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The Grimm banker

“So how was London?” Mr. Grimm asked me.

I blinked for a second as my neurons fired, trying to figure out how the man I had just met knew where I’d recently vacationed. I sat in front of his desk, staring at the computer screen he’d pulled up. Oh, right. It’s in my file. Mr. Grimm was not a purveyor of macabre fairy tales. He was my banker. I’d let them know I was leaving the country so they wouldn’t suspend my account for suspected fraud when I withdrew pounds from a London ATM.

“It was good,” I told him. I had come to the bank to close a savings account because every time I paid bills online the site defaulted to withdraw from my savings account instead of my checking account. A few times I’d forgotten to select the right account in the drop-down box and had even overdrafted once, though they waved the fees when I explained what happened. I have higher yield savings accounts at other banks, so I decided to close the account to solve the problem.

When I walked in to request they close the account, the female teller was all, “What? What? You want to close an account. WHY?! WHY, OH WHY?! Haven’t we been good to you? Haven’t we changed your $20 bills to quarters for the laundry?! Haven’t we given you complimentary coffee and cookies and Diet Pepsi?! Haven’t we greeted you politely every time you enter and wished you a good day when you leave?!” I was then shuffled into the office of a manager and quickly reminded that the tellers are all women, but the managers are mostly men, and something is probably wrong with the system to cause these gender inconsistencies.

Mr. Grimm set about calling four different people until he found someone who could change the default account on my bill pay screen. Then I couldn’t remember my banking password so we had to reset it via the automatic system that calls my cell phone to give me the secret confirmation code. So, I spent about fifteen minutes in Mr. Grimm’s office, sucking on a butterscotch candy from his dish, trying to change one little setting on one little screen, all so they could keep the $150 in my savings account at their bank. Times must really be tough. When I wasn’t thinking about how much time this was taking, I was mildly freaked out by how much information Mr. Grimm knew about me.

“You’ve got a lot of credit card companies in your payees list,” he said. I did. When I got out of college I had a lot of debt but a good credit score, so I played a game of musical chairs with my balance. Every 6-9 months I opened a new account that let me have a 0% APR for the first 6-9 months and transferred the balance. I looked at the rest of my payees and my automatic payments and realized that Mr. Grimm could figure out who my doctors were, where I liked to shop with my store-based rewards credit cards and how much money I made every two weeks through my direct deposit. He could see what company manages my Roth IRA and how much money I make off of my blog. He could see what I have earned in book royalties. All I knew about him was that he mentioned having kids.

“So, how many kids do you have?” I asked as he clicked on screens.

“Two.”

And that’s all I know about Mr. Grimm.

Finally my accounts were fixed and I grabbed a complimentary coffee on the way out, trying not to think about how my naked life had just been on display to a stranger. Next week I’ll be back for some quarters.

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27 Comments

Rochelle • June 2, 2009 at 10:14 am

Same thing for me, PQ!

I have a rewards debit/credit card, so I never EVER have cash. I also pay all of my bills online. My entire naked life is on display for any bank employee. How much (little) I make, what I spend it on, and the bills I pay. Even that secret Taco Bell binge run…

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Kimmi • June 2, 2009 at 11:16 am

It’s kinda scary huh? To know that they can pull you up and see everything that you do and what you make…It’s rather telling to look at someone’s statements and finances…though I have to agree that their may be something wrong with the structure…why are all the office managers men? O.o odd.

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Dana • June 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

It’s freaky for sure. BIG BROTHER! lol, but not so funny.

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Tina • June 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

When we had to go through immigration for my husband, they needed months and months of bank statements. It wasn’t until the interview that I realized they could see every single check card purchase I made which at the time was lots of bars, restaurants and liquor stores. Luckily the woman lived in our neighborhood, found it funny and stamped my husbands passport for good!

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Mom Taxi Julie • June 2, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Kind of reminds me of the movie “The Net”. Sad how we can all be tracked now.

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psychsarah • June 2, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Isn’t it crazy that you only get to talk to a manager when you’re closing an account? When I was 15, a bank teller repeatedly treated my like crap. I tried to complain to the manager, who also treated me like crap, probably because I was 15. (I was polite and assertive-I wish I still had the cahones I had then-so no reason to be snarky with me). When they continued to ignore my concerns over a few months, I walked up and asked to close my account. The rude (male) teller tried talking to my dad (who I’d asked to accompany ,me only to carry my life savings-about $1500 at the time-to the bank at the other end of the mall, in case I got mugged or something) and when Dad directed this man to speak to the account holde-me, he got even snarkier. It took 20 minutes to explain to the (female) manager that their poor customer service (including her previous behaviour) had led me to seek a different bank, and she tapdanced and tried to make me stay by explaining that the teller wasn’t really being rude to me (as if!) This has become a very long comment with only two itty bitty little points… 1) In my case, the teller-manager genders were switched (make of that what you will) 2) what’s with all the help once you want to walk, versus being courteous or helpful to begin with?

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Quix • June 2, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I’ve left my money in the same place since I was 15, if not younger. They’ve always been fairly reasonable, if not super nice to me. They do my savings, checking, credit card, and mortgage, so I’m pretty sure they know every minute detail about me by now.

For some reason, I’ve just never been that bothered by that. If some random stranger really cares or wants to be amused by my purchasing history or where I’ve worked or when I went to Mexico and asked them to unfreeze my account, it doesn’t really bother me. I guess I’m just not a private person in that way, as long as they don’t use it maliciously.

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PastaQueen • June 2, 2009 at 2:08 pm

@Quix – I don’t mind it in an abstract way, but when I was sitting in a room with a guy who was telling me personal details of my life and who wouldn’t reveal anything other than the number of children he had, I felt a definite power vacuum which I was on the Hoovering end of.

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Bionic Librarian • June 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This type of information gathering has actually made me leery enough that I don’t get customer loyalty cards like the Shoppers Drug Mart card (Canadian) where you get some free stuff but in return they know exactly when you bought tampons, chocolate, soap, etc, what kind of pain reliever you use, what colour is your foundation, etc.

Although I can’t do it for everything, I also try to pay for as much as possible in cash. I don’t shop at any store enough for it to be worth my while for the points and I rather have my privacy.

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Katharine • June 2, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I’m sometimes unnerved about all the personal information banks have on me. But what I really wanted to say here is this: As a copyeditor, I was delighted by your post. It reads so well. Its flow is great, its tone is spot-on, and it really pulls the reader in. Excellent job, PQ. :-)

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jdm • June 2, 2009 at 6:12 pm

That was a really well-written post–a combination personal essay and short story. I’m impressed.

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Megan • June 2, 2009 at 8:14 pm

I think privacy is mostly a relic of the past. All the science fiction novels and movies are coming true. Next up: computer chips in our brains!

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Amy • June 2, 2009 at 8:29 pm

When I worked at a bank the big shots at the main office would grill everyone over closed accounts, we had to explain EVERY SINGLE ONE way before the economy collapsed. I imagine Mr. Grimm has a boss who has his important parts in a vice over every account that gets closed.

And it’s very important to realize how much your banker knows about you. You really need to make sure you choose a good bank that hires reputable people because not only do they know if you like to buy porn they can also skim info and steal your identity with no one being the wiser.

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Emily • June 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I would’ve been annoyed when he made the comment about the credit cards. It’s not like you were applying for a loan. It had nothing to do with the task at hand.

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PastaQueen • June 2, 2009 at 9:41 pm

@Emily – Actually it did. He was going to suggest I apply for the Bank’s credit card and transfer my balances to a lower interest rate. He also suggested a couple other products they had that I might want to apply for. I think bankers are always trying to drum up business.

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sb • June 2, 2009 at 10:37 pm

@Katharine – You should read her book. It’s the same! ;-)

Sorry for the fawning, don’t mean to embarass you PQ!

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Katharine • June 2, 2009 at 10:54 pm

@sb – Have the book, read it, loved it. I’m a longtime lurker. :-)

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Bb • June 3, 2009 at 2:41 am

@PastaQueen – Right, in the anonymous sense I don’t really care what the bankers know about me, but being face to face with a guy you don’t know who has the minutia of your life at his fingertips AND is carelessly chatting about it is not only eye-opening, but also creepy.

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Insurance Health Guy • June 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Hard to maintain any semblance of privacy anymore. I guess we have to take the good with the bad.

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Danielle • June 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm

While I don’t like the idea that strangers know my buying habits, I find it a lot more alarming that somebody who knows me can too. I had a cousin who worked for my bank’s call centre – I’m sure she must have looked at some point. Luckily she no longers works there, or I probably would have found a reason to move my accounts.

I also had a friend in university who worked part-time as a teller. She said that when she was bored, she’d look up names of people she knew, semi-famous people, etc. . That was not my bank.

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Laura N • June 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

I hope your intention was to make us laugh, b/c this is a hilarious story. Not you feeling uncomfortable, of course, but just the whole episode. Truly, a sitcom in the making.

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Emily • June 3, 2009 at 9:28 pm

@PastaQueen – Ahhh, that makes more sense. I thought he was making casual conversation!

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Dana • June 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

It just occurred to me to be amused that we think nothing of putting our lives on display like this, in the name of the free market and all that crap, but we freak out if a woman covers her face, even if it’s ’cause she wants to.

Misplaced priorities much?

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boots • June 4, 2009 at 9:28 am

On a recent NPR Planet Money podcast, they talked about how much banks/credit card companies know about people’s buying habits. They said one bank had done a study on which purchases indicate that someone is more or less likely to pay their bill. Turns out if you buy organic birdseed, you are likely to pay your bill, and if you buy chrome skull accessories for your car, you’re likely to default on your credit card. I found that absolutely hilarious!

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Christy • June 4, 2009 at 9:33 am

@Danielle – I know someone who had a similar experience. His sister is a higher up in some sort of banking occupation (I’m a great story teller, right?). Anyway, just to prove a point, he asked her if she could find out where he was and what he was doing on a random day in 2004. It took her very little time to tell what town he was in that day, where he bought gas, and what he had to eat.

It makes me nervous but I still never carry cash!

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Lirpa • June 5, 2009 at 6:41 am

Sounds like you handled the situation well. Me, on the other hand, I would have been too stubborn to back down from my decision to close the account. I get this way whenever someone is trying to talk me out of something. For some reason it puts me on the defensive.

I remember one time I was calling around to car dealerships (many years ago) looking for a specific model of car with specific features, and the guy on the phone (typical salesman) was trying to tell me that i did not want a four door car, i really wanted a two door car. After arguing with him for the next 10 minutes about what i wanted, i hung up and called another dealer. I hate being told what i want by someone else! Drives me nuts!

Did i just go off on a tangent? Sorry. Good blog. :)

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gfe--gluten free easily • June 7, 2009 at 12:02 am

Yeah, creepy. Even if the guy had that info legitimately, there are ways to offer you other options with the bank without being stalkerish and annoying. I suspect the more successful managers know that.

Shirley

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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