Thursday, December 20, 2007
I'll Miss You, Astoria Federal Savings (and Retirement Home)
Years ago, when I was growing up in Astoria, Queens, we didn't have many banks to choose from. This was from the day when neighborhoods had one, two banks at the most. Before Commerce, before CitiBank, Chase, Millenium, and Atlantic bank, there was (and remarkably still is) Astoria Federal Savings.
Astoria Federal was the bank of choice for my family, so naturally, I would open up my first savings and checking accounts there. But, as time went on and I moved out of Astoria, the day came when I'd need to choose a bank with more than three branches.
After I opened an account at Commerce, I put off closing my accounts at Astoria Federal, knowing full well that I'd have to fight off an aggressive account representative, armed with questions like, "Why are you closing your accounts?" and "What are you doing with that chair?"
The day finally came and I was delighted to find out that any teller would gladly close my accounts. (Apparently they're used to hoards of people defecting to Commerce bank on the corner)
I waited patiently on line, and, after announcing that I was closing all my accounts, the teller barely blinked before asking me for ID. I slipped my driver's license under the glass and she began the process. I knew it would take some time, but this would be the last time I'd set foot in this bank.
Two windows down, an older Italian woman was withdrawing money. I knew that she was withdrawing money because of what followed after the teller had the nerve to request ID.
"Why? Why you need from me?" she asked, indignant, insulted even.
The teller, whom I'll never forget, was having none of it.
"I need to see ID from you. Do you have ID? I need ID. Please take out your ID," she said, robotically, never wavering or changing her tone.
Still, the customer fought her on it, as if her mere presence was enough. As if the woman was the oldest customer at the bank. So old that they'd briefly considered renaming the bank after her, but decided it might offend the second-oldest customer at the bank and invite a huge civil lawsuit.
"Do you want to know what the problem is? Do you want to know what the problem is? Do you want to know what the problem is?" asked the teller, her voice climbing louder and louder as she attempted to drown out the customer's constant, stubborn arguing. "Do you want to know what the problem is!?!"
Finally, the customer shut up long enough for the teller to rip her a new one.
"Do you want to know what the problem is? I'll tell you what the problem is. This is the holiday season! People are stealing money out of other people's accounts! Children are stealing money from their parents. Do I know you? I do not. I'm doing this to protect you, okay? I'm doing this for your benefit, okay? So don't come in here and yell at me, yell at the teller who doesn't ask you for ID!"
And with that, the customer shut the hell up, tail between her legs. She managed to fork over an acceptable form of ID and slip it under the glass. I was astonished, awestruck. I wish I'd had that courage back in my retail days.
"Wow. I think I'm in love," I told my teller.
Oh, Astoria Federal, with your 15 windows mocking me while only 3 were ever open at one time, with your 98 percent elderly customer base, with your 3 branches (all in Astoria).
Astoria Federal, I shall miss you. (sniff)