Thursday, January 10, 2019

Banks and bouncers

The following column originally appeared in Column 8 on the 21st July, 1993. Like a number of my columns, it's a bit of a riff on an idea that drags in a bunch of possibly unrelated issues. The BleedUsSlow Cup (generally known to rugby fans as the Bledisloe Cup.) It's fought over between Australian and New Zealand teams - mostly annually. 

Banks and bouncers

Bledisloe Cup
courtesy Hpeterswald
Some time ago I promised I’d write about banks and bouncers. And seeing a bouncer being choosy about the cup crowd entering his pub doorway last Friday night reminded me. (Here, this should raise my mana a little; I actually watched all of the BleedUsSlow Cup – and got excited about it.)

Have you noticed the new trend in our main shopping area? Everywhere you turn, banks and bars. Both these institutions are eating up retail space, instead of loitering round back streets where they belong.

Furthermore, one bank has turned into a bar, and another bank and bar are cohabiting. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the pre-cup crowd confused one with the other.

That might not be a bad thing: banks could do worse that taking on the look of a bar, and vice versa.

In the matter of bouncers, for instance. When the teller sees someone whose cheques continually bounce come in the door, she just calls on the fullback at the doorway, ‘A moment of your time, Bill.’ And when Bill arrives, ‘Show this bankrupt the street, will you?’

You’d expect bank bouncers to deal with a better class of customer, having none of the confusion which with bar bouncers must contend.

On the surface a bouncer needs nothing more than muscle and an assortment of fierce looks towards unwanted clientele. But discernment is required. The worthy were once distinguishable from the unworthy by their state of dress. Now scruffy and up-to-date are much the same.

The feller who turns up with his shirt hanging out front and back, with baggy pants and no socks – his girlfriend wearing her singlet over her sweat shirt and her hair in three vibrant colours – may be an acceptable customer. Equally you can’t automatically let in the besuited.

This would also apply in a bank, of course. The besuited might be the pauper and the scruff the one with the money.

When bars become like banks they’ll need to install automatic barpersons. We have this in part already, with drink-dispensing machines – the idea just needs a little extension.

Bar personnel do little besides race around all night pouring drinks, grabbing bags of chips and taking money. A modern machine could handle the job easily. (Barmen who lend an ear to garrulous soaks only appear in the movies.)

Automatic barpeople would fit into the walls of your average bar. The customer slots in his bar card with its own PAN (personal alcohol number); the machine pours into his glass the exact amount of liquor the licensee desires – and there’s no problem with change.

Humans might still be seen behind the bar, but their job would no longer be sweaty and hectic.

Banks, on the other hand, need to take over something that’s prospered in bars – live bands.

Instead of piped music, inducing the customer to soporificity, we’d have live bands performing (and beginning to work in the daytime like normal people). They’d probably need to go upmarket, and change their image from ragged and hairy to couth and cleanshaven (I will not be applying).

Bands encourage customers to linger – necessary in the midst of banks’ fierce competition for people’s money. Picture yourself walking into a bank and hearing your favourite band playing heavy metal or rap or string quartets – depending on the kind of image the bank wishes to portray. Isn’t that more exciting than posters full of percentages?

Not only that, customers could relax in banks after work, discussing their finances, and maybe being allowed to count their money. Tellers who’ve been made redundant by automation could return to work as cooks and waiters, and serve meals.

In fact, if banks and bars joined forces and occupied the same buildings, they’d save on overheads, save on staff, and provide interesting alternative venues.

A three sheets in the wind customer might mix up his PIN and PAN and pour dollars into his glass. Bill the Bouncer would take his elbow, guide his feet along the white line, and quietly open an investment account.

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