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Dear Big Bank: how did we get here?

It all started a few months ago with a letter from a bank I use: “You will be receiving your new (bank name) Mastercard shortly.”

Huh? 

I check the expiry date on my current Mastercard. It’s over two years away.

The next letter came with a new security-protected PIN, along with some excellent advice, such as “DO NOT write your PIN on your card.”

Then at long last, I got the card itself, with five enclosed brochures telling me all about it. My fave is the one that says “Your business isn’t small. It’s small-gantic.”

Now, earlier in this blog I confessed to a 25-year career in the ad business. I can report with some satisfaction that I never perpetrated a clunker like “small-gantic” on a target audience. I did commit some puns that haven’t aged well. For example, this ad for a sale on leather furniture in 1989:

But small-gantic wouldn’t have made the cut in any creative department I worked in. Boldly, the bank doubled down, repeating it inside: “Thank you for choosing the (bank name) Mastercard. The card made for small (gantic) businesses like yours. You’ve worked hard to build a successful business…”

Truth be told, I haven’t worked that hard. Accordingly, it’s not that successful. So I feel guilty about accepting the praise, since my business is merely small, not small-gantic. Full disclosure, it’s kind of a side hustle. 

But my curiousity was piqued. Why send a new card when the old one doesn’t expire for over two years? 

I got on the phone. The estimated wait time was 30 to 40 minutes, but that’s nothing for someone who isn’t in the process of making their small business successful. 42 minutes later, I was on the line with an actual person. David. (Not his real name. I realize that I probably didn’t have to give him a pseudonym, since the bank’s call-centre likely doesn’t insist on their people providing customers with their real names. But I’m erring on the side of caution, because this guy’s name was unique.) 

Sidebar, I’ve always wondered what would happen if, having been on hold for 40 minutes, I said to the bank rep, “Hi, I have a load of laundry in… I’m going to put you on hold. The estimated wait time while I fold and fluff is seventeen minutes.” 

If you put a decent playlist on for them to listen to, would they hang in there? Would a bank indulge a customer as much as customers indulge the bank? Probably not. I decided not to risk it. No doubt David had other calls to answer, so I got right to it. 

“David, my card doesn’t expire for more than two years. Why’d you send me a new one?”

“Security enhancements.”

“Ahhhh. Like what?”

“Uh…     um…     Well, you can add it to the wallet on your phone.”

“So the best thing about the new card is I don’t have to carry it?”

“Uh…”

“In the second of the three letters you guys sent, you say existing customers can use their current PIN. I’ve been a customer for 11 years. Why did you guys send me a new PIN?”

“I don’t know why they did that.”

“And why did they change the card number? Now I have to contact all the merchants and subscriptions etc. that keep my card on file and update them. The fourth brochure says I need to go into a bank branch to change my PIN from the one you assigned. I also need to visit the branch to have the card added to my internet banking.”

“Oh, I can do that for you now if you like.”

“The final thing it says is that I need to activate the new card ‘by the date provided to avoid service interruptions’. But there’s no date referenced in any of the letters or brochures you guys sent me. What’s the date?”

“Uh… it was October 5th.”

“So it has been frozen for three weeks?”

“Yes.”

“David, nice talking with you. Is this call being recorded for quality-assurance purposes?”

“I believe so.”

“Please cancel the old card and the new card.”

“Okay. Well, we’re sorry to see you go.”

The old card.
The new card. It’s hard to tell them apart.

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