Marc Carlisle: What’s it take to get a free donut anymore? |

Marc Carlisle: What’s it take to get a free donut anymore?

On the Marc

In the state capitol, people wait. They wait outside offices for their elected or appointed occupants to show up. They wait in hearing rooms, usually for someone to shut up, someone who could have said, “I agree with such-and-such a point of view,” but didn’t, preferring instead to repeat the point without adding anything to the discussion. They wait while someone takes a cell phone call or responds to a text message. While they wait, they read whatever is around just to keep busy.

This spring, I came across a report on the Colorado banking industry, dry as dirt except for the footnotes. One bemoaned the costs of keeping customers ” from sub-prime interest rates for big customers to toasters for new accounts. As I read, I realized I’ve never been offered either a low rate or a toaster. I guess I’m a cheap date, because all I’ve ever wanted from my bank is accuracy, that and a donut.

I don’t remember exactly how we chose a bank for our business back in 1993. At the time, the choices were either a one-horse local bank, or the local branch of a (nearly) statewide bank. While both kept bankers hours, open 9-3 Monday through Friday, the one-horse opened its lobby on Saturday morning, and while some business was done, the lobby was more a social stop than a place for pressing business. The open lobby, and the donuts, let customers linger, and grow familiar with the staff, and they with the customers.

From time to time, as the bank grew, they’ve tried to close the lobby on Saturdays to save money, and force customers to use the drive-thru lanes, although when I did I got attitude or an argument every time from tellers who couldn’t accept that I’d walked or biked the four blocks from store to bank. The closures happened whenever the bank was sold, first to a small, multi-county bank, then to an intra-state regional bank, then to a regional bank.

With each sale, the only thing that seemed to change was the letterhead ” accounts numbers didn’t change, we used Sharpies to write the new bank name on the same old deposit bags, and the faces behind the glass stayed the same. That’s all changed with the latest sale of our one-horse bank to a super-regional banking chain, with all new account numbers, new standardized deposit bags, and fees for everything. If I want online access to information, there’s a fee.

There’s a separate fee if I want to actually do anything besides review the debits and credits. Deposits which used to post the next business day now often take a week.Last week, I stopped off to put a question to a helpfully helpless woman in customer service. She didn’t know the answer, but I had expected some asking around would be needed to produce the answer. Problem was, there was no one to ask ” the manager, my loan officer, virtually everyone that I knew from donuts had been replaced.

She really startled me as she called another office, and identified herself not by name, as in “Hi, this is Mary,” but by number, as in “ID so-and-so, branch thus-and-so,” no names, please.

And certainly no donuts. I haven’t been in on a Saturday in a long time, and no one from the bank has been in to introduce themselves to me. I do get phone calls, though, to sell me on new services offered by the bank (for a fee).

My partners and I now grumble over donut-less coffee about changing banks, but whatever bank name we toss out, it seems we know someone who has had similar experiences with that bank as we with our bank, and I gotta have a bank, don’t I?

Maybe not. Very few of our customers pay cash anymore, and checks are rare. We get paid by electronic transfer, direct from customers or the credit card companies, in data streams that I use to pay vendors with my own data streams, never in cash and rarely by check.

So if I’m doing the work, I don’t need a banker, certainly not one without the recompense of a smile and a friendly greeting by name. I’m not a cheap date anymore ” I’ve outgrown donuts, and I’ll outgrow a bank, too.

All I need is the alternative, for which I’ll guarantee to whoever develops that alternative thing ” donuts on Saturdays.

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