Customer service and common courtesy

A couple of months ago my husband got slightly sideways with a bank teller about whether our 16-year-old, having recently earned a bit of actual cash money, could open a checking account.

Bank policy apparently has an age limit of 18. So that annoyed him, but what really torqued him was her attitude in delivering that message. A little snotty. He thinks it might have something to do with the fact that our kid, while good-hearted and shy, stood there dressed like The Clash.

My husband wrote a column about it. He didn't name the bank, because the point wasn't to embarrass the bank or the teller or to get special treatment. They have an age policy, OK, that's fine. The point was to say, in general, common courtesy sure has gone the way of the buggy whip, eh?

A couple of weeks ago the bank's chief operating officer (!) called to say he'd finally heard. He was appalled. He was embarrassed. He was putting out an all-points-bulletin to the bank branches that basically said IF YOU SEE THIS MAN, COURTEOUSLY OPEN HIS LONG-HAIRED SON A CHECKING ACCOUNT, STAT.

My husband made the no-special-treatment-just-common-courtesy speech to him, and the executive agreed. Absolutely. For heaven's sake. What's the world coming to. Etc.

Wow, nice of him to call, we said, and forgot about it.

Yesterday the bank delivered an enormous, gift-wrapped, ribbony fruit basket the size of a little red wagon, filled with chocolates, grapes, strawberries, apples, a whole cantaloupe, a potted plant, and various other tchochkes.

"Didn't I just tell him No Special Treatment?" my husband spluttered.
"Right," I say.
"Great," he says. "They're trying to be nice, but they don't know they just delivered me a whole new errand to run."

He hauled the fruit basket back to the bank offices and explained to the puzzled administrative assistant that newspaper people can't take freebies, not even a customer-retention gift for the highly steamed. Not even work-at-home, self-employed, syndicated writers who rarely see the inside of a newsroom anymore.

She took it off his hands, but she didn't really get it.

Now the bank probably thinks we're just a family of soreheads who don't know how to accept an overture of apology.

That's OK. We like this bank. The branch we frequent is filled with nice people who go out of their way to be friendly. We're not going anywhere.

But I can't help wondering whether other customers who were dismayed that day -- but didn't have a newspaper column in which to vent --- got a call from a bank exec and an expensive gift delivered to their doorsteps. It was a courtesy, but I don't know if it's common.


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