My Dear Bank Manager,
I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my
plumber last month. By my calculations some three nano-seconds must have elapsed between
his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it.
I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement
which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years. You are to be commended for
seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account by way of
penalty for the inconvenience I caused your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner
in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways. You have set me
on the path of fiscal righteousness. No more will our relationship be blighted by these
unpleasant incidents, for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking as my model the
procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very own bank. I cannot think of a greater
compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this end, please be
advised about the following changes.
First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and
letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing,
pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on I, like you, choose
only to deal with a flesh and blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will,
therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank by personal
cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you
must nominate. You will be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other
person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application for Contact Status
which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but
in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no
alternative. Please note that all copies of his/her medical history must be countersigned
by a Justice of the Peace, and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation
(income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due
course I will issue your employee with a PIN which he/she must quote in all dealings with
me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on
the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phonebank
service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the
playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will
notice, is very much like yours.
My Authorised Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings,
may call me at any time and be answered by an automated voice. By pressing the buttons on
the phone, he/she will be guided through an extensive set of menus:
1) to make an appointment to see me,
2) to query a missing repayment,
3) to make a general complaint or enquiry, and so on.
The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering
service. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for
the duration. This month I have chosen a refrain from The Best of Woody Guthrie: “Oh
the banks are made of marble With a guard at every door And the vaults are filled with
silver That the miners sweated for!” After twenty minutes of that, our mutual contact
will probably know it off by heart. On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost.
As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a
cost - a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your
kindness by passing some costs back. First, there is the matter of advertising material
you send me. This I will read for a fee of $1 per A4 page. Enquiries from your nominated
contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response. Any debits to my
account, as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonoured cheque, will be
passed back to you. My new phone number service runs at 75 cents per minute (even Woody
Guthrie doesn’t come free), so keep your enquiries brief and to the point.
Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to
cover the setting up of this new arrangement.
May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous, New Year.
Your humble client.
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