Paul's Internet Landfill/ demons/ I Hate Banks

I Hate Banks

Lately up here in the True North White and Free, the biggest story has been the first and third largest banks of Canada -- the Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank -- are planning to merge into a financial behemoth.

Phooey on them. Read the title. I hate banks. If and when this merger takes place, it is going to have a huge impact on Canada, because this MegaBank will be able to do pretty much whatever it wants. It will have an impact on me, because I hold accounts at those financial institutions. And still, a part of me wants to say PHOOEY TO THEM

Got that? I don't like banks because banks are associated with money, and in my eyes money is synonomous with exploitation. I blame a lot of the world's problems on our phooeyed-up worship of all things monetary -- but that's a far more important topic for another time. Suffice to say that I hate all banks, but particularly my bank, with a passion that I would never dare unleash on a fellow life-form. And yet, as I mentioned before, I still hold bank accounts. Granted, that doesn't make me some sort of oddball -- I would wager that most people with any money to their name hold accounts. Why? Because it's really hard not to function in this country without a bank account in this country. Banks have some sort of frightening hold on us that I can't quite understand.

Consider, for example, the process of being employed. I have issues with regards to paid employment, of course -- people tend to end up giving you money that you don't really want, even when you don't mind what you were doing at work all that much. Meanwhile, much of the important work in the world never gets done, because there is no paycheque associated with it... but again I seem to have gone off on a tangent. I'll bore you with that topic another time. The point is that I hold a cushy job here at U of T, but I am forced to use the services of a bank because of it, since:

What can a poor guy do? Nothing, really. A person has to open a bank account or make use of a credit union, which might be a bit better but still has the disadvantage of being a financial institution. Banks enjoy a monopoly on our money, and I suspect that they enjoy wringing every dime they can out of us in the process. Think about it. You give a bank your money, and you get to pay for the privilege. Unless you have a certain amount of money in your account, each month my bank rakes in the service charges. Some accounts even charge you for withdrawing your own money. Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this?

Is holding onto a person's money some sort of heinous task, like storing radioactive or biohazardous waste? Perhaps, but the banks certainly don't think so. They use the money you generously give them (and pay them to keep) and use that money to make more money. Forget the fact that the entire concept of "making" money is ultimately harmful and meaningless. Just think about this in terms of the twisted economic mindset we are supposed to cherish: The banks are profiting both ways. They take your money and charge you for it, then they use loan that money out at exorbiant interest rates to all those poor souls who want to take on the burden of a mortgage. I repeat: Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this?

Of course, let's not forget the wonderful, convenient service that banks offer their customers. My bank, The Bank of Montreal, has an especially dismal record when it comes to meeting my needs as a customer. School takes up a good chunk of my time; since I don't drive I am limited to visiting the bank after school, or on weekends. Generally, walking to the bank for 8:00pm is somewhat of a stretch, but it can be done in an emergency. How often is my bank open until 8:00pm? One day a week. I have one day a week to deal with my financial matters.

My branch used to be open Saturdays as well, which was actually fairly convenient for me. I didn't have to rush off to the bank from school in order to get my own money out. Unfortunately, the bank decided to close down Saturday teller service. It certainly wasn't due to a lack of demand. Two Saturdays before teller service ended I was at the branch. The lineup for teller service nearly overflowed the queuing area. Clearly, the Bank of Montreal did not make this decision because nobody was visiting their bank on the weekend. Rather, I think that this was a move designed to move tellers into telephone and PC banking, and to get their suckers customers to use their more automated services, which would save the banks yet more money by cutting payrolls (and jobs, and the quality of people's lives).

Having worked with the infernal machines a lot over the past two years, I have learned not to trust computers. Call me a Luddite, but I don't feel comfortable with the idea of doing my banking over the Internet. I also believe that banking should be somewhat inconvenient, because if it is too easy to get to a bank, I am too tempted to spend money on frivolities. How could I not, seeing as how I live my life immersed in advertising? I'm also not a big fan of replacing people and their jobs with automation whenever possible. That is one of the main reasons I refuse to use Automatic Teller Machines.

Yes, what I say is completely contradictory, but that is the way my messed-up mind works. It is the job of a service provider to appease the wishes of its customers messed-up minds. The Bank of Montreal posts signs telling us that "Very satisfied customers are important to us," but they have done very little to satisfy this customer's needs. I suppose that is to be expected, however. The banks have a captive market.

Would you like some more proof? Take their treatment of my poor bank account after my wallet went missing a few months ago. I wanted to have my account number changed so that despicable people would not be able to break into my account using the ID I had left in my wallet. The bank refused this request, because they don't make my type of account any more. The best they would do is replace my account with one that would charge me if I made more than two withdrawals a month. That wasn't good enough for me, so I froze the stupid account. I need additional identification every time I go to the bank, and the poor teller has to seach my signature up on file each and every time I want to make a transaction. But what can I do? Rules are rules, as they say.

Ironically enough, the last straw came today, when I visited my Bank of Montreal branch for hopefully the last time for a long time to come. I was taking out some money so that I could start up a bank account at a rival bank that at least offered Saturday service. I walked into the branch, and was greeted with a video of me and everybody else in line. The bank had installed many security cameras, just to let us all know that we were potential bank robbers. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the fact that one now needs an appointment to open a bank account. That means making two trips to the bank, just so that the banks can give you the privilege of taking your money and charging for it... you know the rest. Maybe we are all potential bank robbers. In my opinion, however, we are giving our money to a legalized scam anyway, so what does it matter?

O, misery is me. Poor little Paul doesn't like the way banks are run. So what? Is there anything he is happy with? What does one more pet peeve matter? If we are going to play the economic game with its messed up economic rules, then this is very important. Why? Because banks have a central role in our lives. They are gouging us and making billions of dollars in profit each year. But you know what? It isn't enough.

But you know what? The banks want more.

That, my friends, is why the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank are merging. They are crying poor, telling us that in order to remain competitive in the global marketplace, they need to earn more money. People live their lives in shambles thanks to economic policies. Children go to school hungry every day. But the banks, with all of their wealth and all of their power, don't have enough. They need more.

Am I the only person who sees something wrong with this?

If not, why aren't we doing anything about it?

But what can we do?

Now do you begin to see the terrible hold with which economics in general and banks in particular grip us? Do you begin to see why the system we have might not work?

But what can we do?