E-mail this page E-mail this




Take That to the Bank

Claim:   Disgruntled customer writes caustic letter to his bank over a bounced check.

LEGEND

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

Below is an actual letter sent to a bank. The bank manager thought it amusing enough to have it published in the New York Times.

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to rethink my errant financial ways.

I noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you, I am confronted by the impersonal, overcharging, prerecorded faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee at your bank whom you must nominate.

Be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete.

I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Notary Public, and the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course, I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further. Press buttons as follows:

1.- To make an appointment to see me.
2.- To query a missing payment.
3.- To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there.
4.- To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am sleeping.
5. -To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
6.- To transfer the call to my mobile phone if I am not at home.
7.- To leave a message on my computer, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later date to the Authorized Contact.
8. To return to the main menu and to listen to options 1 through 7.
9. To make a general complaint or inquiry.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may, on occasion, involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration of the call.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous New Year?

Your Humble Client
 

Variations:   In March 2003, some versions in circulation credited the letter to "a 96 year old woman."

Origins:   Although cast as a humor piece, this item is also a sardonic expression of the frustrations we've all felt in dealing with mindless bureaucracy, rigidly-enforced rules, and unreasoning electronic attendants in conducting business transactions. ATMs are great when they work properly, but when they fail to dispense the correct amount of cash or we push the wrong buttons, we can't straighten matters out by talking to them; even worse, when we call the bank to ATM discuss the issue, we have to run a gauntlet of menu options and automated responses before reaching a human being who may or may not be able to solve our problem. Our checks are processed by machines that don't catch many of the errors a real person would notice (e.g., no entry on the "Pay to" line, missing signatures, postdating). We get dinged for writing checks that bounce, and we get dinged for depositing checks that bounce (even when the latter isn't our fault). All of this adds up to a frustrating system with no leeway and no tolerance for variation or unusual circumstances, and if something doesn't go exactly right, we customers usually end up with the short end of the stick (and spend aggravating amounts of time and effort trying to rectify the problem).

The letter quoted above was one man's method of blowing off steam at having to deal with some of these exasperating aspects of modern banking. It was penned by Peter Wear, a columnist for the Courier Mail in Brisbane, Australia, for that publication's "Perspectives" column. The letter was not actually sent to a bank; it was a humor piece from start to finish, albeit one inspired by the author's having had one of his checks bounce. Though the item did appear in an actual newspaper, it was not, however, (as claimed in the Internet-circulated version's prologue) published in The New York Times. Mr. Wear's sardonic offering about the over-mechanized joys of banking as experienced by the consumer was written in January 1999. Since then, anonymous rewriters have been moved to alter his original to make it better fit with a primarily American audience. Compare his original to what now circulates, which is noticeably different in several aspects:
  • It employs British, rather than American, spellings.
  • It lacks the additional telephone menu options found in later versions.
  • It includes Woody Guthrie references cut from later versions.
My dear Bank Manager,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three nano-seconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused to your bank.

My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways. You have set me on the path of
fiscal righteousness. No more will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents, for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very own bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this end, please be advised about the following changes.

First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to your telephone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become. From now on I, like you, choose only to deal with a flesh and blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by cheque, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must nominate. You will be aware that it is an offence under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope.

Please find attached an Application For Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative. Please note that all copies of his/her medical history must be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace, and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof. In due course I will issue your employee with a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phonebank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours. My Authorised Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated voice. By pressing buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided thorough an extensive set of menus:

1, to make an appointment to see me;
2, to query a missing repayment;
3, to make a general complaint or inquiry, and so on.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering service. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I've chosen a refrain from The Best Of Woody Guthrie:

Oh, the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are filled with silver
That the miners sweated for!

After twenty minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably know if off by heart.

On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a cost — a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.

First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read for a fee of $20 per A4 page. Inquiries from your nominated contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response.

Any debits to my account, as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonoured cheque, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn't come for free), so you would be well advised to keep your inquiries brief and to the point.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your humble client.
On a closing note, we point out that the event which supposedly triggered this letter (i.e., a check's bouncing because it was presented for payment shortly before a direct deposit of the funds necessary to cover the check was credited to the payer's account) may be irksome, but the situation is more the customer's fault than the bank's. One should always verify with his bank that his account holds sufficient funds before issuing a check that could potentially exceed the amount on deposit; writing a check on faith that the necessary funds will be in the account before the check is presented for payment is a very bad practice. Even if the bank knows that a particular customer's employer regularly credits a specified amount to his account every two weeks through direct deposit, they can't be expected to act on the assumption that the next deposit will arrive as usual — for all they know the customer could have been fired or laid off since the last deposit, his employer might have gone belly-up, or the employer's business might be in financial straits and unable to meet its payroll. Making sure enough money is on hand to pay the plumber is the customer's responsibility, not the bank's.

Last updated:   18 April 2011

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by snopes.com.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.

Sources:

    Wear, Peter.   "You Can Bank on My Account, Old Chap."
    [Queensland] Courier Mail.   7 January 1999   (p. 11).