Tag Archives: Money

Money money money (isn’t funny)

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 cashpointATM machine.

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.

A lesson in money management

I still vividly remember the feeling I had when I first lost a substantial amount of money. I was probably about twelve years old, and my sister and I were visiting my grandmother’s house with She Who Was Born To Worry (aka my mum). My grandmother lived just outside Chester, and I often used to be allowed to take a short walk to the corner to get a newspaper or some sweetscandy. Walking back from one such mission – no doubt with a sherbert fountain or a quarter of chocolate limes in my hand – I reassuringly patted the back pocket of my jeans to check for my money, only to find it was no longer there.

Obviously, I retraced my steps in an attempt to find the little leather wallet, getting more and more frantic as I remembered the £10 note (a birthday gift from one relative or another) that had been neatly folded up within. But it was nowhere to be found. I tearfully walked back to my grandmother’s house, and dutifully received the ten minute lecture on looking after my money. All I could think about for the next five days was the lucky git who had picked up my wallet, and was now probably sitting smugly in their house surrounded by what felt like a lifetime’s supply of cola cubes or wine gums.

Of course, since that day I’ve lost plenty more money. Sometimes it’s fallen out of my pocket, and on others it’s been willfully extracted by The Best Man, The Beancounter or Sickly Child playing poker on a trip up North to see Manchester United. I’ve also found money, although wherever possible I’ve tried to hand it in just in case it belonged to another forlorn 12 year old with an inability to keep his cash safe. That’s not to say that I haven’t seen a twenty quid note floating on the breeze with no one else in sight, and deftly pocketed it. I mean, I’m an idealist but I’m not a fool.

As a result, maybe last night was karma wreaking its revenge.

Picking up a few items at the local supermarketgrocery store in order to feed a sickly Special One, I pulled a twenty dollar note out of my jeans pocket at the cash desk. Given that the dollar is like toy money, and you can pick up a notebook worth of dollar bills in any one day, I have a startlingly bad habit of stuffing all my bills into a pocket in one giant (but worthless) wad. Sadly that wad sometimes includes a few coins, and last night three or four quarters came flying out and scuttled across the floor.

More embarrassed at the noise than anything else, I quickly picked up the three coins that had fallen at my feet. Another had rolled no more than a couple of yards away, and a man in his fifties kindly bent down to pick it up for me. I smiled self-consciously at the shop assistant, paid for my shopping, then turned to the good samaritan for him to return the coin.

Except the man wasn’t there any more. He’d picked up my quarter and walked off with it.

Community spirit – you can’t beat it.