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"Slip," sliding, away
Jonathan Pait
January 16, 2004

Have you ever snapped and behaved in a way that is entirely uncharacteristic of you?

I had an experience this week that left me looking back at the event and saying, "My goodness, was that me?" The most surprising thing to me is that it didnít really take that much to put me over edge.

My checkbook ran out of deposit slips some time ago. Since I do most of my bill payment over the Internet, I donít use a lot of checks. However, I have occasion to need to deposit money in the bank. So, my entire supply of deposit slips that came in the back of my checkbook was gone.

Not needing to order more checks I simply grabbed some of the deposit slips from inside my bank branch to use until I placed a new order. That worked out pretty well until I ran out of those and found myself in a hurry.

I needed to make a deposit and get to a meeting. So, I pulled up to the teller window of that bank branch where I have done my banking for nearly 14 years now. I have watched the bank go through two different mergers. My original "life time" free checking account died with the first merger. Yet, I have been a pretty good customer. I keep a good account, have taken out my mortgage there and have not caused any trouble.

I pushed the "call" button.

"Hello, welcome to *****. How can I help you?"

"Yes, is it possible for me to make a deposit if I simply write my account number on the check?" I knew it was possible to do this when you deposit money using the ATM.

"No, sir, I canít do that here."

"Well then, you couldnít send me a deposit slip could you?"

"No, sir, youíll have to come inside to fill out a deposit slip."

Now, I am the sort of person that won't complain about food in a restaurant - even when the food is bad.  If I buy something that isn't exactly right, I'll work around the problem rather than go back to the customer service desk.  What happened next is totally uncharacteristic of me.

Here I am ashamed to say I began to snap. It wasnít a big deal, but I couldnít help thinking Ė "I have put tens of thousands of dollars through this bank and this guy wonít even send me a deposit slip through his glorified vacuum cleaner?" I was frustrated and felt an irrational anger cause my brow to turn warm.

"Okay, then, Iíll just go find another bank."

I think I would have gone, cooled down and then sulked back to the bank later had the teller not then said, "Okay, thank you for using ******. Have a nice day."

Was I talking to a person or a machine?

Now, I own a business and I know that if I sense unease in a customerís voice, it is time to stop everything and get to the bottom of it. Obviously, that idea wasnít brought up in the training for this particular bank.

I drove away and went on to my next appointment. However, it kept building up. So, when I could I headed back to my bank, walked in, and asked for the manager. She took me into her glass-incased office looking out into the lobby.

"Why couldnít I get a deposit slip?"

"The drive-thru is for quick transactions. It isnít supposed to last more than two minutes."

"Okay, but I was the only car at three open teller windows. Even as I left there were no cars coming up. Besides, it wouldnít have taken me two minutes."

"Well, besides, we cannot give out counter documents through the teller window."

"Oh, you canít, I donít see why not. I have come into your lobby and taken counter deposit slips with me. What is the difference?"

"You are not supposed to do that."

"Really, well it might be a good idea to post that somewhere. I have not seen that policy published."

"Well, that is the policy."

"Okay, so it is a policy, but I also know that policies should be flexible when you are working with a customer. I own a business and I know if that I was not flexible with some of my policies, I wouldnít have many customers."

"I understand, Mr. Pait, but we have to be careful. If we bend the policy for you here at this branch, then when you ask for that same service at a different branch, it will cause them problems. We try to keep our service consistent at all branches."

"Whatever, but I think it would have been much better had your teller said, ĎIím sorry Mr. Pait, but I cannot send you counter documents through the teller window. I would like to but those documents must be filled out inside.í"

"Oh, yes, you are right. We have been working to train our employees that it is important to use the right words when communicating with customers."

"Okay, so what about now?"

"Well, Jonathan, Iíll go ahead right now and order you a deposit slip book. Youíll get 100 deposit slips and there will be no charge. You should get them in a couple of days."

So, fourteen years of being a loyal customer wonít get me a deposit slip through the teller window. Maybe that is what set me off. I am an account number at a huge national bank that places policy over relationships. Maybe Iíll start looking around for a bank where everyone knows my name.

I mean, all I want is a deposit slip.

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Jonathan, I can appreciate your frustration in dealing with a bank. I can definitely relate. Years ago, I became frustrated with banks, and could share some similiar experiences, but just wanted to say that switching to a credit union was a good way to solve that. . . .

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