The following is a letter sent to a bank by a loyal customer.
I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which
I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three
nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque, and the
arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course,
to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which,
I admit, has only been in place for eight years.
You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity,
and also for debiting my account with $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience
I caused your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this
incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways.
You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness. No more
will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents, for I
am restructuring my affairs in 2000, taking as my model the procedures,
attitudes and conduct of your very bank. I can think of no greater
compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this
end, please be advised about the following:
First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to your
telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted
by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your
bank has become. From now on I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh
and blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter,
no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by cheque, addressed
personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must
You will be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act
for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an
Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete.
I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about
him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please
note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned
by a Justice of the Peace, and that the mandatory details of his/her financial
situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by
In due course I will issue your employee with a PIN number which
he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter
than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses
required to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they
say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you
to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours.
My Authorised Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have
any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated
voice. By pressing Buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided through
an extensive set of menus:
1. To make an appointment to see me.
2. To query a missing repayment.
3. To make a general complaint or inquiry.
4. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there;
Extension of living room to be communicated at the time the call is received.
5. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping;
Extension of bedroom to be communicated at the time the call is received.
6. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to
nature; Extension of toilet to be communicated at the time the call is
7. To transfer the call to my mobile phone in case I am not at
8. To leave a message on my computer. To leave a message a password
to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later
date to the contact.
9. To return to the main menu and listen carefully to options
The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of
my automated answering service. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy
wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I've chosen
a refrain from The Best Of Woody Guthrie:
......."Oh, the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are filled with silver
That the miners sweated for"
After twenty minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably
know it off by heart. On a more serious note, we come to the matter of
cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater
efficiency comes at a cost - a cost which you have always been quick to
pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.
First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me.
This I will read for a fee of $20/page. Enquiries from your nominated contact
will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response. Any debits
to my account, as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonored
cheque, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents
a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn't come free), so you would be well advised
to keep your enquiries brief and to the point.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy
an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
Your humble client.
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