I have always believed that community banks do a good job of making customers feel special. But there are some kinds of special that customers can do without.
Shortly after 3 p.m. one day I dropped off my car at a repair shop to get a new inspection sticker. The inspection had already been completed. All the garage needed was my proof of insurance, but I was told I would have to wait 30 minutes.
I thought I would kill the time by walking to the bank to complete a transaction that was too complicated for the ATM.
Problem: The bank closed its doors at 3 p.m.
Solution: The drive-through was open until 6 p.m. So I went to the drive-through and stood in line.
My turn had just about arrived when a woman came out of the drive-in office and told me I couldn't do my banking unless I had a car.
So I was special. If I had a car, the bank was open till 6 p.m. Without one, the bank closed at 3.
When I returned with the proper "credentials'-a Jeep -I asked the woman and a teller why they had turned me away.
The first lady said, "Insurance reasons."
The nice young teller explained it more dramatically. "We don't want someone to come bounding around the corner to the drive-in and bump into you," she said.
Sure, their reasons made sense. But their policies don't.
In the building that holds the three drive-in lanes there is a walk-up bank window. But it is never open. The bank thinks there's no need to staff the window, because there is a 24-hour ATM next to it.
What about people who can't use the ATM, because they need a special receipt, as I did?
And what about those who refuse to make a deposit at an ATM? Many people over 30 say, "Don't trust your deposit to an ATM - make sure you see a human." Folks over 60 generally don't trust an ATM even to get money out.
Most important, what about people who do not have cars-maybe because they can't afford one? They get a special early closing time, and at some institutions there is simply no time Saturday when a carless person can bank with a human being.
This is not something banks should be proud of.
Bankers are always accused of being insensitive to customers' needs. Bankers don't know what it is like to spend a lunch hour in a teller line, people say. Bankers don't know what it is like to have an ego-hungry or moralistic bank officer treat you like a thief.
To that list of complaints, add: Bankers have no sympathy for people who don't have cars.
Customers want to feel special in a good sense. They want bank employees to know them by name and recognize their faces.
They don't want to be treated like the Groucho Marx line: "I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."