to give a high priority to customer satisfaction?
The bank CEOs, CFOs, presidents and board members promote online banking. It seems they do not even want a bank building or physical address. I am of the opinion that banks want customers like myself to go online so eventually they can close all branches and employ fewer people. I would like to know what computer expert thinks banking online is safer than banking at a branch. Privacy infractions and identity theft come to mind. In the end, my bank manager took it upon herself to order my checks and I left the bank feeling victorious. The triumph did not last long, however, for a few weeks later the internet monster attacked again.
For some reason, I did not get my credit card bill a few months ago, which always comes by mail. I’m very prompt, so when I do get my itemized account I make payments in form of a posted check. This time, I went directly to the bank to pay my bill. I was advised that there was an interest charge added to my bottom line. For decades I have been paying my credit card bills in full – way before the grace period is up.
“Why?” I asked the millennial at the counter.
“You didn’t pay your statement on time this month; your payment is late.”
“But I did not get a statement this month, like I have been getting for the last 25 years, allowing me to pay on time. With no statement, I had no idea of what to pay or what I’m paying for. That’s why I’m here today.”
“Oh, but sir, you need to go online and get your statement and then pay your bill online before the grace date.”
“How was I supposed to know that?”
“We sent you an email notice. Starting this month, all payments are now to be made online.”
“But I don’t have a computer.” (Lies.)
Putting pen to check is becoming a relic of the past, like it or not (I do not like it, in case you had not guessed), and once it’s fully implemented, bank tellers will be a relic of the past. There is a positive side: We can help keep the world greener when embracing electronic banking as there will be less wasted paper and more trees.
I will bore you no further. A few days later, I did sort out this latest internet vexation and my interest charges were reversed.
There are more stories in the tech-illiterate world of us baby boomers; however, I’ll close now because my flip-phone is ringing. Having said that, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.