Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Stepford Tellers

If there is anything worse than a company getting so big they lose touch with their customers, it's a company losing so much touch with their customers that they hire people whose primary job is to touch (not literally, although that may be next) every customer that walks through the door, by greeting them with a booming and cheerful solicitousness that rings so false you could stuff your Wonder bra with it.

Note to Wells Fargo:  When I'm rushing into the bank to make a deposit and praying that the check I wrote next door didn't bounce yet since you have a nasty habit of bouncing checks and collecting fees faster than green grass through a goose, the last thing I want is a greeter.  This isn't church folks, it's the bank.

Most of us find banking tedious, stressful, and  inconvenient, but sadly, unavoidable.  After I reach deep down to my toes to come up with a polite smile back to the greeter's irritating cheer, he asks if he can help me with something today.  Well, of course he can help me with something, that's why I'm there.  But he can't actually help me with anything.  All he can do is greet (and then gesture towards the teller line), which shockingly, I'd already seen.

When I finally do get to the teller, I realize that she is saying the exact words to me that I heard her say to the customer in front of me, and the same words that the teller next to her, and the one next to him, are saying too!  I hypothesize that these were probably all perfectly personable young people before systemized brainwashing by the human resources department. Now they are THE STEPFORD TELLERS.  The 'casual' inquiry "how's your day going so far?" bewilders me. That's a question that I will occasionally allow from my husband, when he is actually paying attention. It's not the kind of question that you ask to every single solitary customer with whom you briefly interact. It makes me tired just to think about answering... and I know darned well they wouldn't have the slightest idea how to respond if I actually did lay out the trials and tribulations of my day.  My question is why don't they just use the tried and true "How are You?" which is both easier to field and to fib.

Believe me, I am a nice person.  And I appreciate friendly small talk.  But not with automatons. The next  innocently posed but pathetically scripted question, is similarly unanswerable: "Have you had a chance to enjoy the weather out there today"? Meanwhile, I am glancing at my phone (aka watch) to make sure my meter doesn't run out as another parking ticket might put me right back in the same spiral! Do they really want to hear about my my brisk bike ride, the skin cancer I'll probably get scraped off my nose, or that a newly-acquired agoraphobia prevents me from leaving the house (except to head off a bouncing check)? I think not.  As I try to nail down exactly what it is about these mundane inquiries that I find so irritating, my conclusion is that the questions are worded in such a way as to be overly personal.  I'd be fine with someone asking "is it still hotter than a chili pepper out there?" I don't mind people being friendly, I just mind them asking me questions that imply we have more of a relationship than a two minute business interaction.  Especially when they ask the exact same thing to the guy in front of me and the gal in front of him.

If Wells Fargo really wants to appear to be friendly, how bout they hire a few telephone operators and chuck the voice messaging system.

Last Friday, I stopped into another bank.  I'd received an offer that would help support a charity I cared about if I opened an account.  I figured it would be a good chance to move my dinky personal account while checking out a smaller bank.  The gentleman filling out my paper work told me that every single employee in that branch office, had once worked for Wells.  He also confirmed that Wells employees are scripted.  I knew it must be true, but still had to shake my head in wonder. ( I mean even my eleven year- old knows how to make polite small talk without being told what to say.)

This branch manager was helpful, humorous, and human.  When I later called the main branch to confirm some information, the phone was answered by an actual person. Today I'll be moving my business account over there as well. My two little accounts probably don't mean much in Wells World, and convincing my husband to change banks would involve a battle I'm not yet willing to fight, but next time I head to the bank, I won't have to brace myself for the superficial interaction that has come to characterize this bank turned behemoth. I miss the good ole' Wells Fargo Wagon!


  1. Heartland Bank at 1st and Garfield refused to make change of my $20s... pulled from their ATM... where they (of course) charged me a fee to do so... Did you read-- 28 banks in Cherry Creek!!!

  2. Gretchen:

    I was not surprising when you switched banks to the smaller one....who wouldn't. Doing business now means engaging....look at Twitter the ultimate engagement tool. Good remembering for me too as a one-person band.

    I am prodding myself more and more to take off the "professor cap" of being at arm's length from my market and to be open and real.

    Just wondering if you Twittered about your experience...

    Karen Hodges
    The "adventures to transformation" coach