Monday, February 07, 2005

The Banke Supremacy

I have heard of attempts to create a One World Government and a One World Religion. I am beginning to wonder if the banks are trying to form a One World Bank. I only ask this question due to my recent banking experiences, which mostly seem to consist of larger banks gobbling up smaller ones at a rate that exceeds how fast I can write checks. For starters we were members of First Federal. A fine bank which was able to issue statements correctly each month, gave our kids lollipops (even going so far as to deliver them through the pneumatic tube in the drive through), and even prevented a scammer pretending to be me from completing her scam. Backstory: the clerk immediately noticed the physical discrepancy, not to mention the fact that The Two Cutest But Also Loudest Children on the Planet were nowhere to be seen. So they refused to cash it, confiscated the check and I believe took the woman under house arrest. And when I got to see a picture of this woman I was truly offended not to have a better-looking impersonator. End of America’s Most Wanted Digression. Anyway, this very lovely bank with friendly tellers got taken over by FloridaFirst. I felt there was still a connection, as some of the staff remained, and their was still that comforting “First” in the title somewhere. And we do live in Florida, so I couldn’t object to that part. So we changed checks again. Meanwhile the same thing was happening to my brother-in-law, who has a business here in Florida. He started out at First Union, only to be told that No, he was going to become a part of Wachovia, a institution that sounds like someone said, “Hey, let’s make our bank sound like a Slavic appliance!” Don’t ask me which one, but I’m sure it’s a labor-saving device in Europe. Anyway, First Union had no cause to complain, as it is itself the result of a merger of EIGHTY other financial institutions. No lie! I read this on the web site. So it isn’t really “a bank.” It’s more like the World Checking Account. So Wachovia it is (for him), and it’s got a really cool symbol that looks like an alien brain wave. Those are the best, the symbols that don’t look like anything but you wonder if they’ve got a device in them that could watch you somehow. Now over on the savings account side of the situation, we were very happy with our little local mom ‘n’ pop savings bank. The tellers knew us all personally, celebrated the kids’ birthdays with special treats, and I’m sure they would’ve done Financial House Calls if I was short of cash on any given day. They were that friendly! Well wouldn’t you know, they announce (and with very little notice, mind you) that THEY are being sucked into another financial institution, apparently, and against their will, so they were regretfully closing down our accounts and would have to transfer our assets. Hubby and I rescued our savings assets and deposited them with “FloridaFirst” even though our interest rate was .0000000000000001 percent. Compounded hourly, this resulted in a dollar’s worth of savings interest each year. Now for some reason mainly involving lack of decisiveness, we didn’t end up transferring our sons’ savings accounts. So THEIR savings account got sucked into the new institution, which was called The Israel Discount Bank of New York. Located in Miami! I can’t tell you how cosmopolitan this made me feel. Almost like I personally had a Swiss Bank Account. I could feel a badly pronounced foreign accent coming on. It seemed we were now part of a Robert Ludlum novel, and would be given completely new identities soon, along with clues to our past, if only we could remember where we put them! (first, check under the couch cushions…) So we had this sense of International cachet, and I believe at that time we were so enamored of our status as citizens of the world that we were considering ordering the Gevalia Coffees with the free coffemaker. (But we came to our sense there because we realized that the junk mail would escalate and the coffees would never stop.) However, the Israel Bank was not so happy with US. They soon discovered we were pretty much a comatose customer. We didn’t make transactions. Ever! No deposits. No withdrawals. No stopping in to get information on a home equity line of credit. Nothing. They started sending us letters intimating that if we didn’t begin utilizing our accounts soon, they were going to put a freeze on it and transfer our assets even FURTHER away. Maybe right to that hilltop where Julie Andrews sings in the Sound of Music. (Which appealed to me in a foreign location kind of way, but this is our sons’ money we’re talking about. Unless we were going to schedule a vacation to visit the funds, there was no point.) Well we had a good reason not to be doing a lot of banking. The nearest teller is a three-hour drive to Miami. Who has time for the round trip just to deposit some birthday money? So we said fine, send us the money and we’ll close the account. Ha. Not so fast. Even though these people had been communicating with monthly for almost two years, they suddenly decided they had no proof whatsoever that we were the Real Parents and the Custodians of the Account. (Because a real parent wouldn’t have let their kids’ money sit in a non-interest bearing account for almost two years. They would’ve demanded the .0000000000000000001 rate.) And all the things that we had to prove our identities were not “good enough” because we had recently moved, so our driver’s licenses had our old address. We were obviously scammers who enjoyed our little monthly bank statements and threats. Okay, not THREATS. Strongly worded letters. Banks don’t threaten. Finally after much telephone discussion and faxing of photo IDs and marriage licenses and inviting of Notary Publics to dinner we were able to extract our sons’ assets from the Israel Bank. We kept the money in a drawer because we still couldn’t decide which bank to deposit it in. More indecisiveness. Perhaps we should get it changed into gold bullion in the shape of little plastic army soldiers. So we think we’ve got our problems settled until we get word that our checking account situation is about to spin out of control again. FloridaFirst is now morphing into SouthTrust bank. So “First” is gone, and Florida has been replaced by “South” which is definitely a more general term than Florida. It is making me nervous. We order checks featuring animals mating on American flag backgrounds. Some kind of Environmental Patriotism theme, I guess. When you are ordering new checks all the time you can really experiment with the designs. The next thing you know, we get this letter explaining that FloridaFirst isn’t going to be SouthTrust for long. No. A better suitor is waiting in the wings. Actually more than one. FloridaFirst is going to become an amalgamation of Crown Bank and Wachovia. Yes, the aforementioned Slavic Appliance Group! Is taking us over. Ugly logo and all. There is some kind of complicated formula to determine whether your checks should say “Crown” or “Wachovia.” And to make matters worse, all these banks are on street corners facing each other, so it’s tough to determine which branch to approach as the transition goes on. And on and on. More new checks to order! With newer security features! (But the best security feature of all – the tellers knowing your face and the lollipop flavor preferences of your sons – is long gone.) Actually I think the confusing banking situation is just softening us up for the national ID card and implanted body chip with all your personal information. We will beg them to let us have these Big Brother items because at least we will know where our money is. But in my case I’m not worried. We still have our mattresses. And we NEVER flip them.


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