The Referrals

In the world of banking, the people on the front lines of the industry are known as tellers. These are the people who are expected to help customers with all of their day to day banking needs. It is often a thankless and miserable position to hold. These are their stories. These are their legends…

Bank Teller 4I’m sure I’ve mentioned the need to get so many referrals during my time with the bank. Haven’t I? I can never remember. If I’ve mentioned it, consider this a refresher on referrals. If I haven’t then this is brand new information.

Each bank teller was expected, as part of his or her duties, to obtain three referrals per day. This means a teller was required to convince three unwitting customers that walk (or drive) up to his or her window that they not only want, but need to either open a new account, apply for a credit card, or try to get a mortgage (or take advantage of some other highly important product that they never knew the bank offered).

Starting out, I was only a part-time teller. I only worked three days a week, so I was expected to obtain nine of those coveted referrals on a weekly basis. And when I didn’t get the full nine, something terrible would happen. Not only was I docked a week’s wages, but I was sent to the hot box for an hour on the following Monday. It’s a shack made of concrete and metal that sat behind the branch. From the outside it looked like a normal ATM, but inside, it got really hot in there. I’m sure I managed to sweat off 35 pounds thanks to my lack of referrals.

Okay, I’m kidding. There was probably one week that I had actually gotten all of the referrals expected of me. And they never bothered to fire me. Failure to actually get referrals never led to any real disciplinary action, other than a “try harder next week.” But that never stopped the powers that be from telling me that I wasn’t doing my job properly.

Each week, we had our branch meeting. That was the time when the manager could go over what we did right, but mostly what we didn’t do, in the previous week. Now, I realize whenever she said something to us about not reaching a particular goal, she was just relaying the crap that she got from whoever was above her in the bank hierarchy. Obviously, to the powers that be, when we didn’t meet or exceed our weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals, it’s because we weren’t doing our job.

To the CEO and members of the board, I always felt the need to ask, do you realize our economy kind of sucks? Just because we weren’t getting new referrals, just because your representatives in the branches are not opening new accounts or handing out credit cards, did not mean we weren’t trying. While you sat comfortably in your well air-conditioned offices enjoying your million-plus dollar salaries, shaking hands or signing papers or doing whatever it was that you would do to “earn” our paycheck, we, the little people, saw every day what normal people were going through. People didn’t want to open new accounts. They couldn’t afford to. They couldn’t afford to get new credit cards because the were already in debt with the credit cards they already had. People were too busy working and spending their money on gasoline to come in and put money in a brand new money market savings account.

But then, I guess, when we weren’t getting those accounts for you, you weren’t able to keep gaining your ridiculous profits. I guess you wanted us to get people to open accounts, then you wanted those accounts to go into the negative so you could charge them exorbitant amounts of money in bank fees. Money they already didn’t have. So then, when they couldn’t pay those fees, you could charge them more fees.

But really, who would I have been to complain? Hooray capitalism!


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