I really trust the big banks. No really, I do. They make it perfectly clear they are going to hang me upside down and shake every loose cent out of my pockets. And they can be 100% trusted to do just that. Yes, "banking can be this comfortable". Especially if you work on the top floor of a 68-storey downtown tower and spend your days drooling over your multimillion dollar bonus.
But, hey, Canadian banks are benevolent sweethearts compared to the United Queendom's voracious banking system. One of the big Britbanks advertises "our managers are always here to help you". I experienced their brand of helpfulness during a recent trip to the Queendom.
I had taken the precaution of buying some British money before leaving Canada but most of it was in large bills. No problem, I thought. I strolled into a branch of the friendly Yorkshire Bank and asked them if they would be so kind as to exchange my £100 notes for something smaller.
The teller looked at me from behind the bulletproof glass screen with an air of deep suspicion. "Do you bank with us?" she inquired. "No" I replied. I could sense her hand moving towards the secret panic button that would silently summon a squad of anti-terror police armed to the teeth with automatic weapons.
"Why don't you go to your own bank? she asked. "It's in Toronto" I said; "I am visiting from Canada and I need some smaller bills that I can spend in the shops". A manager was summoned. "I am sorry" came the authoritative voice from the safety of her shelter behind the gunfire wall; "if you don't bank with us we can't help you." I imagined that she probably silently added something to the effect of "now bugger off back to Canada you dangerous and ugly little foreigner".
That same nasty little yorkshire bank, by the way, gouges its customers with huge fees in a reverse Robin Hood sort of way. They have a policy of setting an "agreed overdraft limit". If you fall on hard times and exceed your agreed limit they levy a fee of a pony (twenty five pounds) per day (yes... PER DAY!). Loan sharking in the United Queendom is perfectly legal it seems and Britain's chartered banks are the Great Whites of the high street
There is a saying in Yorkshire: "where there's muck there's money". At the Yorkshire Bank that should be reversed to "where there's money there's muck". The bank's motto is "always thinking". Yorkshire Bank customers' motto is "always sinking".
On the same theme, Blighty's Blog's London city desk editor Ben Bigge filed a timely story this week concerning another big British bank. Barclay's president Bob Diamond (a native of the Excited States who runs the Britbank from his office in New York City) received a total remuneration package worth £66 million last year. Jolly good show, old chap.