July 14, 2004

City Slackers or My Run on the Banks

I live in a city. The city has banks. Many banks. On my street alone there are 3, count 'em, 3 different banks. And if you turn the corner, hello, there are two more. There may be a shortage of money, but there's certainly no shortage as to where you can put it.

I grew up in a much smaller city and remember trips to the banks of old. The banks of old had imposing lobbies and gave away cardboard folders shaped like pigs that you could save your quarters in. I can't remember how many dollars you'd have once your pig was full, but it was probably in the range of three to four.

The banks of old offered many services: check cashing, deposits, savings accounts, Christmas clubs, free toasters, coins changed to bills, etc. And free visits to the tellers.

Things have changed since then. The Information Age is upon us—computer use has become more widespread and electronic transfers have never been easier. All of this technology certainly must have increased the benefits and services offered by banks, right?


Sure, you can make a phone call to change the PIN on your ATM card, order copies of statements, and find out your last 28 transactions. But can you take $100 worth of change in and get cash for it? I can't. At least, not at *my* bank.

The last time I went there to perform this apparently unheard of act (4 years ago), the machine was broken. Yesterday, I had the presence of mind to check out the situation before lugging the loot with me. Yesterday, I learned that my bank no longer has a coin counting machine. Yesterday, I was told to go use the Coinstar at the local grocery chain. ("But...that costs money. It's eight cents on the dollar." "Well, you could hike all the way to *bfe* part of the city, that branch has a coin counter.")

Yesterday, I was pissed off.

Uneager to make a scene (well, actually I *did* want to rant and rave about it, but there was a line behind me, and I'm not that much of a jerk I guess), I decided to check out the competition.

The first bank I went to was already closed.

The second bank I went to, Washington Mutual, was still open. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a girl at the door.

"Hi, can I help you?"

"Do you guys have..can you change coins into bills?"

"We don't have a coin counter-"


"but we can count it out by hand and change it for you."

"Do I have to be a member of your bank?"


"So you're saying if I bring in a hundred dollars' worth of change, you'd count it out and give me the bills, and I don't have to have an account here?!?"

"That's right."



"I have a lot of change."


"You guys would totally hate me. It's 100 dollars."


"You're going to hate me."


"Maybe I could break it up into two trips. You guys close at 6?"


"Ok, hm. It's 5:45 now...maybe tomorrow then. Wow. I can't believe it. This bank totally rules! I love you guys! Ok, thanks."

Sooo...my *own* freaking bank doesn't offer to count the change, but this place...? Where I don't even have an account? Washington Mutual rules. I'm going back there soon, and who knows, even though I'm Jewish, maybe I'll start a Christmas Club account with them.

You can bank on it.


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