“Hello, I’d like to deposit this check into my account,” said the customer. He looked to be middle aged, probably in his late forties or early fifties. He handed me the check and his deposit ticket, name and account number fully filled out.
“Thank you,” I said, accepting the items from him. I keyed in his account number on the computer, my fingers moving about the keys a bit more slowly and deliberately than the other tellers. After all, I wasn’t actually a teller, but the branch’s licensed banker. Short staffing forced my scheduler’s hand into putting me behind the teller window that day.
I frowned as I looked at his account and then his check. The last name matched, but not the first. I checked the account again to make sure there wasn’t anyone else on the account with him. A female–most likely his wife–but that’s it. The male name was different. It started with the same letter and that was about it.
“Sir, I’m not going to be able to accept this check,” I told him, preparing myself internally for battle. “It’s not made out to you.”
“Yes it is. That’s my name,” he replied.
“No, the names have to match. The check is made out to XXXX. The account is for YYYY. I can’t deposit this check.”
“YYYY is my middle name. That’s my tax refund,” he huffed back. That last line was true. It was a four figured IRS refund check.
“Checks made out to your middle name don’t count. That’s not your name. They have to be made out to your name. Your first and last name,” I explained to him. It took everything I had in me to not talk to him as if he were a five year old and then ask him if his mommy or daddy were around.
“My middle name is my name. It’s my check and I want to deposit it into my account. I don’t understand what the problem is!” he cried, his voice slightly gaining volume.
Silently cursing our nation’s failing school systems for not teaching him the basic skills of listening and understanding what others are telling you, I explained, “Sir, my middle name is Retail. If I walked in here with a check made out to Retail Banker, they wouldn’t be able to accept it. My name is Angry Banker. Retail was my great-grandfather’s name. It’s a different person.”
The man closed his eyes and took a deep breath despite having no legitimate reason to be angry. Then he looked at me square in the eye.
“How old are you?” he asked.
Taken aback, I answered without thinking. “Thirty.”
“You’re too young to think you can teach me things,” he replied sharply.
Smiling pleasantly, I calmly replied, “I think I just did.”
Age Doesn’t Command Respect
One thing I hear a lot is about how Millennials are lazy, whiny, narcissistic, and selfie-obsessed. We are apparently the “triggered” generation; nothing but entitled little snowflakes too enamored with living in our parents’ basements and playing Xbox to move out and get a job.
To be frank, it’s kind of getting annoying being shamed by older generations who are no better.
By the by, if you want to piss off a Baby Boomer or Gen Xer, just mention any of these Millennial stereotypes:
- video games
- Black Lives Matter protests
- worshipping Bernie Sanders as a living god
- mentioning Vagina Power © at least three times per sign during Donald Trump protests
- participation trophies
- “PC culture”, which means foregoing racial slurs and sexual comments when in polite company
- “safe spaces”
Mention Millennials and watch our holier-than-thou ancestors go on a mouth-foamed rant about our generation. Ah, snowflakes.
Anyhoo, the reason I bring all this up is because my experience with people of varying age groups just doesn’t mesh with the stereotypes.
Mind you, I don’t think Millennials are the “Golden Generation” or anything like that. It’s just that the previous generations are just as whiny, lazy, narcissistic, and entitled as the worst of Millennials. Maybe even worse.
And mind you, this isn’t just me sitting in front of a keyboard and mouse and making this stuff up. I work with the general public. I can tell you that when you work with people and their money for a long time, you learn a lot of things about them.
And one thing I’ve learned is that the older customers tend to be the more entitled bunch. When I have someone that talks down to the tellers, doesn’t listen to me when I explain something to them, and thinks the rules don’t apply to them, it tends not to be the Millennials. It tends to be Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.
Most of the time. No one’s perfect and no generation has a monopoly on anything good or bad. I’ve had bad Millennial customers, but I’m talking trends here.
And the trend tends to be that Millennials (and Generation Z, since I think 18-21 year olds now are Generation Z, right?) tend to show more respect to me. They listen and take my advice during account openings. They listen and understand when I explain why their debit card was put on hold or why we can’t withdraw uncollected funds. They ask questions. Not pointed “gotcha” questions, but questions to help understand how to best proceed.
Now there are plenty of potential reasons for this, other than “Millennials are wonderful and Baby Boomers are spoiled rotten”.
First off, I deal with older customers (Gen Xers and up, in this context) way more than I deal with younger customers (Millennials and Gen Z), and thus deal with more nasty people in the former category than the latter. Of course most of my nasty customers are going to be older.
Next is perceptions, and I that’s really the key. Young people may not show respect in the classroom or on the bus, but they show respect to an older, suit-and-tie-wearing professional who is telling them how to not lose all their money. Finance isn’t taught in schools, so oftentimes their conversations with us in the bank are the first piece of financial education they’ve ever received in their lives. They ask questions because they know that, when it comes to their money and their banking, they don’t know it all. Or anything at all.
To them, I am older, wiser, and a professional. And I’m there to tell them how to not lose the incredibly small amount of money they have to bank fees and interest charges.
To older customers, I’m some snot-nosed kid who should be at home studying for my SATs. How dare I even try to give them advice; they’ve been alive longer and have gone through way more than I have. They’ve bought and sold houses, seen economies go up and down, and have amassed more wealth than I have.
I’m going to tell them how to invest in retirement? Shouldn’t I be getting ready for, like, senior prom or something?
I’m going to tell them why their check is on hold? They’ve written more checks in one year than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Maybe me and all my friends can learn what a check is if we can tear ourselves away from our mobile phones and mobile banking apps for a few minutes.
I’m going to tell them what good and bad interest rates are? They remember when CDs were 10%! What do I know about banking? I just started six months ago! They had their banking figured out before my parents started changing my dirty diapers (which was, when, during Y2K?).
That’s perception vs reality. They don’t understand that I’ve been in banking for a decade. I’m not super smart or “in the know”, but I know more than people whose banking knowledge comes from just depositing checks with the teller for the last 35 years. My comprehensive and continuing training in banking laws trumps your age and your Google Law Professor experience.
You may think that age automatically brings wisdom. But not here. Or more to the point, not automatically. “Age before beauty” doesn’t apply here.
This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Entitlement
I have a message for the older generations–especially the elderly–that I think is really important.
Age doesn’t entitle you to anything.
My grandmother recently told me of an issue she had with her bank. She was ordering a book of checks, and the bank was going to charge her for it. Now, I’m against buying checks from the bank directly as you can get much cheaper checks at sites like this one, but that doesn’t change the fact that checks usually cost money. Unless of course, you have an account that entitles you to free checks. But she didn’t have that. She had a regular account.
She threatened to close her account with the bank unless they gave her free checks. She was insulted that the bank would charge her, an elderly woman, for checks! In her mind, someone her age shouldn’t have to pay for checks!
Now, I just nodded my head as she is my grandmother and I’m going to agree with everything she says. But in actuality, that’s not how it works. Being 70 or 80 or 90 years old doesn’t qualify you for free anything unless it’s expressly stated otherwise. Many banks do have senior citizens accounts and I wholeheartedly support that, but simply being old doesn’t qualify you for extra bank benefits. If your money is in a regular account, then you’re only entitled to what a regular account offers you.
Not too long ago, an elderly woman came into the bank to get a bank check. I cringed when I looked and saw that the only account she had was a passbook savings account. God, having one of those is like a much lamer version of owning your own T-Rex. Somehow, you have your hands on something that should be extinct. But her having an account meant that she gets charged for bank checks.
Just as I predicted, she got pissed.
She actually went from pleasant to pissed so fast, it generated enough wind that my desk’s brochures went flying all over the place. True story.
She’d never heard of banks charging fees to “take out my money”. I also can’t forget that “I go to other banks and I’ve never paid a fee for anything like this”.
When I attempted to explain to this woman–quite politely, I might add (it’s still an elderly woman I’m dealing with)–that all banks charge bank check fees and she likely held higher level accounts in the other banks, she simply interrupted me.
“Listen, darling, I am not paying for any checks! I’ve been with this bank for a long time and I don’t have to pay for anything! If you’re going to charge me, then maybe I’ll just take all my money out of this bank!”
Tempting as her offer was, I opted to just get the assistant manager instead. Again, it looks bad to have a verbal confrontation with a little old lady. United Airlines levels of bad.
Before I left to get the assistant manager, I just wanted to clear up some name-based misconceptions with the woman.
“Just one thing I just wanted to mention. You actually got my name wrong. It’s actually ARB, not Darling. I know, a lot of people make the same mistake.”
Hey, I can have a little fun with these people, can’t I?
Your age means nothing to me. It does not command my respect and it does not entitle you to free perks.
Just because you’re older than me doesn’t mean you are smarter than me. I don’t even consider myself a particularly smart person and I still am baffled by the stupid morons that come to my desk, almost exclusively above the age of forty. I recently had two rounds of utter stupidity in a row; neither of these customers were in high school. They were probably in high school during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
As many of my customers have demonstrated over the years, being older than a bank employee doesn’t mean you’re smarter than said bank employee. Especially when it comes to banking. Hell, it doesn’t even mean that you are a reasonably intelligent human being! Some of these people I’m convinced would somehow swallow their own tongues without someone around to tell them not to.
And just because you’re elderly levels of old doesn’t entitle you to anything from the bank. Why anyone would ever think that they pass a certain age and thus are entitled to free services from a for-profit business is beyond me. And throwing a fit about it doesn’t become cute or acceptable because you can no longer wipe your own butt and the Grim Reaper is hunting for you. I’m not your goddamned home care attendant. If you want someone to deal with your figurative s***, here’s a nice book about how to get your family to pay for it.
This isn’t supposed to be an attack on old people or older people or XYZ generation or anything like that. This is simply a demand that the whole country stop s***ting on the Millennials. We’re no worse than the older generations who came before.
The only difference is that we haven’t had the chance to screw over the country yet, we’re pretty much not getting Social Security benefits, and we don’t cite our age when we make unreasonable demands and believe that we are entitled to something we aren’t.
In the end, though, I don’t really think there is a “Generation Me”. I don’t think there is an Entitled Generation, I don’t think any age group is the Age of Entitlement, so on and so forth. I do think the Baby Boomers would be the worst generation as a whole in that regards simply based on my own personal experience, but you can’t approach an individual person (customer or otherwise) with the assumption that they are a demanding and unreasonable A-hole simply because of their age.
To treat a customer worse simply because you don’t like their age group. How is that any different than racism?
Readers–What do YOU think!? Are the Millennials the worst generation? Are Baby Boomers and other older generations what’s wrong with America? Or is the truth somewhere in between? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Just in case some Baby Boomer decides to get their pantyhose twisted into a pretzel over the possibility of me earning compensation for something, I just want to point out that there are affiliate links in this article. One for a site to order checks cheaper than at the bank, and another for Amazon. If you buy something through those links, I earn a commission at no cost to you. But you still have to pay for the items though. That’s right, no freebies. Sorry, Boomers.