Sunday, March 18, 2012



I have banked at the same corner since 1963. I have been angry about banks even longer.
 I think Stephen Leacock captured the mood of most of us about banking in his famous story titled My Financial Career.
I have forgotten the name of the original financial emporium two blocks east of Royal York on Bloor St. that I first dealt with. Seems there was an Eastern and maybe an Eastern and Permanent, and then a Canada Permanent, and then a Canada Trust, and now TD-Canada Trust.
The service is slower now and anything beyond a simple cash transaction seems to flummox the tellers. The original entries were made in pen, I think, (but not quill pens, as a son has suggested) but I remember the old pen system being faster than the computers. And service has slowed every year since I made my first humble deposit at a Commerce at Weston Rd. and Lawrence decades around 1955, before it became a hot spot for policing.
 Over the years, the banking at my Etobicoke corner has given me a lot of gist for my columns and blogs. I should be thankful. Besides, I have never pretended to be either smart at figures or banking.
 But the irony, of course, is that Leacock when he eviscerated bankers was a world-famous professor and economist. So when he wrote about how he always got rattled when he went into a bank and finally, after a roar of laughter went up after he left a bank where he had tried to open an account, decided to "bank no more," it was like a famous theologian questioning the existence of God.
 (We know bankers would never do that, providing God had an access card, driver's licence and only wanted to deposit cash.)
I recall the day I went into TD-Canada Trust and had a rare, high amount to deposit. No problem! I suddenly remembered as I left the wicket that I needed $100 in cash. Did I have identification? I said angrily that I had just deposited five cheques totalling $12,000. It wasn't enough that the kid teller lectured me about why I was wrong to challenge this process. The next teller over got into the act too.
As some faithful readers may recall, I named my oldest son after me in honour of my father who died when I was only two. He married and moved several blocks away, continuing to bank at our corner.
One day, I found that the bank for some strange reason literally had transferred the ownership of all my accounts to my son. I descended like a nuclear attack, so the bankers, without consulting my son, transferred all my accounts back to me and then, for good measure, gave me ownership of his accounts too.
So it made me furious twice...and counting. I was quite proud of myself that I only screamed and didn't curse or bop some snotty-nosed teller on the end of their pimply chins. (I never quite have figured out why TD seems to start all their tellers out in my prosperous neighbourhood. Is it because the brains behind the operation, I am assuming there are brains somewhere, figures we will be more polite about their fumblings and not immediately move our accounts?)
To be fair, I must confess my dealings with the Royal across the street a bit hasn't exactly been great. One day I tried to deposit a personal TD cheque for $2,000 into the account of my son Mark who lives in China. Banking there is really screwed up so it's easier for him to pay Chinese bills with his Canadian VISA. The teller regarded my cheque with suspicion. I reminded her that the TD bank in question was a neighbour. She said the problem was I didn't have an account with them. I reminded her I was making a deposit and they could take months if they wanted to verify the cheque. Suddenly I remembered I had a Royal VISA card. The two people arguing with me melted the second I flashed it.
 Which takes me to Mary's first baby steps after she had a hip replacement on Jan. 4. To celebrate that she could actually manoeuvre a bit with a walker and a cane, I took her to our TD local. Mary has her own savings and chequings account as a timid gesture by me towards her independence. I tried to update her pass books while she couldn't walk at all only to be informed by the TD bankers that we hadn't signed the necessary form.
 So on her first outing after the surgery, she said she would complete this form. So we stood and waited, while tellers conducted long conversations with depositors and there was a great talking on telephones with customers who were smart enough to phone in and not queue up with the hoi polloi.
Finally I grabbed a chair for Mary at the commercial wicket. And then a teller came to serve us, sort of. We deposited some cheques and Mary said she wanted to fill out the form so I also could get her passbook updated. The teller disappeared. She returned a few minutes later to say that everyone seemed to be busy and that Mary would have to come back. I grumbled. She ignored us.
Mary hoisted herself to her feet, using her cane, and then, using her walker, limped out of the bank. I finished by saying in a loud voice that TD's service was only good in their ads. The teller who couldn't find someone to do a four-second task continued to ignore Mary and her walker.  But a couple of people in the queue nodded approvingly.
We haven't been back.
 Unlike Leacock, who pretended for the sake of the story that he kept his money in a mattress, I don't plan to do that. And I do pay every possible bill on the Internet, so that's not a problem.
 And then there are other branches and other banks. After all, TD is only the second largest of the five big banks, even if its tellers seem to have never heard of the slogan about trying harder when you're second.
 I'm sure we can find one where you can actually park before you hobble in, and the tellers and management are not high school dropouts.

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