The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, August 11, 2003  

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

TBogg’s recent story about his obviously painful experience at Blockbuster -- “Great Moments in Retail” -- reminded me of a not so dissimilar experience I had several years ago at my then bank, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., an encounter I blogged about at TRR. For those of you who missed it, I’m republishing “the transcript” below.

This really happened to me. It occurred during a tough time during my life, after the magazine and its related web sites for which I had worked ceased publication. Gathering up years of spare change was neither the proudest nor the happiest moment of my life, particularly since I so recently had been viciously taken advantage of, but that’s another story. Anyway, you do what you have to. And I’ll tell you, when people say Manhattan is expensive, they mean it. Especially when you don’t have a job.

(Unless of course you’re one of those people who by virtue of the city’s one-party rule have been granted something close to a divine right to live in Manhattan for the rest of your natural life -- and that of your children, and their children, etc. -- in a rent-controlled apartment for which you pay a mere fraction of market value, thereby taking advantage of what was intended to be a temporary, war-time, emergency measure that now dates back some 60 years.)

But I digress. Anyway . . . back to the bank.

Below is the post-facto transcript of a telephone conversation between a J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. customer service representative (CSR) and me.

CSR: “Good morning, this is J.P. Morgan Chase, may I help you?”

J.C.: “Good morning. What would a branch be able to do for me if I were to bring in a significant amount of coins?”

CSR: “I’m not sure what you’re asking. Could you be more specific?”

J.C.: “Would the teller be able to have it counted for me before depositing it into my account?”

CSR: “Count it? No, we don’t count coins.”

J.C.: “You don’t count coins. Then how would I deposit coins?”

CSR: “If you’re just bringing in coins they have to be wrapped.”

J.C.: “What if I wrap the coins and there are some left over?”

CSR: “Well, you can deposit the excess along with the wrapped coins.”

J.C.: “What if I wanted to deposit paper currency along with a few coins?”

CSR: “You could do that.”

J.C.: “How many coins are allowed?”

CSR: “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

J.C.: “Is there an upper limit on the number of coins the average J.P. Morgan teller can count?”

CSR: “I don’t think that matters. The tellers have a machine that counts coins.”

J.C.: “A machine! Oh, so could I bring in all of my spare change, have the teller count it by running the coins through the machine, and deposit the money into my checking account?”

CSR: “Oh no, you couldn’t do that. We don’t accept coins that haven’t been wrapped.”

J.C.: “But you just said I could deposit coins along with paper money.”

CSR: “Yes, as part of a deposit.”

J.C.: “What if I wanted to deposit all of my spare change and just a one-dollar bill? Could the teller count the coins then?”

CSR: “Sir, we don’t accept coins that haven’t been wrapped by the customer.”

J.C.: “Why not? There’s a machine created for just this purpose.”

CSR: “The teller can’t use it if you’re just bringing in a lot of spare change.”

J.C.: “I understand that. I said I would be depositing a one-dollar bill and my spare change.”

CSR: “Look, sir, you can’t just bring walk into a bank with all your loose change.”

J.C.: “Why not?”

CSR: “We just can’t handle that.”

J.C.: “Logistically or emotionally?”

CSR: “I’m sorry?”

J.C.: “Nothing. Can I use the teller’s machine to count the coins myself?”

CSR: “No.”

J.C.: “Why not?”

CSR: “It’s against our policy.”

J.C.: “So what should I do?”

CSR: “Stop by any J.P. Morgan branch and ask the teller for coin wrappers and then return them -- filled -- to the branch and then we will deposit the money into your checking account.”

J.C.: “But how will you know if I counted the coins correctly?”

CSR: “I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

J.C.: “I might make mistakes when I wrap them up.”

CSR: “Well, the teller will run the coins through the machine.”

J.C.: “With the wrappers on?”

CSR: “No, of course not.”

J.C.: “So the teller will take the coins out of the wrappers and run them through the machine to make sure the value of the deposit is correct?”

CSR: “Yes.”

J.C.: “Then why can’t we just skip the wrapping part?”

CSR: “Sir, it’s against our policy. You have to bring your coins in wrapped.”

J.C.: “Well . . . okay.”

CSR: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

J.C.: “Yes, I’d like to open a $100,000 certificate of deposit.”

CSR: “Okay. For that you’ll need to stop by a branch . . .”

J.C.: “Lady, I just told you I’m counting my spare change. Why would I be doing that if I had $100,000?”

CSR: “Sir, I’m sure people with large CDs have change too.”

J.C.: “Yeah, but I’ll bet they came up with the $100,000 first.”

CSR: “Yes, they probably did.”

J.C.: “What if I wanted to open a CD with my spare change?”

CSR: “Sir . . . please.”

J.C.: >>>Click!<<<

God, I love CSRs. They’re really special people, aren’t they?

[Post-publication addendum (August 12): See “The Head Teller & The Coin Counter” on the letters page.]

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