Personal Banking: Tellers, please, not so personal.

Welcome to your local bank, I am
so f**king happy to see you.
SO happy, you are amaaazing.
Can I get you a bucket,?
You look nauseous... 

I know that banks have taken some big hits in recent days. 

Some have closed.
Some have been swallowed up
Some have tried to impose new fees and been (rightly) smacked by consumers
Some are just limping along as interest rates continue to stay at record lows.

So we should feel sorry for them, poor banks, bless their hearts. Right?

Um, no let's not. 

I used to work for one during grad school days, so I've witnessed first hand how even the banks that claim to have a heart,  when it comes down to it, couldn't actually care less about their customers. 

It’s ALL about business, and if you don’t meet 'The Criteria', banks don’t want you.

Enough of that. My rant is not about the banking system. That is too broad of a topic and, quite frankly, more than a bit boring. 

My rant is about the new breed of bank teller who is not only Hyper perky, and just-so-super-glad to see you, they also believes they have the right to ask me all sorts of personal questions when I come into the branch to take care of routine business.

I am convinced that with banks losing customers, being bought out, not making the huge money that they used to, that they have come up with a new strategy; one that on the outside looks like it is designed to garner more business.  Really it's just a more palatable way of punishing the consumer, because while we KNOW what's going on in the world is fundamentally caused by the banking industry, the banks all think it is OUR fault, so now they are punishing us.

The punishment?

They have told all of their tellers to be SUPER NICE to all of the customers.

Blindingly, earth-shatteringly, over the top...nice.
I’m a pretty friendly guy. I don’t mind saying, “Hello” or “How are you?” to strangers, but I also will admit that I was affected by my five years in France, where I was taught that speaking to strangers is somewhere between bizarre and dangerous.

So spraying me with rapid fire questions that only just fall short of blood type and sexual orientation doesn't really make my day.

How do I know that? Because when I go into my local branch to make a quick, repeat, quick, deposit, I am greeted within two steps inside the door by at least two or three people.

That’s a little strange, a little creepy, particularly because 5 years ago walking into a bank was like walking into a prison cafeteria. Customers on the outside, in a room with zero furniture that wasn't bolted down, the staff all safely arms length away inside hermetically sealed teller cages. Not that you'd test that arm's length theory for fear of a giant spring loaded wall would being deployed, removing your unit of measure.

Oh, those were the days.

In the new and miserable world of nice banking, I am greeted by not one but 3 different welcoming people stationed maybe 2 feet inside the front door. “Hello” the three disembodied voices that have approached me say simultaneously from several different directions which I find very disorienting so I pick up my pace to get past them and make my way up to the first vacant teller window. 

There, I am again greeted a little too enthusiastically. I know that it is too enthusiastic because I look like crap. I ducked out of the house to put a cheque in the bank and I haven’t shaved in two days, I’m wearing an old baseball cap and my ancient pair of glasses sit crooked on my nose. 

Robert Redford I am not.

After this gushing “Hello, how are YOU today?” the teller asks me if I have off work today. Is that ANY of her business? Really? No, it’s not. I am so stunned by the question that I instinctively lie and say, “Uh, yeah,” even though I am at home banging out copy for misers who make their living online and need cheap, great writing to keep their dumb websites alive.

The next question really makes my head spin: “What are you doing on your day off?” 

Really? Do you REALLY want to know? 

What if I said, “I’m home watching porn all day, do you want to come by on your lunch break?” What would my little overweight, overly made up new friend say then? 

I really should have said that, but I just stared at the glass, disbelievingly. To this point, I still haven’t made eye contact with the teller because most days, they wear plunging necklines and I never really know where to look.

What do I do on my day off? Well, my first white lie has lead to a need for another, additional lie. “Uh, nothing much.” I am sending 100 different signals that are screaming, “Just put my check in my account and please, pretty please, let me go!” But the teller still hasn’t received any of these signals. They must be blocked by the plexi-glass that separates us.

But no, she's got her teeth in now, and won't stop until she is sure she can't illicit some kind of response. so on we go:

 “It’s a nice day. Are you doing anything outside today?” Again, I mumble something about “No, wish I had the chance,” and keep my head down. As the teller finishes up my extremely complicated deposit of one check into one account, she shifts gears like an F1 driver and goes for the kill, shilling numerous products that I have no interest in. “Would you like to buy one of our CDs? Would you like to open a savings account? Would you like to re-finance your house?” etc., etc., etc.

Omigod! I just want to get out of here, unfortunately I've now been put under so much bank-service-pressure I am concerned that I'll end up on the floor in the feotal position, moaning quietly.

This teller has not only asked me questions that are waaaay too personal, she follows up by inquiring about other very personal financial matters. Do I want to refinance my house? Who doesn’t? Actually, I want your bank to buy it back at what I originally paid for it a few years ago.  I’m underwater on it and starting to drown. 

Do you really care, young lady? Do you really want to hear all my problems?

No, I didn’t think so. So don’t ask. 

Lets just both back away from the plexi-glass.

Ralph Stice is currently a free-lance writer while he nurses his wife through cancer. He has been a journalist, advertising agency copywriter, non-profit head, teacher, professor and obviously suffers from Occupational Attention Deficit Disorder. He and his wife live near Washington, D.C. He'll have a blog one day, when he gets around to it.


  1. Whoa! Same problem. This one swore to me I was getting a welfare check. I said excuse me (and not that's her business) this my ongoing payroll retirement check (that happens to issued by my company's "Health and Welfare Trust." That is not a "welfare check".) Then she got angry because I would not agree that I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner---really? You are concerned with my personal affairs? I try to avoid this one (she's new-er) because of this crap. I was waiting and waiting for my receipt and she kept looking at my account on the screen and asking invasive questions. All other tellers just swipe my card stamp the check and give a receipt-1 minute, tops. I've had my identity stolen and abused and am now super vigilant of invasive people like this. I have been depositing checks there when she was a still a mere child but she actually made me show my ID and wrote it in the face of the check the last time I dealt with her, even after I had signed the back and included the deposit only account number in front of her. I argued about her putting my private info on the front of that check (I keep all info OFF my own checks for that reason). No other teller is so invasive and rude: we always do business quietly and quickly. This one wants to personally wants to investigate my little account once a month. I wish I could get Direct Deposit. I'm going to avoid using this teller now completely or leave the bank. MYOB!

  2. It's a slippery slope.

    I'm uncomfortable with all of the above actions described.

    I get that being a bank teller would at times be challenging (from a boredom point of view), and I'm completely okay with weather talk, sport talk if that's their thing...

    But it's the forced interest that does me in though, and after a while I end up feeling like the guy at Hooters who in a moment of clarity realises that the waitress is paid to like him.


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