Bankers don't keep bankers' hours anymore; in fact, they seem to be working overtime these days, if only to look for smaller banks to acquire or to find new fees to impose on those of us who don't qualify for Plutonium MasterCards.

Some fees, of course, seem to be unavoidable, and possibly even justifiable. We all gripe about paying ATM surcharges, but do we really want to queue up Friday afternoon waiting for a teller to fork over enough cash to get us through the weekend? I don't. And $20 or so for a bounced check seems to be eminently fair, considering all the trouble it causes down the line.

Still, some of these things seem a trifle obtuse. I got word today that if I use my Visa Check Card overseas after the end of November, not only will the amount of the transaction be converted to US dollars at a rate which is not easily accessible, but the bank "may add up to 2% to the rate provided to us by Visa for...purchases and non-ATM cash advances." It seems to me that if they meant to say "We will impose a two-percent service charge on all non-US-dollar transactions", they should have said that.

Most of us, alas, don't have any recourse other than voting with our feet, so to speak, but as banks become larger and more impersonal, it makes less and less difference. Still, it's occasionally possible to get their attention. A friend of mine suffered the embarrassment of getting her Visa Check Card declined, and since she knew she had plenty of funds to cover the transaction, she drove over to the bank to find out why. They didn't tell her much of anything; indeed, they mostly ignored her for forty-five minutes, barely bothering to look up from a mission-critical game of Minesweeper to see what she wanted. Apparently a short, slight woman in sweatshirt and jeans didn't warrant their attention. A couple of phone calls, a fistful of account closings, and the departure of $1.5 million later, they were much more attentive. I doubt I could exercise that much leverage with $1.5 thousand, but that's life in the old Teeming Milieu.

The Vent

9 October 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill