Why I Hate Banks!
It isn’t false humility that causes me to admit that I’m about as average as you’re going to find. I make mistakes; sometimes stupid mistakes although usually that involves power tools. I have a raft of tools that do stuff but for the life of me, I don’t know what stuff most of them do. It took me two days just to assemble a gas barbeque and at that, I still had a couple of pieces left over. So much for the handy instructions conveniently printed in English, French and Japanese.
Still, I believe being average is better than being stupid and as I may have mentioned previously in passing, I have very little patience with stupidity – especially careless stupidity. We’re drowning it and nowhere is that more evident than when you deal with a bank.
Christ in Heaven, what an absurd level of organizational stupidity they represent. It is a Byzantine bureaucracy so mindless that it makes government public servants positively drool at the mouth and think to themselves, “Gee, I wish I had thought of that!”
What other organization charges you a fee for doing their work for them?
Maggie and I do most of our banking online and at ATMs. It’s easy and it’s convenient and, coincidentally, it saves the bank money. Do they pass that saving along? Of course not, they charge us for the privilege of processing our own transactions.
Not content with charging us for the work we do ourselves, they charge us for accessing information. For example, our bank no longer identifies the cheque that was drawn on our account in the description line of the transaction. Instead, it prints the generic word “cheque” and links it to a pdf of the cheque we issued.
For God’s sake, don’t click on the hyperlink! There’s a five dollar service fee for viewing the pdf the bank has already produced and put online.
Why? What service are they providing? It isn’t like they’ve incurred an extra fee. They’ve already incurred that cost and one would have thought it was included in the monthly service fee we pay for the privilege of giving them our money. It isn’t like they’re overrun with cheques. Most of us do our banking online now which means we write fewer cheques than ever but even though they have less work, the banks charge to see what they used to mail back to us for free.
Like most people, we have chequing and savings accounts. We have unlimited transactions available to us in our chequing account but we are restricted to one transaction a month in the savings account. Any more than one transaction results in a five dollar charge per transaction. We can transfer money from savings to chequing as often as we like for free but if we withdraw the money directly from savings, there’s a charge and that applies whether we’re in store, at an ATM or at the branch in front of a teller.
What twisted mind dreamed up that convoluted policy?
Think about it. If I’m at a teller in the branch and I have already done one withdrawal transaction that month, I can’t withdraw money from my savings account without incurring a fee. I can, however, have the teller transfer the money I want to withdraw from savings to checquing and then withdraw it from chequing and hand it to me.
Phew! It literally takes my breath away.
If we want to certify a cheque there’s a fee but we can issue bank drafts for free. How did they work that policy out? The amount of work involved in certifying a cheque is exactly the same as the amount of work in producing a bank draft. Where’s the extra cost that warrants a fee for only one of those transactions?
And then there interest rates.
I honestly believe that banks determine interest rates the same way that petroleum companies determine gas prices. There’s a guy in a back room who throws a dart at a spinning wheel with numbers on it and whichever number the dart hits is the rate for the day.
There was a time when credit card interest rates were somewhat pegged to the prime rate. As the prime rate rose and fell, so too did credit card rates. Well, those days have come and gone. The prime rate can’t get much lower without going into negative territory but the interest charged on credit cards remains pretty close to what it was when the prime rate was five and six times higher than it is today.
The amount of money banks pay on savings is only fractionally more than we would get if we simply stuffed the money in our mattress. Unfortunately, our mattress doesn’t yet offer debit card transactions or we’d switch banks to Serta Perfect Sleeper Savings and Loan.
What got me started on this today was the experience we’re having with the Bank of Montreal (not our bank). At one point things got so stupid, we had to stop and double check to make sure we weren’t talking to a government department by mistake.
Maggie’s mother died in March of last year and her brother did a bang-up job settling the estate. Being an executor is a thankless, tedious job but he soldiered through it and got everything done quickly with the exception of retiring and closing their mother’s RRSP.
Enter the Bank of Montreal or BMO as it likes to call itself now. Sounds a bit like something only Mitchum for Men can overcome doesn’t it?
The bank and one presumes the government, required various forms be filled out and signed by Maggie and her three brothers before the account could be closed and the money dispersed equally to the four of them.
The issue was complicated somewhat by the fact that two of Maggie’s brothers live in Japan which necessitated a bunch of mailing of forms back and forth along with email updates but – it got done and the account was closed and the cheques mailed.
Maggie was unaware that it was done until her brother called to advise her that they had all received their cheques but the bank had notified him that there was a problem with her’s and she should contact the bank to find out what it was. He thought it was an address issue.
It turns out that the bank had issued the cheque in the wrong name. How is that possible? They had the bloody forms they required filled out right there in front of them. How is it possible to get the name wrong?
Maggie spoke to the account manager at the branch in Hamilton Ontario and they sorted it out. She also double-checked to make sure they had the right address. No worries. Everything was under control.
The account manager advised Maggie that she would send the revised information from her branch in Hamilton to their processing centre in Montreal which would send the cheque back to the branch in Hamilton from where it would be sent to the main branch in Toronto for mailing to Maggie.
That cheque travelled to more cities than Justin Trudeau on a speaking tour.
And – they got it wrong.
Despite the fact that the bank had the forms with our address on them that they had required Maggie fill out and sign and despite the fact that Maggie had spoken directly to the account manager and given her the correct address – they mailed the cheque to an address that doesn’t exist.
So here’s how the Bank of Montreal intends to fix this.
They will send Maggie a new form for her to sign. This form states that she did not receive the cheque because apparently the fact that the cheque was never cashed isn’t good enough for them and they don’t want to incur the cost of putting a stop-payment on it in the event that it should turn up by some fluke in the future.
Once Maggie has returned the signed form to the branch in Hamilton, they will send a new cheque requisition to the processing centre in Montreal which will produce another cheque and then send it back to the branch in Hamilton. (We live in between the two cities which means the cheque will fly right over our heads). Once the Hamilton branch has the cheque, they will forward it to the main branch in Toronto which will then put it in an envelope and mail it to Maggie here in Ottawa.
I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
The cheque is for just over $800 which means the BMO has invested about three times that amount producing and trying to deliver it.
And you thought banks charged all those fees because they’re greedy. Nope! They charge those fees in an attempt to recover, at least in part, some of the money they lose every day to bureaucratic stupidity and systemic carelessness.
I tell you, my friends. I sincerely wish our mattress offered online banking services.
Some stupidity threatens to make my head explode and I’m thinking that if it ever does, as a service to humanity just before my head blows up, I will clutch as many stupid people to my savage breast as I can and take them out with me in the ensuing explosion. No need to thank me, it’s the least I can do after everything we’ve been through together.
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