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The Human Touch Has A Price

Sat., May 20, 1995

I have bad news, and even worse news.

First, the bad news: First National Bank of Chicago has announced that effective June 1, it will begin charging customers $3 a visit to do business with a human being.

The even worse news: Interviews with other banking officials around the country indicate that they will not be far behind.

It would be easy for me to say that in all the years I have been doing business at banks, I have yet to meet any human being, but that would be nasty, and untrue.

I’ve met about three.

Why are the banks about to do this to people who choose not to operate automatic teller machines but prefer to deal with humans? Bottom line, friends - and habitat.

How do you think banks can maintain the quality of their executive dining rooms without getting your $3 to pay for the vichyssoise, or the handsomely framed still-life paintings on the walls, not to mention the huge urns of fresh-cut flowers that you don’t see at street level?

The answer you will get from the banks, of course, will be quite different. They will tell you that in trying to satisfy shareholders and because of the cost of labor, we who give them our money to profit by will have to give them even more, but at a loss to us.

Naturally, when more people choose to use automatic teller machines instead of paying $3 a pop, the remaining humans at the bank will get fired, and we’ll have to support them otherwise with welfare.

Do you suppose the banks are going to charge the biggest businesses in town $3 a visit when they come with those zipper pouches to either put in or take out money? Hah! It’s you and me paying, and a free lunch for the big guys.

I still marvel at how American consumers allow themselves to get duped.

Why we continue to pay $5 or more to get into a boat, auto, gun or knife show for the privilege of being solicited to buy boats, cars, guns or knives defies all sense of logic.

Following this illogic, of course, we can expect the supermarkets to charge an admission, or, better yet, a cart fee to shop in their markets. And why shouldn’t the high-pressure appliance supermarket ask you to ante up a buck or two when you come in to browse for a new TV set?

If the banks can get away with charging you $3 to put your money in their bank, there’s no telling how much more gullible we can become.

I still marvel at Amoco’s resolute policy of charging its credit card customers 5 cents more a gallon than its cash customers. Other oil companies tried to apply the same type of penalty to its regular (credit card) customers but abandoned it several years ago.

Amoco has stuck with it, and I haven’t used my Amoco card since.

The last I checked, it was 35 cents a gallon more to have a human being pump gas instead of doing it yourself. That’s $3.50 for every 10 gallons. So we pump our own, and the service station gets to fire two or three service attendants and put them on welfare, too.

I don’t know what the end result of all this is, but I do know one thing. If my bank announces it will charge me $3 a pop to do business with them, I will switch my account from them to directly under my mattress.

At least my mattress doesn’t decorate with Chippendale chairs in a palatial board room where pate de foie de volaille is served to the vice presidents, or buy skybox seats to the football games - at your expense, and without ever inviting you!


The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Howard Kleinberg Cox News Service

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