THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

The disco bank

I dislike discos at the best of times – call me a Grinch (I am) but the thought of standing in a dark, noisy, crowded room full of smelly people and trying to hold down a conversation?

Not my idea of fun.

OK for dancing, drinking and acting daft for Facebook photos.

So why have HSBC decided that “the future” is to turn their bank branches into discos?

On Monday I made a rare visit to HSBC in Truro to pay in two cheques.

Normally a simple transaction – but this time one of the cheques is in Euros – so I’m not 100% sure what to do.

I walk through the door to see:

  1. on my left – a row of ATM’s for paying in and drawing out – lines of people waiting

  2. before me – a row of unoccupied desks in little booths (private dancers?)

  3. to my right – a single upright desk with one slightly crumpled young lady – you know, the ones who were geeks at school and ended up working in a bank – possibly never been kissed..

All around me, the sound of HSBC’s own radio channel – with the DJ (OK – well spoken lady) playing a selection of Christmas favourites along with chirpy comments about the benefits of an interest-bearing account – ho, ho, ho.

I set my expectation at “low” and wait in line to speak with the ONE AND ONLY MEMBER OF STAFF IN THE BRANCH.

Now don’t get me wrong – Truro isn’t Manchester – but there is a population of 20,000 in the city (yes – its a city) and 500,000 in the county – so its reasonable to expect that a city centre bank might have more then one person in attendance?

But no.

Eventually, I have my chance to explain that I’d like to pay in a cheque in Euros.

Her withering look of disdain makes me feel as if I have been reimbursed for the supply of arms.

“Well I will pay it in for you but I have to let you know that it could take between 3 and 4 weeks for the cheque to clear.”

“Why?” I ask, politely.

“Because of all the things they have to do.”

Stunning.

She takes the cheque off me, fills in a paying in slip, opens the drawer in which she keeps her rubber date stamp (the one she got when she was expelled from the HSBC customer relationship management course), stamps the slip and hands it to me.

No eye contact.

No rapport.

No appreciation.

Mind you – if I had to stand there all day, shouting at deaf pensioners over the sound of Bing Crosby and Slade, I’d probably be miserable as well.

I leave the “bank” with my bubble of yuletide jolliness well and truly popped – and promptly step in a dog turd right outside the door.

Its a metaphor I assume – and make my way back to Starbucks to stick my Timberland boot under the tap in the toilet.

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