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Personal Banking Services Must Come With Dignity


If you believe your bank’s marketing, then you must be convinced that the local branch is your perfect hybrid concierge-soulmate.

You probably walk into the branch gleefully anticipating a fountain of tailored services that snugly fit your needs, even the ones you didn’t know you had.

It might actually work out that way for you if you’re just doing a currency exchange for the long weekend or opening a tax-free savings account.

On the other hand, if you are a very elderly couple in the branch to do a transaction and one of you happens to need the washroom, a customer service pledge can quickly morph into a nasty dose of indignity.

This is my eyewitness testimony.

In a central seating area of the branch, the gentleman in the couple asked a customer service representative (the one whose job it was to canvass the needs of people who recently entered the banch) to use a washroom. He made it clear that using the washroom was a need, not a want.

Rather than trying to serve him better or meet his most basic of human needs, he was told there was no public washroom, the washroom they did have required an escort from a staff member, all the staff were busy and he’d have to wait until someone was available, and he could leave the bank and go to one of a couple big retailers in the area to use their public washroom.

He asked again in a manner that seemed designed to convey some urgency without abandoning all self-respect.

Maybe he hoped the representative would have appreciated his obvious limited mobility as he glacially shuffled into the branch with the support of his cane and his equally elderly companion.

Maybe he wished that she saw the big picture where elderly clients are a significant and growing proportion of the bank’s clientele, mirroring the demographic shift in the country.

Maybe he wished that she could appreciate the realities of ageing, medication effects and side-effects, incontinence and the consequences on self-respect when others respond to those realities cluelessly and without emotional intelligence.

Maybe he hoped that she would understand that once he could address his personal needs, they would be able to get on with personal banking that the branch was oh so happy to help with.

She didn’t.

While undoubtedly banks have to maintain security (presumably this influenced the representative’s response) and devote staff to actual banking transactions, rote rejections of washroom requests which fail to consider all the circumstances and the dignity of customers are denigrating and ignore the need for self-respect.

Canadian banks are profitable. Their coffers are kinda full. They claim to care about customers.

They can afford to use their tangible and intangible assets to quickly and respectfully address some of their customers’ personal needs in the name of dignity and self-worth.


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