Every year, there are fewer banks because of bank failures, industry consolidation and Japanese movie monsters such as Godzilla, who go on rampages and crush small to medium-sized community lenders. As a result, consumers are increasingly at a disadvantage in their search for pens chained to marble counter tops that don't work. Here are five surprising things your banker won't tell you:
You've got something green stuck between your teeth: In the 20th century, customer service was considered the key to building a successful financial services institution, but no more. "Bankers today tend to take a 'laissez faire' attitude when a depositor has something in between his or her teeth," says Washington, D.C. bank consultant Herb Evy. "In the 1990s they would offer you a choice between mint and cinnamon-flavored dental floss." His advice: "Caveat emptor," a Latin phrase that means veal dredged in flour, salt and pepper, and sauteed over high heat.
If your account is overdrawn, they will repossess the toaster oven you got for opening it: Banks used giveaway toaster ovens to build deposit business in the past, but costs associated with low balance accounts eat into their profits as well as the brown 'n serve quiches you bake in those things. "Even the strongest financial institution can't afford to sit idly by as you sit at home eating a bagel while eBay seller fees eat into your account balance," says Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke. Labor economists predict a strong market for counter-top appliance repo men in the coming decade.
They know when you only put 49 pennies in a roll: Many consumers try to save for retirement by "padding" rolls of pennies with belly-button lint, but new infra-red vision technology means the practice will soon come to a screeching halt. "Bankers aren't dumb," says Mary Louise Gilmarth of the Centralia Co-operative Bank in Illinois. "If you wear your tube top in to make a deposit we can tell whether you've been digging around down there in your navel."
You have the hots for Mary Ellen Warneke, the teller-trainee at window 4: Don't think bankers don't notice when you allow the person in line behind you to go ahead when the next teller is Thelma McElvey, who started with the bank in 1951 at the age of ten as a pneumatic tube cleaner, so you can go to Mary Ellen Warneke's window.
"Mary Ellen is taking way too many personal calls," says branch manager Orel Thurmond of Farmers & Merchants Bank, Otterville, Missouri. "She thinks I don't notice because she uses that headset she brought with her from McDonald's, but I wasn't born yesterday."
Your boyfriend Earl just cleaned out your joint account: Earl has been plotting to take your life savings ever since Nadine Wingo served him two chili dogs and a root beer at the Dog 'n Suds Drive-In, then said "Don't let your meat loaf" as she walked away with his clip-on tray.
"Consumers are warned not to give out their account information to no-count, shiftless hoodlums with snake-eyes tattooed on their biceps," says St. Louis Regional Federal Reserve Chairman Lyle Hodson. "I wouldn't let my daughter get within hailing distance of that loser."