Credit is Our Lifeblood, Usury is Our Deathbed
Transparency is the word of the last couple of years and will probably be the word that defines the decade. Everyone is promising to be more transparent, but do they really mean it? Complete transparency would not be good. I don’t want to know the minutia of a company’s operations anymore than I want to see a patient splayed open on an operating table.
Well there is transparency and transparency. The kind of transparency I’m talking about is really just another name for honesty. I want to know if the companies I buy from are committed to fairness. Recently our bank sent us a letter telling us that they were doubling our interest rate. In the letter were a half a dozen checks we could use just like cash. In the small print we learned that should we use one of these checks, we would be agreeing to triple the interest rate. We called the bank and asked why they were doing this to us. Had we suddenly become a dangerous credit risk? No. Had we missed or been late on any payments? No. What did we do to deserve this treatment? Nothing. We were assured however, that it was all for our own good. Huh? How can these people, who are people just like the rest of us, peddle this lie and do it with sincerity? It’s like spanking a child in the morning because they might do something wrong during the day. Or this is more like it, you did something wrong and because somebody has to pay, you find a patsy to suffer the punishment. In the case of banks it is the consumer. They are making us pay for their foolish behaviors and bad gambles.
I found the following example of a bank’s idea of a customer bill of rights posted on the Internet. Do you agree with it? Does it provide real protections for the customer or is it more of a public relations white wash?
1. Our customers are entitled to be greeted with a smile and treated with friendliness, courtesy and respect by all of our employees.
2. Our customers are entitled to be served by employees who are people-oriented and have a passion for providing quality service.
3. Our customers who prefer to use online banking are provided with a state-of-the-art, secure website.
4. The following groups of individuals and organizations are entitled to receive checking accounts free of any monthly service charges:
* ALL senior citizens
* ALL United Way agencies
* ALL churches, synagogues and mosques
* ALL charitable organizations and foundations
* ALL political subdivisions
5. Our customers are entitled to receive prompt service. For example, thanks to local decision-making, our response to a loan request shall not exceed five business days.
6. Our checking account customers are entitled to use any ATM, anywhere, free of service charge, up to six times per month.
7. Our customers are entitled to free and convenient parking when conducting bank business.”
I’m not trying to pick on the bank. I’m sure they issued their Customers’ Bill of Rights as a way of appearing to be open, caring and considerate. It bears the tracks of a legal staff that wants to protect the bank’s interests. In truth, it is a pleasing lullaby and I’m pretty certain you can hear this song sung, or one just like it, in every bank in the country.
What is it really saying? We like you. We will smile at you. We offer free no-fee checking accounts for certain groups. We have a secure website. We will waive a small number of ATM fees each month. We make quick decisions on loans. And finally, we have convenient parking.
What would I like them to say?
- We promise to always engage in, and be guided by, the highest moral and ethical standards.
- We guarantee that our officers and directors will be fairly rewarded for superior performance but never at a rate that is more than 50% of their annual salary.
- At year end, no bonuses, stock options, or other remunerations will be issued if the bank has lost money.
- Our employees are all well-educated and highly trained. Nepotism is never practiced here.
- Never will the bank issue a loan to a customer who does not possess the means to repay it.
- The bank will turn its back on creative financing schemes because we know that they rarely work out in the long run for the consumer or the bank.
- Should an employee be found guilty of ethics violations, in or out of the bank, they will be immediately suspended, and subjected to dismissal pending a thorough investigation. This rule also holds true for officers and directors.
- Just because we are allowed to arbitrarily increase interest rates on credit cards, we promise to hold the line and increase them by the least possible amount and only when absolutely necessary.
- We promise to treat each customer according to their history with the bank and not punish one for the misdeeds of another.
I invite any reader to add to this list. A universal bank customers’ bill of rights is desperately needed. Let’s start a movement.
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