Damien on… Bank Stories
Here are a few of the ones I can TELL…
Back in the Eighties, a number of smaller banks began offering “free banking”. Their blurbs said your account would be free while you were in CREDIT. But what they didn’t mention was that if you went into the RED – even by a few pennies for a few hours – or because a cheque got held up during “clearing” – they would hit you for an ENTIRE QUARTER’S charges.
Thus in theory, a penny’s debt could cost you fifty QUID. This happened to me. After having removed the balance of MY money, I wrote to them, CLOSING my account. The letter they sent back was hilarious. They “thanked” me for my “request” to close my account and said they would be pleased to do so – once I had cleared my “overdraft” (THEIR charges).
I figured if they could write funny letters, so could I. Mine informed them that my last contained a statement of FACT – not a “request” – and that my “overdraft” was in their imagination. It closed with, “If you have any further enquiries, please address them to [a real address in Connecticut I had obtained from a magazine]”.
Of course, I hadn’t actually said I’d MOVED there – but their letters stopped at that point anyway.
Then in the Seventies, there was the time I (grudgingly) owed a REAL debt to an associate. £15 (about £100 in today’s money). I had to pay it, so I went to the bank to withdraw the funds and when the teller asked how I wanted the money, I had an idea. Without missing a beat, I answered, “Half-pennies, please.”
The teller looked a bit nonplussed, but pulled out 15 bags, each containing 200 of the tiny coins, then put these into a larger cloth bag. This I eventually handed to my creditor – but AFTER I’d taken out the bags, REMOVED the contents from each and returned them to the bag. Thus he HAD the £15 all right – but in the form of THREE THOUSAND LOOSE half-pennies!
In fact, I later learned that this was not actually legal. Apparently there is a LIMIT to the amount of coins one is forced to accept as legal tender. It seems I wasn’t the first to use this ploy – maybe someone had once grudgingly owed someone fifteen THOUSAND pounds and had sent it in a tipper-truck! Anyhoo, my associate did not know this, so accepted the HEAVY bag.
He later told me the teller at his bank had nearly had a FIT when he’d presented it to her. This was in the days before automatic counting machines and she’d had to count the three thousand fiddly little coins BY HAND. She was NOT happy!
By the Nineties however, banks began fighting back. If you were a shopkeeper wanting change, they now CHARGED you for it. I found this out when I went into a bank to get coins for a parking meter. All I wanted was ten ten-pence pieces for a Pound, but from the look on the teller’s face you’d have thought I’d come into a Christian Bookshop and asked for a copy of the Necronomicon.
It took THREE tellers to come up with just TEN ten-pence pieces.
Of course now, banks are no LONGER fun. They are major-league RIP-OFF artists worthy of our contempt. But In The Good Old Days, you could still have a laugh at their expense. If I ever find I have terminal cancer, I may tell you a few OTHER stories…