A Simple Matter Of Buying Stamps Part 2

Basil Rathbone. Image from denofgeek.com

Last month, I told you the story of how I lost my bank card and had to visit my bank to get a new one, where I met Michael, possibly, as it turns out, the worst customer service representative in all of bank history.

This morning, having forgotten to do so all leisurely weekend, I had to put gasoline in my automobile as the little orange light indicating that I have no gas was indicating that I had no gas.

Well, crap.

I was already running late and this stop would guarantee that I was at least a quarter-hour late, however, having no gas is no way to get to work, son. I stopped at the station by my house, walked up to the little button machine that completes transactions without having to speak to a human and ran my card through. “DECLINE” came the answer. I tried it again. “DECLINE.” Alright, maybe the machine is broken.

I trundled off inside to speak to a person. The cashier ran the card, I entered my PIN and “DECLINE” came back. “Maybe I should try it as credit,” she said helpfully. Meanwhile, a line of impatient morning commuters had built up behind me. Had I been behind me, I would have been impatient, too. She tried it as credit and the same unfortunate seven letters appeared. She handed it back and said, “Sorry.” I held the card aloft and said to no one in particular, “It’s a temporary bank card,” as if to prove to the masses that it was not financial destitution that was the issue here; it was the bank, you know, big business, otherwise known as the man. The man was out to get me. I have money in there, I swear!

I walked out in shame, only to remember that I still had to get to work and I still had no gasoline in my automobile. I looked in my wallet and there were some ones in there. It would have to do. I walked back to the scene of my shame and stood in line again. The two people in front of me had been behind me when The Unfortunate Incident Of The Seven Letters kept happening. They looked at me and imperceptibly shook their heads in disapproval. I lowered my head in shame again. When I reached the register again, I handed the cashier six ones and six quarters, all the larger change I had in my wallet. I could have counted pennies, nickels and dimes, but I had already suffered enough disgrace for one morning. I put the ridiculous $7.50 worth of gasoline in my car. It was enough to get to work.

I went to the bank at lunch, all full of spit and vinegar. I walked in, and who greeted me? Michael, the source of all my shame. He was the one who issued the temporary card that only spoke DECLINE, so until we got to the bottom of this, he was my nemesis. Michael was serving as the greeter. Fortunately, he did not recognize me, but I did have to talk to him in order to talk to someone else. Little did he know that by the time I left the bank, the roles would be reversed and I would be the source of all of his shame.

Michael asked someone named Cheryl if she was free. Michael and his clipboard pointed me towards Cheryl’s desk. That moment was the most helpful that Michael had been in both of our encounters.

I walked over to Cheryl’s desk where an absolute skyscraper of a woman rose up to greet me. I’m 5’9″, which is on the tall side for a girl. Cheryl towered over me. I didn’t ask, because I’m sure Cheryl is quite tired of being asked how tall she is, but I would put her somewhere around 6’3″ and she was not wearing heels. Cheryl would be tall for a man, but for a woman, she was exceptionally tall.

Between The Unfortunate Incident Of The Seven Letters and yet another trip to the bank, I did some digging in my bank account and found that the 13th of December was when the temporary card had been issued. Since today marks the one month anniversary of my temporary card, I surmised, in my most Sherlock Holmesian way, this was because temporary cards are set to work for precisely one month.

I told Cheryl that exactly one month ago, I was at the same bank because I lost my bank card. I received a temporary, but never received a permanent card and now my temporary card refused to work, because (and here comes the clever part) temporary bank cards only work for one month (and aren’t I brilliant for figuring that out)! Cheryl confirmed my suspicion. Temporary cards only work for one month. Elementary, my dear.

Cheryl took DECLINE and my identification and looked up my account. “I regret to inform you, but it looks as though,” and she said the next part with a very slight sidelong glance at Michael, “whomever gave you a temporary card did not issue a permanent card.”

“Well, that explains why I never received it,” I said, but Cheryl was not amused.

“Will you excuse me a moment?” and with that, she walked to the manager’s office. From my vantage, I watched her stand before the desk of an unseen person, waving DECLINE and gesticulating for a few moments. She came back with two identical temporary cards. I thought to myself, “I hope she remembers which is the old one and which is the new one,” because I certainly would have confused them.

Cheryl was the type of woman who would not confuse a new temporary card with an old one. Cheryl would never issue a temporary card and forget to order a permanent one. Cheryl would never tell a customer all about their Christmas party like Michael had. Cheryl’s coworkers probably know nothing about her. She is a businesslike enigma, pleasant and friendly with her coworkers in the break room, but still a total mystery after years of working with her.

Cheryl bent DECLINE in half and handed me the new one. I was impressed by her confidence in choosing the correct identical card to destroy and which to hand to me. She asked me to plug in a PIN at the PIN selector machine attached to her desk, and for the second time in as many months, I wondered why they installed it on the desk in such a way that the customer has no choice but to stand up to use it. I stood up to use it. I sat back down.

She said, “You are all set. I guarantee that you will have your new permanent card in five to seven business days. On behalf of the bank, I would like to apologize to you for the inconvenience.”

“Thank you, Cheryl.” However, we were not finished yet. While I was there, I had another bone to pick from Michael’s fast-decaying skeleton and I decided to discuss it with my new friend Cheryl.

You see, when Michael signed me up for a savings account, he told me it was free. It is not free. It is only free with a $300 balance. When Michael signed me up, he neglected to tell me that, for every dollar I spent, this savings account would automatically transfer a portion of that amount into my savings account. He did not tell me that it was automatic, but that I had to set up the transfer, which I didn’t do, so I didn’t think any money was going into savings. Michael did tell me that overdraft protection was automatic. For example, if I cashed a check for $100 and I only had $80 in my checking account, my semi-sentient bank account would automatically transfer $20 from my savings to cover it, thereby avoiding overdraft fees. This turned out to be lies.

I know it was lies because I was charged two $35 overdraft fees from my bank for two charges–one for $120 and another for $7. Neither of those charges would have been an overdraft if a) I had been informed of my new savings account’s willy-nilly transferring of funds on the regular b) the overdraft protection was set up like I was told it was or c) I never got that blasted savings account, since between the two accounts, I had enough money to cover the charges.

In conclusion, Cheryl, “I don’t think it’s fair that I be charged $70 for something that wouldn’t have happened had I been in possession of all the facts, which I was not.” Cheryl’s sense of decorum was turning to outrage at the unprofessionalism of her cohort the longer I kept talking.

“Will you excuse me a moment?” and with that, she walked to the manager’s office. From my vantage, I watched her stand before the desk of an unseen person, gesticulating for a few minutes. She came back with two sets of stapled papers.

“On behalf of the bank, I apologize for the inconvenience. I have gotten approval to cancel the overdraft charges and we’ll waive the fee for your savings account for the next quarter, regardless of your balance.” She got a surprising little twinkle in her professional eye when she said, “I pride myself on doing things right the first time, so please initial here to acknowledge that you received information on your savings account, that we will refund you the overdraft fees, we’ve set up overdraft protection and that you received a new temporary card.” I initialed where she requested. She handed me the second set of stapled papers “for your records.”

A bearded man approached and stood what I would have considered uncomfortably close to Cheryl if I was Cheryl. He was about as tall standing as Cheryl was seated in her chair. He offered me a hand and told me his name, which I promptly forgot. “I’m Magicus Fisticuffs VIII (probably not his right name), the manager of this branch. We pride ourselves on being rated number one in customer service. I have been informed of your situation and I apologize on behalf of the bank.” There was a lot of pride in and apologizing on behalf of going on in this bank.

“I have a question for you,” he said and paused. What are you supposed to say to that? It was a statement, not a question. A statement doesn’t require an answer. While this was running through my mind, he continued, “Would you say that Cheryl helped you to the best of her ability today?”

I don’t know Cheryl. I don’t know what “the best of her ability” is. Perhaps she surpassed it, or perhaps she was capable of much more. How am I supposed to know? I looked at Cheryl who was sitting stock straight in her chair, pretending to be concentrating so hard on what she was doing on the computer that she couldn’t possibly hear the conversation about her that was happening in front of her.

“Cheryl has been with us for, what, eight years?” Fisticuffs VIII looked at Cheryl for confirmation, “Fourteen years, actually.” So, she could hear us! “Right, fourteen years!” and he turned back to me, “Anyway, she is one of our most senior representatives. Did Cheryl help you satisfactorily today?”

I looked at Cheryl again, who had put the wall of busy work back up, “Provided that I do, in fact, receive a permanent bank card this time and all the other things on that piece of paper actually transpire, I would say, yes, she did.”

Fisticuffs VIII, Cheryl and I were all tap dancing around the elephant named Michael in the room. He continued, “You are a valuable, long-term customer and we want to do everything we can for you. Is there anything else we can help you with today?”

“No, thank you. As long as I actually get my card this time, we’re good.”

As I walked out, I couldn’t help but look at Michael standing there with his half-smile and clipboard as the bank’s first line of defense. For a moment, I felt badly for him, knowing the shitstorm that was about to descend on him, but then I remembered the inconvenience, shame and counting of change he caused me, and that I wasn’t responsible for the shitstorm, he was.

This is a true story written for the Weekly Writing Challenge: Gonzo.