Monday, June 27, 2011

Being Treated Like A Bank Criminal

I remember the good old days when criminals who robbed banks got fingerprinted, photographed, and forfeited their money.
Today, those activities are actually part of the joy of being a bank customer.
I recently cashed a check at a bank in town. I don't want to embarrass the bank by using its actual name, so I'll just refer to it as the Bank of Shamerica.
I had received a check that was drawn on that bank. Since it was their check, I thought the decent thing to do would be to let them process it and save all the hassle of waiting for it to clear my bank, work its way through the electronic network, and finally arrive in the mail.
I have no idea what banks charge each other for these machinations, but I guarantee there's a cost involved. I know this because banks today are like the Mafia shylocks of old; they don't do ANYTHING for free.
I was rewarded for my momentary attack of Boy Scout-itis by being treated like an uncommon criminal.
For starters, I was fingerprinted. I wish I was making that up for comedic effect, but I'm not. Because I didn't happen to be a Bank of Shamerica account holder (which to me would be like becoming a member of an exceptionally uncool nerd gang, a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone), they took my fingerprint and put it right on the check. I'm telling you this so that if you read a story in the next few weeks where my fingerprints were found on a murder weapon or at the scene of a crime, you'll know where it came from. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of NCIS on TV, but I've learned they can do incredible things with fingerprints these days.
In addition to the fingerprinting, I noticed the cameras which have become standard for all banks today. I realized that, just like a drunk following a DUI arrest, I was being "booked," complete with fingerprints and mug shots. The only thing missing from this lockup-like experience was the sweet smell of drunk-tank vomit.
Because adding insult to injury is always the way of the Mob and today's banking industry, this bank piled on the pain after taking my fingerprints in front of everyone in the lobby like I was John Dillinger's illegitimate stepchild by requiring me to pay a $6 fee to get my money. I'm surprised I didn't hear a voice over the loudspeaker system announcing "untrustworthy not-to-be-believed shady character, line three."
Remember, this was a Bank of Shamerica check. Their check. Drawn on their bank. After saving them money by taking the check directly to them, and enduring the humiliation of being fingerprinted and photographed, they thank me by keeping part of the pile.
Because I'm old, I remember the days when banks gave away toasters and calendars to curry favor with potential customers, hoping to turn them into account holders.
Based on my recent encounter, I suspect today's bank customer recruiting drives must involve whips and chains, and signs that say "Open an account today, and we'll bust your kneecaps for ya!" And because of the "adding insult to injury" rule, the teller will be required to charge you $20 for their phone call to 911.
The part I find most ironic in all of this is the way banks in the 21st century want to treat individuals like criminals, while the banking industry has pulled off swindles with credit default swaps and other shady financial deals that nearly collapsed the world's financial system. Not only did the crooks in the high offices behind this large scale thievery not get fingerprinted and have their mug shots taken, they received bailouts from the federal government. And again, because of the "insult to injury" rule, some of those bankers used the bailouts to give themselves million dollar bonuses. Right now, there are mafiosos in Las Vegas scratching their heads and saying "damn, doze guys is good!"
I suspect banks in the next decade will begin requiring actual blood samples when doing transactions with the unwashed un-customers. Any day now, I'm expecting to read about a technological breakthrough where scientists can use your DNA to determine that you're broke, a bad credit risk, and pick your nose.
Until then, I would suggest this pitiful little protest. I noticed that, when going through my "booking" process, the teller didn't specify which finger I had to use.
The next time you're subjected to this humiliating and offensive practice, I'll leave it to you to figure out which of your 10 fingers would be most appropriate.

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