Dragging Me Into the Future

I’m unhappy with my Israeli bank today. I knew it was inevitable, but I’m still not happy.

I went into the bank today to make a deposit (some cash and a check) and as I approached the teller, a woman I didn’t recognize, dressed in a bank-issued logo shirt stepped in front of me and asked what I wanted. I thought it was only too obvious since I was in the teller line, so I was caught a bit off guard.

When I told her I wanted to make a deposit, she told me I couldn’t make a deposit with the teller, only through the ATM. In an effort to clarify the new procedures, I asked, “I’m not allowed to make a deposit with a teller?” She was puzzled by my question and answered, “It’s not that you aren’t allowed to make a deposit with the teller, you just can’t do it anymore.” She offered to guide me through the new procedures at the ATM.

Now, I have to deposit checks at the machine inside, and cash at the machine outside. This is all for my benefit and convenience the manager assured me when I went to offer my complaint about the new way of doing things. I didn’t expect her to reverse the decision to “advance technologically,” but I felt it important to let her know exactly why I was disappointed.

Many of you know that I have a lot of technology gadgets and do a lot on the Internet, including banking. So, you might be wondering what is the big deal for me to move into the age of technology and make deposits via the ATM rather than through a teller. First the ironic point: The manager said the changes were to improve convenience. So, lets see how well the changes meet that goal: Instead of one transaction at the teller like before, I had to make two – one inside and one outside. The machine inside is only accessible during banking hours and the one outside has no way to supply envelopes for the deposit, which means it only “works” during banking hours unless I make a special visit to stock up on envelopes. Additionally, each transaction at this bank has a service fee. Now, I have two compared to only one prior to the changes. Additionally, self-service deposits prior to the changes were without charge, but not anymore. What happens if there is a discrepancy when I deposit cash in the outside ATM? There is no way for me to witness them counting my money, so any discrepancy becomes my word against theirs. My evaluation: The changes don’t meet the goal of customer convenience.

The second point is what I came to realize only today and is by far more important than the first. The truth is, I go to the bank so seldom that convenience isn’t a real issue for me. Then what’s the big deal? Human contact is my answer. As a foreigner here, I realized today that it has been an important thing for me to know that people know me when I go into the bank, even if only once a month or less. Without me needing to remind them, the tellers know that my account is on a passport number and not a national identity number. This information is important because bank accounts are located according to identification numbers, even though each account has a specific number of its own.

If I hadn’t had human contact in the bank, I wouldn’t have been able to get approved for an Israeli credit card, which has been more important for us as a symbol of stability here than for purchases. Our account numbers here, particularly as foreigners, don’t justify a card, but contact with people gave us enough credibility to be approved. When we had to put down a large security deposit for our current house, we had been directed to put it in an account that would have been to our disadvantage. A clerk, who recognized me, gave me some good direction on a type of secured account that would be better for us financially, and meet our security deposit needs. I will not have these things – the service or personal contact – anymore because our bank is moving into the future, also known as technology and automation.

I know I probably sound like an old-timer or a person full of self-contradictions, but I’m not happy about this “progress.”

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