Don't bank on it


Sunday, December 17, 2017

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For I can raise no money by vile means.

By Heaven, I had rather coin my heart,

And drop my blood in drachmas.

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

The drachma was one of the world's earliest coins and its name was derived from the Greek verb meaning to grasp. So clearly, from ancient times, money was a great factor in civilisations, and people were always willing and able to grasp it.

One institution that grasps and holds on to people's money is the bank — a place where people have so much faith and trust that they walk through the door, place their hard-earned cash inside, leave it there, sometimes for years, and sleep well at night.

What infinite trust, to leave your money in the hands of complete strangers, hoping that the next day it'll be all there, and that the following year you will have accrued even more money in the form of interest put on top of what you originally put in.

Can you really bank on that? We'll find out more about banks and what they do, should do, and shouldn't be doing, right after these responses to 'Curacao Curacao'.

Hi Tony,

Your travel advisory on Curacao would do the Curacao Tourist Bureau proud. Prior to reading about your short stay there, I would not have considered it a destination to visit, but I certainly would now. However, it would take me less time to travel from the northern climes of Toronto to Curacao than it took you from Kingston via Miami. If we both departed at the same time, I would probably pass you along the way and get there before you.


Toronto, Canada

Hey Tony,

Curacao seems to be an idyllic place and one which I would love to visit. I do remember when our merchants used to travel there to buy goods to sell in Jamaica. That switched to Panama and now it's China, since those flights have ceased. We have so many jewels in our region, yet travelling between islands is so difficult, expensive and challenging, and that's a shame.


What is banking all about? The first prototype banks were the merchants of the world who made grain loans to farmers and traders who carried goods between cities. This began around 2000BC. Fast-forward to the Bardi and Peruzzi families who dominated banking in 14th-century Florence, Italy, establishing branches in many other parts of Europe.

The development of banking spread from northern Italy throughout the Roman Empire. But how do banks work, and how do they make their money? Well, Wikipedia says that a bank works by paying people small amounts to keep their money, then lending that money to other people for larger amounts of interest. They manage that whole process and then keep the difference between the larger amount (interest on loans) and smaller amounts (interest on savings accounts).

Confused? Don't be. In essence, a bank holds your money, pays you a small interest, then lends your money to someone else at a higher interest and keeps the difference. The thing is though, the bank never has all the money for everybody who has deposits with it, but only a part of it, as most is loaned out. That's why if everyone were to go to the bank to demand their money, the bank couldn't honour the demands. That's called a run on the bank, and has led to many a collapse throughout history.

So why the history lesson in banking? Well, it's just to set the stage for my angst and discontent regarding the banking system. Banks are essential to our existence as they provide services such as lending, mortgages, paying interest and holding your money in a safe, secure place. But banking isn't what it used to be, in spite of all the new technological advancements. In a nutshell, banking sucks nowadays, and I am very turned off.

I started banking from a very early age due to my father's sage advice, as he encouraged me to open an account and save whatever I could. I did the same with the credit union and have no regrets there. Banks are where I have become disillusioned.

Back in the day, banking was simple, friendly and pleasant. Now it's a most unpleasant experience, even though there are still a few individuals who do their best to make the customer feel satisfied. Thank God for them.

Back then, to open an account was a simple task, but now you have to bring in everything from your parents' place and date of birth, maiden name, and a host of other information except for your DNA. And who knows if that won't be a requirement soon. Even if you've banked there for a eons and have multiple accounts, it's still a problem if you want to add someone else like your spouse or relative to an account, as you're still asked to bring in chapter and verse.

“Please bring two forms of picture ID, plus reference signed by a JP and your house title, Sir.”

“But it's me, you know me I've been banking here for 20 years.”

Listen to this now, everyone knows me as Tony Robinson, aka Teerob, since I was born, even though my given name is Anthony. It's the name that I go by and what everyone, friend or foe, client or associate, knows me as. I have been depositing cheques in the name of Tony Robinson since Methuselah was a boy. Suddenly my bank insisted that no cheque in that name can be deposited to my account, even though one of my chequeing accounts has Tony Robinson printed on the cheque leaves. Not only that, but they wanted my other Christian name as well.

When I tried to speak to them about it they even took attitude with me, treating me almost like a criminal. The world knows me as Tony Robinson, yet I had to tell all my clients to change the name they put on my cheques. I had to contact the CEO of the bank, who was most civil, cordial, professional and helpful to sort out the silly situation. Sometimes I wonder if some people are just placed here to make life harder for the ordinary man.

As for the bank charges, suddenly they start to crawl out of the woodwork like termites. I am charged if I transfer from one account to another, charged to write a cheque that I want cashed and worst of all, I am charged almost $600 if I want to deposit a US$ cheque. Not only am I charged that amount, but that US cheque is held for six weeks before it is cleared, even though it's processed and cleared within five days at the bank in the USA that issued it.

To add further insult to the fiscal folly, the bank holds US$50 of my money until that cheque is cleared. Is that a pleasant experience or not? These things never used to occur before, never. With all the new technology and computers that are supposed to make our lives easier, it's just getting harder and harder every day at the bank. I find the banks to be tedious, slower and not customer-friendly. I told this to a teller and she confessed to me that she, too, felt the same way at times.

Speaking of tellers, recently I asked a teller to give me my updated balance on my accounts and she told me that there's a charge for that too. When I expressed my feelings on that absurdity, she said, “Okay, I'll do it this time for you, but not the next time.” Pretty soon they'll charge you just to walk through the door. No wonder every quarter they boast about the billions that they make in profit.

Do you think there will ever be a time when customers are happy doing banking, like in the past? They talk about online banking, but that too can be complicated and onerous. Will we ever see happy faces in banks again? Don't bank on it!

More time.

Footnote: This sexual harassment issue has really blown up and taken on epic proportions. I have addressed it in the past, but this new version needs another look. I was a bit taken aback by the response of one of my favourite radio talk show hosts recently. An elderly lady called with great concern to say that at times women contribute to this sexual harassment issue as they often dress in a more than provocative way. Well, the radio hostess would have none of it and wouldn't give the lady the time of day. In fact, she almost chided the caller in the process, saying, “Man must learn to control themself and women must be able to dress anyway they want to.” I don't think that was an appropriate answer. Remember, it was a lady who voiced the concern, so at least give her an ear. Some men are weak, so why tempt them unnecessarily? Would you walk through a yard full of dogs with meat hanging out of your pockets?




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