Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting out of line

Bill writes: It’s becoming less necessary, but going into a bank to conduct business is sometimes still unavoidable. You’ve certainly noticed how increasingly rare it is to enter the queue without the guys-in-ties from branch management trying to short-circuit the wait time by asking if they can be of service. “Do you have a straight deposit?” they will ask. “I can help you over here.” When I first began observing this, I thought I was seeing an especially perspicacious new generation of bank officers—ones seemingly well-schooled in queue dynamics and the importance of efficient transaction flow.

That was then, but today it’s all about skimming cream from the queue. Once they have you one-on-one, sitting at a desk to get your deposit processed, it’s open season—an opportunity to cross-sell, up-sell, and otherwise create awareness for a wider, profitable range of financial products. Customers are part of this dance, willing to give up the drudgery of line-waiting in return for listening to a brief spiel. It’s actually not a bad trade-off. There may well be a new product or service worth hearing about, and the customer at least gets the transaction accomplished and a comfortable place to sit.

It’s not altogether different from the trade-off people make when they agree to attend a time-share pitch—a 90-minute commitment in return for a gift or free trip or other incentive (not that I want to conflate bankers with those who hawk condos in hotel ballrooms).

But it brings up an interesting idea, especially in today’s economy. In return for you doing this, I’ll do something for you. Horse-trading, barter, swapping—call it what you will—it may be how things get done with increasing frequency. And then you won’t need any money. Or to go into a bank line.
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