Banks, where you gain interest and lose interest at same time


March 31, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

Every now and then it is a good idea to take all your mone out of the bank and switch it to a different one.

This is the only way to find out if your money is still there and not buying surfing lessons and pina coladas for the bank's board of directors down in Bimini.

You could just go into the bank and ask to see your money, of course, but they will not let you do so.

Try it if you don't believe me.

"I would like to see all the money in my savings account," you say.

And a very nice vice president with at least a high school education will take you aside and tell you how banking works.

"We don't actually keep your money here in a big vault," he says. "We lend your money to other people. That is so your money can work to build society. It can work to build houses and factories and purchase farms and all the other things that make America strong."

"Where is my money really?" you ask.

"Buying surfing lessons and pina coladas down in Bimini for our board of directors," he says, breaking down and weeping softly onto his desk blotter.

So every now and then you have to go to your bank and take out all your money just to be sure it is still there.

This is not easy, however.

Most of us have not been inside our banks for years. We have not dealt with the people inside our banks for years.

That's because automatic teller machines (ATMs) were invented we would never have to go inside banks and deal with the people there.

This accounts for the popularity of the machines. And even though most banks charge us ridiculous fees to use the ATMs -- is it fair to charge us money to get our money? -- we are hooked on them.

In the last five years, I have been inside a bank only twice, and each time that was because the machine would not take my ATM card.

"Eel skin?" the teller asked me when I came in to complain.

No, I use a moisturizer, I said.

"No, no, do you keep your ATM card in an eel skin wallet?" she said. "Because they'll ruin the card."

"It's not really the eel skin," another teller shouted over from the next booth. "It's the little magnetic clasp that goes on the eel skin. That ruins the card."

I don't own any eel skin, I said.

"Have you ever passed anybody on the street who has some eel

skin?" she asked. "That could do it."

You got me there, I said. I rarely frisk the people I pass on the street.

"If you're going to take an attitude, we don't have to give you a new card at all," she said.

No, wait, I apologize, I said. I really need a card.

"Having a card is a privilege, not a right," she sniffed. "And if we wanted to, we could make you come inside and deal with us all the time."

When I had come into the bank for the very first time to deposit my money, they were much friendlier. Then, there was a guy behind thedesk with a white shirt on and a name tag that read, "Hi! I'm Pete!"

"Hi! I'm Pete!" he said. "What's your name?"

Roger, I said.

"You got something for me, Roger?" he said.

I handed him a check for my life savings.

He stamped the back of the check, shoved it into a drawer and slammed it shut. "Thanks for coming by, Roger," he said. "Don't be a stranger."

Wait a second, I said. Don't I get a receipt or a passbook or something?

"Jeez," he said. "You got some attitude, you know that?"

When I came back years later to get all my money out, Pete was still there, but his attitude was totally different.

"I'll need to see a driver's license, a passbook, some proof that there are no liens on your estate and that you are not involved in some messy divorce," he said. "And, of course, I'll need your mother's maiden name."

I gave him everything he wanted. But, you know, I said, this bit about knowing my mother's maiden name is not a good way to stop a crookfrom coming in here and getting my money.

"How would a crook know your mother's maiden name?" he asked.

What if it was my mother? I said.

He's still thinking about a snappy comeback for that one.

But as I left with my money, he did try one more tactic that he probably learned in business school. He threw himself at my feet and wrapped his arms around my legs.

"You are letting down America!" he shouted. "By taking out your money, people won't be able to buy homes or factories or farms!"

I don't care! I shouted down to him as I dragged him through the lobby. Your directors can buy their own damn pina coladas!

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