Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Rant About Israeli Banks

'The name of the song is called "HADDOCKS' EYES."'

'Oh, that's the name of the song, is it?' Alice said, trying to feel interested.

'No, you don't understand,' the Knight said, looking a little vexed. 'That's what the name is CALLED. The name really IS "THE AGED AGED MAN."'

'Then I ought to have said "That's what the SONG is called"?' Alice corrected herself.

'No, you oughtn't: that's quite another thing! The SONG is called "WAYS AND MEANS": but that's only what it's CALLED, you know!'

'Well, what IS the song, then?' said Alice, who was by this time completely bewildered.

'I was coming to that,' the Knight said. 'The song really IS "A-SITTING ON A GATE": and the tune's my own invention.'

Lewis Carrol, Through the Looking Glass
There is no institution so difficult for ordinary morals to deal with than the Israeli bank. You may think the American DMV, airport security, or immigrations is a pain in your petard, but you ain't seen nothing like an Israeli bank.

On the positive side, we have at least passed the days when the clerk would literally light up and blow smoke in your face while chatting with her babysitter on the phone. Nowadays, she simply chats with her babysitter on the phone without the cigarette.

That means that she gets up from her desk, regardless of how many people are in line, or even if she is sitting with someone, and goes out for a ten minute smoking break. Only to come back and resume her conversation with the babysitter.

Israeli service people have a socialist mentality, which means that the service they give is irrelevant to their pay and they expect that they cannot be fired owing to a strong labor union. Some of the service industries have progressed, either through privatization or weakening union representation. But not the banks.

Bank employees seem to exude the attitude that since they're at their jobs, you're not missing work. Banking takes as long as it's going to take, and there's no sense in rushing it. You're expected to take all day at the bank, if that's what it takes, and it's just going to be longer if you yell.

An Israeli bank manager's attitude is based on three principles: 1) you're wasting my time, 2) if you can't prove it's our fault, it's your fault (corollary: if you can prove it's our fault, you have to prove why we should do something about it ... over the course of several months while we try to forget), and 3) it can't be done, no one else does it that way, and you don't want that anyway.

They're like hockey goalies deflecting any attempts at trying to accomplish what you came to do. No, it can't be done. No, it's impossible. No, she's not here today. Nu, why didn't you say you needed form 114x-aleph when you first came in?

Israeli banks operate under strange and arcane laws which change every month. The managers, let alone the clerks, don't know what forms and rules have changed each month, but they mock you if you don't know them, anyway.

Israeli banks charge fees for everything: depositing, withdrawing, checking your statement, having an ATM card, using your ATM card, losing your ATM card, finding your ATM card, and so on. There is no action so small that they won't charge you for it.

They also operate monopolies on their services. For instance, you have to get your checks through the bank. They charge you for the checks, and using or depositing the checks, and for checking what checks you used.

Banks give you interest only if you lock money away. You might think they give interest as follows: lock away X money for Y time, gain Z percent. Lock away X' for Y' time, gain Z' percent. Ha ha ha. No.

Locking away X money for Y time means opening a foogle-fuggle pakam account with this series of rules. Locking away X' for Y time means transferring to a froogle-fuggle pamam account which means an entirely different set of rules. Locking away X for Y' time means investing in a fockle-freckle papam account with yet a third set of rules. And so on. Each with its own set of paperwork, names, and hidden clauses.

Clerks sneer at you if don't know what you want before you ask for their help. They won't tell you if you have better options. When you find out you had a better option, they'll look you straight in the face and ask why you didn't ask for the frickle-fackle mapam type account if that's what you wanted? It's your fault for not telling me first.

I just opened a savings account for my daughter aged 14. We were promised at the desk as we were signing the forty-odd forms that there is absolutely no charge for depositing money in the account. I verified this. There is no charge for depositing money into the account? No, no, there is no charge for depositing money into the account.

I then went to deposit money into the account, which I had to do at the teller window, and was charged for depositing money into the account.

"But, ho," I said, "she just told me that there is no charge for depositing money into the account."

"There isn't," replied the teller. "This isn't a charge for depositing money into the account. It's a charge for recording that you deposited money into the account."

"But I wanted an account without charges for depositing money," I tremulously asserted.

"And I want a million shekels and a horse. Of course, you're going to be charged." *ring* *ring* "Quiet. Allo? How's she doing?"

When I went to complain at the desk, she said, yes, you have to sign that you accept a charge for recording money deposited into your account, but you won't really be charged for that. Anyway, you only asked me if you would be charged for depositing money into the account, you didn't ask me if you would be charged for recording the deposit. That's not my fault.

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