When I was a kid, opening my first bank account was pretty much one of the most exciting days of my (then) tender life. It wasn’t so much that I was saving money. After all, that just meant that I wasn’t going to be able to spend all my pocket money on cola bottles that week. No, the thrilling part was that I was opening an account with the Midland Bank, who had pioneered the concept of giving kids
a whole lot of cheap tatsome special gifts to encourage them to become savers. Presumably on the basis that today’s young savers are tomorrow’s victims of an extortionate charge for going ten pencefourteen cents overdrawn.
As a Griffin Saver, I became the proud owner of a dictionary, a couple of folders, a pencil case (containing a protracter, a pair of compasses and one of those set square things that people only really used when they couldn’t find their ruler), a badge, and a tiny sports bag that you could fit one
trainersneaker in. I didn’t care though – it was beyond exciting to get the goodies, and to be considered grown up enough to have a bank account.
As I grew older, I got a succession of stuff for opening various accounts in the UK, including CDs and a Young Person’s Railcard (for the Americans among you, this is a discount card for travel on this thing we have in Britain called “a useful network of railways”). Basically the message was that banks loved me, and would bend over backwards for my custom.
In the United States, I think it’s fair to say that things are a little different. I’d have been lucky to get a little vial of toe nail clippings from my bank when I opened my account. Infact, I couldn’t even open an account because I didn’t have a social security number at the time, so I had to have my name put on The Special One’s account and hope that she doesn’t decide to do a runner with my lifelong collection of 20p pieces. I can’t get a credit card because I’ve got no credit history, and like most people in the US, I get charged a small fortune if I even accidentally walk past another bank’s
But the customer service is something else. Trying to make a small purchase yesterday, I found out that my Chase card (name and shame, I say) had been cancelled and so I called up the bank to question why. It turns out that a couple of months ago I had used my card at a place where they had subsequently had a fraud transaction, and so they cancelled my card as a precaution. Of course, they didn’t bother to tell me. I mean, why would they, it’s not like I needed to know.
To be fair to her, the woman speaking to me on the phone couldn’t have been less apologetic if she tried. She first shouted at me that they had written to me (they hadn’t), and then attempted to get me off the phone at all costs. I think it was all she could do not to yell “well, you should just count yourself lucky that we haven’t p**sed all your money up a wall on dodgy mortgages given to people who can barely sign their name.”
Obviously I slammed the phone down on her. I said ‘thank you’ first though. I’m British, not a barbarian.