Sure, we all know that the future of bank profitability depends on noncredit income and control of noncredit expense.

But as Groucho Marx put it, "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."

Sometimes the bank is so anxious to build non-credit income that it turns off the customer completely and loses a profitable account. this problem to my attention recently was the story of a friend who had his account switched to a "no return of voucher" basis. This was fine. As a bank consultant himself he understood how expensive it is to return canceled checks and how much easier it is for the bank to send a descriptive statement instead.

But then he needed a copy o a check for tax purposes. His bank told him this would cost $8.

His response: "This new policy was inaugurated for your benefit not mine. I don't want to pay to get a canceled check that would be mine automatically in a traditional account."

The branch manager's response: "I'm sorry, that charge is our policy."

His follow up: "Then I'll close my entire account."

Branch manager's final word: "Well, if that's what you want to do, that's what you have to do."

How different this is from the story that Stu Leonard. the Norwalk, Conn., grocer tells of the customer who came in with a rotten cranshaw melon. asking for a refund. Leonard checked with the melon man and found that the store hadn't had a cranshaw in stock for months.

He then went to the lady, asked how much she had paid for the melon, and handed her the exact amount with an apology.

His explanation: "The typical customer spends $100 a week here. That's $5,000 a year and $50,000 over a decade. Why risk this annuity for two dollars and fifty-three cents?"

As for myself, I am also getting fed up with my bank despite years of a happy relationship.

First, the bank started to charge $12 for just having an ATM card - plus extra for using it at any location other than its own ATM machines. Now, it has quietly imposed a dollar a month charge for its so-called "50 or Better" account, something it had offered free for years.

For a bank offering only 1.35% annual yield in a market where the competition offers 3.15% one wonders how long to keep accepting this policy of nickel-and-diming the customer to build noncredit income.

Bank marketing gurus frequently report that the No. 1 weapon the bank has on its side in keeping customers from switching their account is inertia - aided by the fact the customer has already bought his checks and hates to throw them away. I put it slightly differently:

"To lose a customer, you have to insult him so often that he finally realizes what is happening."

And it is not only the nickel-and-dime approach to service charges that annoys the customer and makes him think of moving the account. It is also the feeling that he gets as charges are applied plied, one after another, that his account is looked at as a sheep to be shorn rather than a solid relationship.

Maybe it's inevitable that as a bank gets larger the managers look at the customer relationship as "us" and "them" rather than as a team. But it is also something that most community bankers never forget. They seem to realize that once you lose an account, the same force of inertia makes it as hard to get back as it was to lose it in the first place.

The responses to the hanky-panky issue continue.

The issue was how to handle two employees who are having an affair on bank premises.

The comments printed below are self-explanatory..

The first is from Liza Draper of Northern Telecom in Boston who writes: "Speaking of poor judgment - awarding your "prize" to a reader who advocates unequal treatment of the two participants in the steamy scenario you painted shows questionable judgment indeed. Why on earth does Mr. Barkley think the man (certainly no gentleman) should be approached by the CEO while the woman ("the lady") merits only a visit from a secretary? Why is the woman's response "the only wild card"? Surely in this case what's good for the gander is good for the goose."

A tad chauvinistic, aren't we?

Even more critical of our choice was the response of a bank manager and executive assistant who preferred to remain anonymous:

"Your Dec. 6 column titled "Put Trysters on Notice: No Hanky-Panky in the Bank" compelled me to write to you. The entry selected as the winning, entry demonstrated a need for diversity training on both your part for selecting this winner and on the part of Mr. Barkley who wrote the winning, entry.

"While the response to Mr. Goodguy' was appropriate, the recommendation for dealing with the female employee was appalling.

The female employee deserved the same consideration as the male employee and as such deserved to have the same conversation with the CEO as the CEO was having with the male employee.

"Any CEO `too embarrassed' to deal with the female employee most likely doesn't deserve to be CEO. It is never appropriate for a secretary to deal with a human resource situation, particularly one as sensitive as this one, given the sexual harassment potential. The CEO is presumably an adult and an experienced manager, and as such can deal with both male and female employees.

"Your recommended approach sends the message to the female employee that the male employee is more valued. Both employee reputations are on the line, and they deserve to be treated equally."

Further, my executive assistant, when reading this response, felt that the CEO continued to promote the "old boy" network by dealing only with the male employee. She read into this that there was a subtle message sent to the male that it's OK (wink, wink) to have the affair, but just take it off the premises.

My only hope is that future issues will receive more well-rounded responses and comments from you going forward.

My comment: I'll try my best.

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