#201: My New Fraternity

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]

Tomorrow I go to close my bank account. I’m transferring my checking account and moving my safe deposit box to a new bank. An individual can only take so much abuse by a business before they reach their limit and move on. I dare say I have taken my abuse and have reached my limit.

I bank with FirstBank in Denver, Colorado. Over the past three years I have had occasional problems that were eventually worked out but more recently I have run into too many incidents that never should have happened. The first that really irked me was when the bank decided to block my use of my ATM card. I found out the fun way when I tried to pay for some groceries with it and got a ‘denied’ for the first time in my life.

My credit is good, I had/have plenty of funds, yet they blocked all transactions on it. The next day I visited the bank and asked what was going on. The account rep I dealt with explained that it had been put on hold because they couldn’t reach me. He told me they had sent two bank statements to my address and both had come back. I told him to pull up my records and checked the address just to make sure everything was cool, and it was.

I hadn’t changed address for over a year so that shouldn’t have been a problem. Anyway, I asked him if anyone had tried to call me at any of the numbers (house, pager, emergency) I had left with them and they said ‘no’. Great, they or the post office fuck up and cause me a nice amount of grief. It only took an hour to fix the problem and I was on my way.

The second major problem started a few months back and I still can not figure this one out. Every two weeks or so I visit the bank to deposit any checks and occasionally visit the safe deposit box. When I visit, it is almost always on a Friday (one of my days off) and I typically go in blue jeans and a t-shirt, sometimes a button up cotton shirt.

One day a while back I went in to deposit a couple of checks into my account (one wasn’t mine) and I ran into a problem. The teller said I had to have the other person come in if I was depositing their check into my account. I told them that another branch had everything on record and that he could ask them to fax it over. He was real rude in telling me that he would have to check with his manager. Apparently he thought I was trying to con him into depositing the check.

Instead of quietly asking his manager who was nearby, he still showed his disbelief and rather loudly said “this guy said we could do this and this or something”. The tone of his voice once again stated that he did not trust me at all. His manager told him to call the other branch and ask.

He picked up the phone to call, introduced himself, etc. The first thing he said was “I have some guy here saying this and this”. He didn’t refer to me as a ‘customer’ or ‘gentleman’, but ‘some guy’. This was a little too much. I had been standing there for five minutes already and I could see he obviously did not want to help me out.

I told the manager what was going on and told her that the teller was being very rude and the tone of his voice was insulting. She quickly apologized and got the full story. Instead of helping me I told her to forget it, and that I would go to another branch.

Two weeks before when I was in, it was before work so I was dressed in my shirt, slacks, and tie, and looked professional. Each time I was dressed like that I got exceptional service. The times I dressed casual in jeans and a t-shirt I always seemed to have some problem, or the teller was rude to me.

A few months before another male teller basically called me stupid for not knowing when a deposited check would be processed. Instead of calling me stupid he looked at me like “are you a moron” and said “of course it is available right then, what did you think?” with the half sigh half laugh.

The next closest branch was over 30 minutes away because of traffic. Instead of dealing with traffic I went back and spoke with the branch manager. He listened to my story and emphasized that ‘yes you are an important customer’. I asked him why I had been discriminated against because of my appearance and he had no answer.

The manager told me he would deal with the teller and bring it up at the next bank meeting that regardless of appearance, all customers are equal. I thanked him and went on my way.

Today was the last straw. I was at another branch near my new place and I needed a Money Order. I normally don’t use them but I had to have one for a deposit. I asked the teller for a MO for just over 800 dollars. She looked at me kinda funny and asked the lady next to her how to do one. Since she was new I waited patiently.

I handed her a check (with a huge ‘first bank’ logo on it) along with two dollars in cash for the MO. She looked at everything and asked me for ID. I told her that this was my bank, and that I had an account with them, and she could check everything out on her computer. She told me that was standard for the amount I was asking.

I showed her ID and watched her compare everything and hand it back. She walked back to a terminal and pulled up my account records to check my available balance. I had several thousands of dollars in the account so it shouldn’t have been a problem. She got the check, filled out a little of it and went to her manager. She told him everything was ok and asked for his approval. He looked at me and then pulled up my account record to verify the funds.

After a minute he approved it and I got the MO like I wanted. The problem is, I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt again. The teller AND the branch manager insulted me by checking TWICE for the funds. Did they think I was stupid enough to pass off a First Bank check to a First Bank teller and ask for a First Bank money order?

One day before I had been at my regular branch, dressed in a shirt and tie and asked for basically the same thing. Two money orders for several hundred dollars. They did not ask for ID, and they did not check for funds even using a temporary check.

They discriminate based on appearance. Many of the tellers and even a few managers do it on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your account, or how many accounts you have, but it does matter how you dress.

Since my new job I have seen this happen quite a bit. Any time I am at the grocery store I get two responses. I always pay with credit card so they hand it back and say “Thank you so-and-so”. If I am dressed nice, they use my last name. If I dress in jeans and a t-shirt, they use my first name like they are my friend.

If you are having a problem at a store or business, dress nice. That way you too will appear to belong to this ‘fraternity’ or well dressed people and get the respect you deserve.

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