You can’t bank on the Wales, says Susan Ryder, no matter how long you wait.
I speak of environmentally-friendly advertisements. Especially those on television.
Not that I dislike clean products for the sake of it. I don’t. It makes good sense to utilise clever, cost-effective, waste-reducing technology. One of my favourite television programmes is the UK’s Grand Designs, which often features fabulous new concepts in engineering and home design. My problem is that I detest bandwagons and those who jump on them, not wanting to be left out. It smacks of group-think and collectivism and Nick Smith. Enough said.
But it’s really too much when trading banks get into the act. Stephen Fleming selling me an efficient heating system is one thing – he’s making a bit of money by doing so and that’s fine and dandy – but being preached to by the bloody banks is, cough, a bit rich.
I speak of the latest Westpac ad. It screams sustainable-this and sustainable-that, although what that has to do with banking is puzzling. If there was ever an industry that was unsustainable, it would be one that indulged in fractional reserve banking. And if there was ever a bank that was unsustainable, it would be one that confused ten thousand with ten million too often.
“Sustainable” is the Greenspeakers’ favourite word. As long as something is sustainable, you can’t go wrong. Even Helen Clark proved that in the end. She peppered her speeches with “sustainable” so often last year that she lost New Zealand but gained the world. It was a bit like losing your purse, then winning Lotto. Or asking for ten grand and getting ten million.
So Westpac is officially on board Mother Earth. Well, kumbayah kids and light a candle. It’s a beautiful thing.
If only. I don’t bank with Westpac, but I have reason to visit a branch every so often. Like all banks, they make a really good impression of treating their customers with disinterest at best. Never mind how long the queue gets, don’t, whatever you do, put more tellers on. Which reminds me of a wee story ...
Earlier last year I was at Sylvia Park, a large shopping centre in South Auckland that features all the banks. I had to make a deposit at Westpac but saw there was a queue of five or six customers waiting for two operational tellers. I chose to run another errand in the interim and arrived back nearly ten minutes later.
Nobody had moved. I joined the line and glanced at my watch. From a few feet away, it seemed that both customers at the counter had problems that took some resolving. Another five minutes passed with no movement and I was starting to get cheesed off.
In the interim I counted five staff wandering behind the tellers at the back of the bank. Nobody was in a hurry; they were ambling. They would invariably glance at the immobile queue and carry on walking. The possibility that waiting customers might quite like to be served before closing time didn’t seem to occur to them.
Out in front, standing in front of an information counter bereft of customers, wearing the most incredibly high heels was Russian Bride. I called her that because she looked like one. She had more makeup than Max Factor, with that arched expression of boredom and disinterest that Eastern European women have perfected. In spite of having nothing to do, and to doubtless ensure its continuance, she successfully managed to avoid meeting the gaze of a single customer in the rapidly growing queue.
New Zealanders are generally very polite people and so am I. But I don’t appreciate being ignored. And sometimes, people just need a bit of encouragement ...
“Look, I have things to do – and I’d like to be served sometime today,” I called out to Russian Bride. “This queue hasn’t moved in ages – and I’m sure these other customers have things to do, too! Is it possible to get some service please?!”
The floodgates opened. “Yes!” said the Indian man in front of me. “This lady’s right! We’ve been waiting here for more than ten minutes! It’s not on!”
“And I came past about a quarter of an hour ago,” said a woman behind me, “and the same lady is still waiting at the front of the line! I’ve got two kids to collect from school and I’m going to be late!” - together with cries of agreement from the others.
The mutiny stunned Russian Bride, but not enough to get her to move. She resumed her position of ignorance.
“Excuse me!” I said. “We’d like some service and we’d like it now, please. Perhaps you could go and find those staff I’ve seen wandering out the back there. Two would be good, but three would be ideal!”
Instead of getting on with it, she shot a look of pure venom at me. Big mistake. She left me with no choice but to remove my virtual gloves.
“Hey, this isn’t bloody Candid Camera! Take your high heels off and get out the back and get some tellers, please! NOW!”
By this time, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, the other customers taken up the call and, more importantly, had caused staff to come running. They managed to staff two more tellers, the others went back to their ambling and that was that.
I wouldn’t mind waiting if they just acknowledged the queue with a “sorry about the wait, we’ll be with you as soon as we can,” but none of them do that. This isn’t a whinge about Westpac specifically, because they’re all guilty of not giving a toss.
The BNZ has flying pigs and the National Bank has Black Beauty turning up at weddings. The ANZ has a bloke scoffing “lingueeeni” and the ASB has Goldstein. And having dispensed with the smug arse on the megaphone, Kiwibank now has the world’s most irritating woman berating foreigners. They spend a collective fortune telling us day after day how important we are – and now how important the bloody planet is – when we just want to be served.
It’s nothing new. Twenty odd years ago, 60’s pop singer Peter Noone was in Auckland starring in Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. After waiting ages in a Queen Street bank queue that stubbornly refused to move, he shouted in frustration: “Where the hell are we? Poland?!”
* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *