The Little Old Lady with the Zimmer Frame

The Little Old Lady with the Zimmer Frame

Barry says he was on his lunch hour when he decided to go to the bank to organise an international money order for the Valiants match sponsorship against Blackpool.



The Little Old Lady with the Zimmer Frame
Have you ever pondered the absolute stupidity of bureaucracy? Or the sheer insanity of various intractable company policies? Have you noticed how, in today’s world, every move that a company makes costs us money one way or another? Such as banking charges in the form of late payment fees, administration fees, government fees on top of bank withdrawal fees, counter cheque fees, and so on. The list is endless.

Dare we challenge these banking charges? More to the point, is there any point in trying to get banking staff to listen to our several concerns? And have you noticed the dwindling number of teller staff available to deal face to face with our banking needs? The short answers are no, no and yes. The modern trend is getting customers onto plastic and using ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines).

This last point is all well and good if one is not an octogenarian with short term memory loss and a tad unsteady on one’s feet and legs. For these good folk it’s the traditional face to face teller service that’s required. The same goes for international money orders.

When I arrived at the local branch of one of Australia’s biggest ‘Banks to organise my international money order for the Valiants match sponsorship against Blackpool there were four other people before me. All the teller points occupied. The prospect of getting done quickly looked very good.

Or did it?

At one of the teller points was a lady of retirement years. Her demeanour was one of considerable strength even though her body was bent over her Zimmer frame. I could hear her saying to the teller that she didn’t want to use those ‘‘new fandangle machines in the wall or telephone banking’. ‘No’ she went on as she looked across to the lengthening line of customers ‘I have always done my banking with real people behind the counter’.

This delightful little old lady – funny isn’t it that we refer to female octogenarians as ‘little old ladies’. Anyway, she was bemoaning the fact that when presenting her withdrawal slip to the teller she was informed that because she had used up her 3 free monthly transactions she would have to pay an $8 fee. In fact I would hazard a guess that the octogenarian was stunned by the teller’s response. ‘Since when do people with savings accounts have to pay such ridiculous bank fees?’ she complained loudly. But the teller seemed to ignore the lady’s question and replied ‘If you wish to avoid the fee you should draw out more money each time you visit us’.

Whilst this stilted conversation continued some of the other teller points were being closed off to allow staff to go to lunch. That’s right, go to lunch. Now I ask you, what insane policy provides lunch hour breaks for banking staff between noon and 1.30pm at the very time most local industry closes down too?

Only one teller point remained open and that was occupied by the lady with the Zimmer frame. It was madness beyond belief.

At this point in time the lady had once again glanced over her shoulder and noticed that the line of waiting customers was getting even longer. The young bank teller was impatiently tapping her biro on the counter. Annoyed, but undaunted, the lady asked what bank fees would be levied should she close her account. The answer was none. So the little old lady asked that her account be closed forthwith.

It was the teller who was now looking at the lengthening customer queue. But she had no option other than comply with the lady’s request. However, one glance at the lady’s savings passbook saw the teller scurry away towards the manager’s office.

Some minutes later the manager, followed by the hassled teller, came across to the lady and asked if together they could discuss the matter away from the counter. The lady enquired if such discussion would result in the $8 fee being waived. The manager apologised profusely. But company policy would not allow him to do it.

Folks, it just got better for the octogenarian and for once yours truly didn’t mind waiting his turn. This was way better than any of those reality television shows.

There was no doubting the little old lady had a plan to further frustrate the manager and his hapless teller. She insisted in the strongest terms that her account be closed immediately and told the manager to arrange a bank cheque for the full $15,000 plus interest. Further, that she was going to remain at the counter until she was handed her bank cheque. With an audible sigh the manager instructed the teller to comply as requested – an exercise that took approximately 20 minutes.

In due course the teller handed over a bank cheque and seemed relieved that the episode was finally over. Wrong! Our octogenarian then asked what fees were charged for opening a savings account and would she get 3 free monthly transactions. The teller could not have guessed what was about to happen and meekly answered none to the first part of the question, and yes to the second part.

Our octogenarian thanked the teller for her assistance and with the smile of an angel said she would like to open a savings account with the bank cheque they had just drawn in her favour.

Another 20 minutes later the little old lady presented her withdrawal slip for her shopping money. Here’s the best part, she left the bank with the exact amount of money she had originally tried to withdraw from her old savings account without paying one cent in fees.

As she pointed her Zimmer frame to exit the ‘Bank the now, very long customer queue cheered and clapped as one. It was a sweet victory for her and a joy to watch for us. However, there was no victory or joy for the ‘Bank and who knows what time and other costs were incurred as a result of such an intractable policy?

What’s that, my international money order? Yes, I managed to get it away to Caz. But the Blackpool match became Chesterfield and, from all accounts, a good time was had by all.

These days I use PayPal as much as possible to transfer money overseas. But I will never forget that little old lady who put to shame a banking bureaucracy’s intractability. And I often wonder if they treat her more kindly than previous.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
June 29, 2004


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