A friend who runs a small business went with his secretary to buy supplies for the lunchroom.

She picked out a $5 box with 200 artificial sweetener packets in it. Meanwhile, he saw a $10 box with 1,000 packets.

"Why not take the large one-the packets are so much cheaper?" he asked.

"Oh, I can't spend $10. My budget for the week is not that large. If I buy the large one, I have to leave out something else."

Then there's the time I took my wife and sister to an amusement park.

The park had Skee Ball; you roll balls into a ringed target. If you have a modicum of skill you collect points and get a prize-which is worth virtually nothing.

The pricing was unusual. For 10 cents a game, you would get the normal number of tickets. But for 25 cents a game, you would get triple tickets.

To me, this was a no-brainer. You play to see how high a score you can get, not how many semi-worthless tickets you can accumulate.

But I sure was off base. I was the only person in the arcade playing with dimes. Everyone else played quarters, to build up points. (My sister's investment of about $5 won her a toy whistle.)

What's my point? Ordinary people sometimes think quite differently from bankers (and banking professors).

Most bankers would have bought the $10 box and put dimes in the Skee Ball machine. Obviously, we are in the minority.

Some further examples:

To most bankers, the passbook is obsolete and a nuisance. But many people cherish them and will accept a lower rate of interest to get one.

People are glad to accept an extremely low interest rate on a Christmas Club account to have the bank send out tickets reminding them to save the specified amount that week or month.

Some people will gladly borrow money while keeping a savings deposit that earns far less than the loan costs, because they want the discipline of repaying the loan. It's the only way they can save.

Many customers hate service charges. They would rather pay a monthly fee of several dollars-a lot more than the individual service charges would total-if they can get all their bank services without having to figure out what this charge and that charge are for, and then rebalance their checkbooks.

Similarly, a great many Americans would rather pay a $2 charge to the home bank for the use of an ATM at a foreign location than to pay $1 to the home bank and $1 to the foreign one.

Having unused checks in the drawer keeps many people from changing banks. They just don't want to pay for new checks when they still have old ones, no matter how much better the new bank's service is.

To most bankers, raising the rate paid on savings by a single jump from, say, 4% to 4.5% may seem far more efficient than doing it in two steps a couple of months apart. But many customers prefer the multi-step approach; it makes them feel they are something special.

Finally, although some banks think they are doing the customer a favor by combining all business on one statement, many depositors don't want this. They don't want their spouses to know how much they are getting paid or how much they owe.

Conclusion: If you figure "Customers think the way I think" and you accordingly, you may be making a mistake.

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