I began my banking career in 1983 after a two year stint as a teacher and a coach. While I had a college degree I still started at the bottom, first as a batch clerk, then a statement clerk, and finally as a paying and receiving teller. I spent about five years on the front lines learning the business from the ground up. I was in New Orleans, a city not lacking in colorful people, and our bank lobbies were generally bee hives of activity. Over time I saw some interesting things from our employees and customer base alike. The following are some of the more memorable moments. Names have been eliminated, altered, or partially used to protect the innocent.
When I first went to work for the bank our operations officer was wearing a toupee. After about two weeks he decided to go back to his natural look. A part time teller noticed and the following exchange took place.
Part time teller :”Mr. Fred what happened to your hair?”
Mr. Fred: ” I was driving down the interstate with the window down and my hair blew off. I stopped my car to get out and pick it up and I was run over by a bus.” ( He was being sarcastic)
Part time teller: “Are you Ok?”
We had a teller who worked the drive up who was deaf in one ear. Because of that she tended to speak in a loud voice. The following exchange occurred when a customer tried to cash a large check. He wanted to deposit the bulk of it and get a modest amount back. This was not uncommon back then as many customers believed the money they deposited into their account posted faster if it was listed as cash.
Teller: ” Sir I need you to come inside and get this check approved. It is over my limit.”
Customer: “I’m depositing all but a couple of hundred dollars. I don’t understand what the problem is?”
Teller: “It is over my limit. I can’t cash this check without an officer’s intials.”
Customer: ” I already told you I’m only getting $200.00 back. I have been a customer for a long time and I’m in a hurry. Why can’t you do this?”
Teller: ” BECAUSE THE CHECK IS FOR TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS THAT’S WHY!!!!”
That statement reverberated not only through the bank lobby but all over the drive up as well. The customer came inside but he was not happy.
I was working at our branch in the French Quarter when a tall woman came in to cash a check. As was protocol I asked for identification. She produced a drivers license with a photo of a man. I looked at the license and I looked at her. She said “Is there a problem?” with a very deep voice. ” Uh no sir, I mean no maam, uh I mean no problem.”
Once I became a full time teller I developed a following. Many tellers had regular customers but my soon to be wife Jennifer thought that was odd. She worked in the Jax Brewery Shopping Mall at a flower cart while going to court reporter school. Other vendors had carts and they would all talk. When the other women found out she was getting married they asked about me. This conversation took place around Christmas.
Jennifer:” My fiance is in the management training program at his bank but he currently works as a teller there. What’s strange is that he has regular customers. They wait in line for him even if other tellers are open. And they give him Christmas presents. He keeps bringing home whisky, wine, banana bread. That is so weird.”
Lady One: ” I have a regular teller. What does your fiance look like and where does he work?”
Jennifer: ” He works at the Whitney Bank on St. Charles Avenue. He has blond hair and is 6’2″.”
Lady One: ” Oh you are engaged to Merrill. He is my teller.”
Lady Two: ” I go to Merrill too!”
Lady Three: “Me too!”
We had a really nice guy at the bank who was always getting practical jokes played on him. One in particular was very painful as it made a his promotion bittersweet. The following was told to me by a co-worker.
Whenever you got promoted the bank arranged for you to go to a local photographer and have your picture taken so a press release could be prepared. Twice Eddie (not his real name) received prank phone calls telling him to be at the photographer at certain time and both times Eddie showed up only to be stared at blanky by the photographer’s receptionist. When the call came again Eddie was ready.
Phone caller: “Eddie this is John Tipery Studios. Congratulations on your recent promotion. We are calling to set up an appointment to have your picture taken for the press release.”
Eddie: “Is this John?”
Phone caller: ” Yes it is.”
Eddie:” %$#@ you John!!!!” Shortly later Eddie received a phone call from Human Resources asking why he swore at, and hung up on, the photographer.
We had a junior operations officer at the bank branch who was very fastidious. She also lacked finesse. One time a local television news anchor came in and used the phone at her desk while he waited for her to return. She came back just as he was hanging up. Before she sat down she reached into her drawer, pulled out a can of Lysol, and sprayed the phone receiver with it right in front of the customer.
I was working next to a teller named Robert. He was waiting on a lady with two of her friends. They were hispanic and apparently felt Robert was not doing his job as quickly as they would have liked. They began to converse in their native tongue with each other, apprently expressing their displeasure, giggling the whole time. After the transaction was completed Robert thanked the client for her patience….in spanish! Mortified that he had understood everything the three ladies fled from the bank. You see Robert’s birth name was Roberto.
Banking has changed a lot with the onset of new and better technology. Many transactions can be done online or from your smart phone. As a result lobby traffic has decreased and my guess is that today’s bank staffs have fewer good stories to tell.
What about the plastic gun?? Fake hold-up???