Friday, May 17, 2013

The Customer is Always Right (Unless They're a Criminal)

Hey! Thanks those of you who have stopped by from Outlaw Mama's place. She's got quite a nice set up over there, doesn't she? I'm happy you've come by, and for that, I will reward you with another work story, but one with a slightly less-than-happy ending.

You may have read in my bio that I once worked as a bank teller for the now-defunct National City Bank, at their branch in Woodmere, Ohio in the summer of 1998. I was home for a few months between my sophomore and junior years of college, and my mom thought it was a good idea for me to move on from being a summer camp counselor.

(For the record, I was an excellent camp counselor. My group even won the camp color war that prior summer. My daughter Hannah's name was taken from my favorite camper those two summers. But I digress.)

I was pretty excited about being a bank teller, particularly after I sailed through my first week of orientation. Seeing as many of the other tellers were just learning how to use a mouse during our computer training sessions, while my typing skills had been well-honed in many hours of AOL chat rooms term papers, I was sure I could handle anything bank telling could throw at me. I learned how to quickly count money, and that the filing processes actually mirrored the accounting rules I'd studied as an Economics major. The only thing that worried me was the hour we'd spent on firearms identification, in case we were held up at gunpoint and needed to help the police find the bank robbers. I thought that was the worst possible thing I could encounter, and that the likelihood was so low, that I really didn't worry.

And I was right not worry about that - my bank was never held up while I was there - but there was *so* much that no one had ever warned me about. Like the morning when our supervisor, Doug, forgot to post the "all clear" sign in the window after his morning sweep of the premises, and we all feared that he was dead inside the vault. Or the afternoon when we weren't allowed to leave the bank (as my friend impatiently waited to drive me home) when someone's drawer was off by $500, and the guilty teller finally confessed hours later. Or the series of times I'd been check kited.

Per Wikipedia, check kiting is "commonly defined as intentionally writing a check for a value greater than the account balance from an account in one bank, then writing a check from another account in another bank, also with non-sufficient funds, with the second check serving to cover the non-existent funds from the first account." Got that? I certainly didn't. But one of my customers, who appeared to be a plumber, certainly did. He always had tons of checks, which made sense given his line of work, and I'm sure some of them were legitimate, but a few of them were not. He'd always ask for large sums of cash, and my fellow tellers and I could follow our protocols and give him the money without any knowledge of wrongdoing. The checks he brought in always covered the amounts he requested - it was just that the checks were written on fake accounts. Whoops.

I had no idea when Doug called me into his office, after he'd called in two other tellers, that any of this was happening. He interrogated me for over an hour, asking about every tiny detail of my interactions with the customer, who was smart enough not to have been to our branch in weeks. Then Doug finally explained what the heck had gone on for weeks over a large series of transactions, and that I wasn't in any trouble. There was no way I could have known. I still felt awful - part of me still does.

I learned so much that summer, but mostly I learned a lot about respect. Combined with my summers at camp, I learned that people can get pretty worked up about their children and their money. I learned how important it is to provide top-notch customer service whenever possible, and I think that has served me well as I've progressed through my career. Having been on that side of the equation, it also taught me to treat people in customer service roles with respect, too. Being in a service role and doing it well is not easy, and even with some of the bad experiences I had, I'm so glad that I got that critical training. And all these years later, I still think of the experience fondly every time I take out my own - legitimate - checkbook. 

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1 comment:

  1. An excellent post. Loved getting the behind the scenes look into that job. Service jobs are something everyone should have at least once.-The Dose Girls