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April 12, 2018

Banking and passwords

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Back “in the day” if you wanted to deposit a check or get some cash, you went to the bank, saw a teller, and left with your deposit receipt and cash in your wallet.

You couldn’t accomplish either of those tasks from your car or your phone. You had person-to-person contact with an actual human being. If you were a regular customer, they knew your name and greeted you with a smile. You left with a lollipop to sweeten your day.

I remember using a “drive-through” for the first time. I put my banking business in a cylinder and off it went. I was grateful for that option when I had been spending time in the garden. No need to remove the smudges of dirt from my face or the traces of it that were under my fingernails.

Now the world has other options for doing our banking and I will be the first to admit that I am clueless about them. First of all, I would need a phone that allowed me to do that. My 2003 Tracfone is only capable of letting me make and receive calls. Messages can be left on it, but I have no idea how to retrieve them. If the few people who have my number have left me a message it is still there … possibly from 2003!

In looking online to see how checks can be deposited these days, I learned that you sign onto an “app,” select “Deposit Check” from the menu, take a photo of the front and back of the check and you will then get immediate confirmation that the check was received. As easy as that sounds, it wouldn’t work for me as my phone doesn’t take pictures. I know what you are thinking – get a new phone!

The problem with that logic is that I like to deal with people, not devices. You will find me in the teller line at the bank and the register line at Walmart and Price Chopper. No “scanning” for me! I am willing to wait and hand my money to a person. I know the stores are trying to convert people like me, as there are more scanning machines than register clerks.

I see banks closing branches and retail employees having their hours cut because of technology. We are gradually losing contact with people in an attempt to make our lives easier. When my husband and I go out to eat or take a coffee break, we are sometimes the only people without a device in our hands. Even if there are only two people at a table, they are not always talking to one another. Their fingers are busy while their mouths are silent. To me going out is a “social” occasion and that means carrying on a conversation.

With automation came passwords! Even if you call a company where you are a customer you usually need a password before you reach a person.

When you don’t have a password, speaking to someone can be a daunting task. Apparently our bank has changed the password requirements. I rarely call the 800 number but in January I wanted to see if a direct deposit had been made. After pushing the buttons with my account number and the last four digits of my social security number, I was stopped in my tracks. There was no reason given. I was told that I was being transferred to a customer service representative. That sentence was followed by a message saying that the “wait time” was 20 minutes. That wasn’t how I planned to spend my next 20 minutes, so I called my local bank and got an answer in a few seconds. The only downside was that I was told I would have to call the 800 number to solve the problem I was having with my password.

Fast forward to March when I finally decided to give it another try. I was hoping the automated message back in January might not greet me this time. But I got stopped in my tracks once again and the automated message told me there would be a wait time of 20 minutes again. Oh, really?

As long as I can get the information from a local person, I am done being told to “hang on” for 20 minutes. Hearing that makes me long for the good old days. People make my life easier. Automation and devices seem to make many things harder.

So, use your apps, use your passwords but this senior will use a person for as long as I can. It works for me!

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