Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What's Wrong With These People?

This past Saturday I needed to find a notary. There are several within a short walk of our apartment, including notaries available at two branches of Chevy Chase Bank. It was just after one in the afternoon, and I figured that at least one of the two branches would be open. I was wrong. In fact, I couldn't find a notary anywhere. This was a problem. So I went back home to look up whether there were any banks open downtown that I could go to. I went to the Chevy Chase website and discovered that there were just two branches in the entire network that were open past 1 on a Saturday. Or on Sunday. Or for that matter, open past 5 on a weekday other than Friday. The only two branches with "extended" hours were at the airports.

Fortunately that's a real quick metro trip for me, since I can see the runway from my balcony. Before I headed out, I decided to call ahead and make sure there was a notary available at that location. I got routed to the customer service line for the entire network of Chevy Chase Banks, and the customer service rep summarily informed me that none of their branches were open. I took the time to correct him, letting him know about the airports. He didn't believe me. I admit, it seems a bit odd that the customer would know more than the service rep. He put me on hold and spent about 5 minutes looking it up. When he came back he confirmed that yes, it was open, and they did indeed have a notary available.

So I went over to the airport branch, arriving at about 2:15. There were just two people working, but just one family being helped. Unfortunately the person helping the other family was the notary, so I just had to wait until she finished. The unencumbered teller let the notary know that I was waiting for her, and then returned to being not busy. The family was opening an account for their daughter who recently started college, and they had quite a few questions. They took a good amount of time asking those questions before they began opening the account. I used that time to ask the other teller some of the questions I had about their various CDs and their rates. She was able to answer precisely zero of my questions.

By the time the family was done with their preliminary questions it was about 2:30. At this point, the notary told me she'd be just a few more minutes, as she actually opened the account. This took another 15 minutes or so, and then the teller (who was insanely chatty) spent another 15 telling the family all about the benefits of direct deposit, explaining how to withdraw funds from ATMs, the various charges for different kinds of transaction, and plenty of other trivial and/or obvious minutia about the account. She talked with the kind of specificity that raises concerns where there were none before, and suddenly the father had a lot more questions about just how safe his daughter's money would be in this kind of account. So they spent another 15 minutes setting up various monitoring features on the account, adjusting authorized users, etc. (It was a small office, so I was incidentally privy to the entire conversation). That brings us to roughly 3:15, at which point the notary again told me she'd be just a few minutes, because the family had decided that, now that they had another account to work with, they would transfer funds between all their different accounts, taking a little from each of their piles to make this new one. By the time the notary actually got to me it was after 3:30. I had waited more than an hour and fifteen minutes.

I was done in literally 3.

If I hadn't had my book... and, fortunately, the family (and the notary) were extremely gracious, which helped me keep my patience. Still...

The point to this story is: what the heck is wrong with banks out here? Is this an entire East Coast phenomena? I've been with banks other than Chevy Chase out here, and they're all just as bad. Is it a West Coast phenomena too?

In Minnesota banks were much better. First off, they're open. My parent's local TCF branch is open 9-7 Monday through Friday, until 4 on Saturday, and 10 - 2 on Sunday. That's an extra 15 hours a week, and the branches in grocery stores have even more expansive hours, including 9-6 on Sundays.

I've always found people to be extremely helpful at banks in Minnesota. I've never had a question they can't answer. The service is usually quick and courteous. Heck, they even give you gifts for opening accounts with them. There's totally free checking, unlike most of the checking options out here (you can find them, but they're usually less than ideal), and they've got any and all of the perks that I've ever seen in the D.C. banks.

So what gives? Why is banking so much worse out here?

I'm not sure these are hard song lyrics, but bonus points all the same:

If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank
Safe and sound
Soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank,
Will compound


Mike said...

I'm going to assume "Mary Poppins"? Are those the actual words?

I guess every time I've gotten something notarized I've gone to a UPS Store, which is less than a mile from where I work and (around here at least) is open until 5 every day except Sunday. I still think having to get notary services in general is usually a bigger pain than it's worth.

Matthew B. Novak said...

I tried the FedEx/Kinko's right beneath our apartment, but they don't have notaries at Virginia stores.