I just got back from depositing some checks at my local bank. I know all the tellers and the managers and have been banking at this place since I moved here in 1999.
It was a Wachovia bank up until recently, and like all banks it had its problems, but I was used to them and usually my transactions go pretty smoothly.
Then Wells Fargo took them over. They sent out notices to all their customers, including me, that nothing would change, I would go right on banking the way I always had, and just the name would be different.
Then they sent out notices listing some "minor" changes that were mostly in fine print and complicated financial and legal language so it was pretty difficult to figure out what they meant, but it seemed to have something to do with the fees charged and interest rates and the usual areas where financial institutions do the dirty work that ends up costing small customers like me more money.
But then there's the actual experience of banking at this newly renamed Wells Fargo bank. It's a disaster. It took the tellers a few weeks to adjust to the new "system" and computer programs, so that for a while just cashing a check might take twenty minutes or a half hour. And it wasn't their fault, which was obvious when you saw all the extra steps Wells Fargo had instituted to replace the more simple and direct system Wachovia had used.
One of those steps is the requirement that you show them your driver's license so they can put it in their system. This morning a woman that the tellers all knew, one of them even knew her kids, went to school with them, a woman who'd been banking there longer than me, but they wouldn't carry out her transaction until she showed them some i.d. because that was one of the new rules. She left without showing it to them, I assume to start banking elsewhere.
Another man was trying to withdraw money from his account. Under Wachovia there were always a pile of deposit and withdrawal slips on the table where you could fill them in, but under Well Fargo there are only deposit slips. Withdrawal slips can only be given out by the tellers, one at a time and must be used in the bank when received so that no one can leave with any or take any home.
When the man got frustrated by this and asked why, the tellers said "for your own protection" and the man got angry and muttered mini-rants as he walked out. The teller I was depositing my checks with looked upset, very upset. I couldn't blame him. He and the other tellers are taking the brunt of their customers anger over a new giant bank that seems to have no feel for the personal touch and seems determined to make every customer feel like they are prisoners of a giant corporation that doesn't care about them but only about its own internal workings and profit making.
Which seems obviously true. Decades ago, when I lived in Southern California and had just moved there, I got an account with a Wells Fargo bank branch in Santa Monica. Wells Fargo was then a regional bank for mostly Western states. But even then, my experience with them was so bad I pulled my money out and took it to another more local bank and kept it there until I moved back East.
I like the convenience of my bank being right around the corner (actually the way I go to it, right through the alley beside the house my apartment's in) and the tellers I've known for years and get along well with. And the only other bank is another giant multinational corporate financial monster. So, I suppose I'll grin and bear it.
But it is the story of contemporary "America"—giant corporations that the Supreme Court says have the same rights as us individual citizens, except when they have even more rights, like getting to bet our money on whatever crazy scheme they come up with and if they lose, they then get to get bailed out by more of our money and take home bonuses for that same year that are more than most of us make in a lifetime.
While the small businesses the right pretends to care about (while doing everything in its political power to make corporations more powerful and wealthy and dominant over the rest of us) get crushed and many of the brightest college students opt for careers in finance over medicine or science or education or public service.
You know Mussollini's definition of fascism? He called "corporatism." Yep.