This is a tale of two banks but also about technology shock.
For reasons that I won’t get into here, I had to request some monthly bank records from the two banks that I use. One bank is pretty large and has been swallowed up any number of times by the larger fish in the money pool. The other is a credit union and I use it mainly for funding my car insurance.
I went to the big bank and asked for my records. The woman jumped on her PC, punched a few keys and we chatted as the paperwork printed out. She stapled it together and I was on my way.
I figured I had time to go the credit union, too, so I went there. I explained to the woman what I wanted. She dug around for a small form and started to fill it out.
“You understand there is a $25 research fee?” she asked.
“Research fee? For what?”
“To find your statements.”
“Aren’t they right there, in the database?” I pointed at her computer.
“No. I only have access to the last six months. The rest are on microfiche.”
I stood there in silence, baffled. I was caught in the memory of using the library in high school and in college, squinting at the tiny rolls of data in the huge machines.
She noticed my look. “Do you know what microfiche is?” I must look younger than I am, I thought. (Reader, you can laugh)
“I know what it is but I didn’t think anyone in the world used it anymore and I certainly didn’t think banks used it. Why isn’t all this on a database?”
Now she was the one silent. I knew she was not the one to blame for this, so I just shook my head. (Later, I rationalized that maybe the bank does not trust the digital age and sees microfiche as a safer way to store information. Or, my cynical side added, to get a few extra bucks in research from its customers)
“By the way, this could take a good week or so to get your request. You should know that,” she added. I envisioned some poor bank employee whose job it is to sift through piles of microfiche. I shuddered.
I took the form she was helping me fill out and looked at it closely. Not only was there a research fee but it would cost $12 for every monthly statement on top of that fee. For what I was searching for, the cost would run almost $200.
That’s $200 for data that I technically already own. Or not, I guess. Maybe my data is really the bank’s data. I am confused on this now.
“That’s why we remind our customers to save all of their paper files,” she kindly informed me, as I took the slip, stuffed it into my pocket and told her I would have to rethink my request. I did thank her for helping me.
What I didn’t tell her was, your bank won’t survive long in this digital age if your data base is a storage box of microfiche in some vault somewhere. But I held my tongue and walked away.
Peace (in the information age),