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Big banks' greed giving bad name all bankers

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 6:36 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It didn't matter how many millions the taxpayers coughed up to bail out the bankers, the money lenders are determined to make their customers pay for the bankers' greed and their bad business practices. Before the ink could dry on the government's legislation to curtail some of the funny business in their credit card operations, they had already made plans to increase the fees on certain banking transactions.

Gone are the days when some bankers wanted to be user-friendly to their customers. Now they plan to recover their losses by counting on some of their customers' inability to pay overdrafts within a specified period. So, naturally, they plan to raise the fees for this service. Some banks are also increasing the fee to transfer money into a checking account to cover insufficient fund checks. Other banks are raising the fee on other banking services. In other words, the industry, understanding that most people are facing tough times, is taking advantage of the ugly situation to try to improve its own bottom lines.

It's too bad that the bankers cannot come up with a business plan that strengthens their financial situation without ripping off customers. Apparently, they are so bereft of expertise that they have lost their ability to come up with effective ideas. As a result, I think consumers will view the industry through a different set of lenses when this is all over. Obviously, these lenders have forgotten that they received great sums of money from taxpayers, most of whom are probably bank customers.

Many people don't realize that banks think of overdrafts as loans. I learned that lesson a long time ago when I worked as a teller for a telephone company. A banker informed me that any time any money is dispensed by a bank, such as when it covers a bad check for a customer, it is considered a loan.

I hope that adding more regulations to how banks do business will encourage other businesses to adjust their policies. The fact that the payday and title loan companies are making out like bank robbers with their outrageous interest rates can only lead one to wish that measures would be taken — if not to take them out of business, then to regulate their interest rates. In the days when there were laws against usury, the local loan sharks were fairer dealers than these operators.

I'm always amazed at the number of laws passed to control the behavior of ordinary citizens and how few are passed to govern business practices. With the way some people were tricked into purchasing homes while being unclear about their adjustable mortgage rates, how many laws have been passed to regulateRealtors? It seems to me that along with state laws there should be federal restrictions governing them as well.

The big banks are giving a bad name to all bankers. Many of us who live in smaller or average-sized towns know our bankers personally. They belong to our churches, our civic organizations and our social clubs. Many of these people are model citizens devoting time and energy to charitable causes and helping to make their communities better places to live. This is one of those cases where the rotten apples are stinking up the entire profession.

At this time when every penny counts, such practices as raising the monthly rates on checking accounts doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you begin to add up all these extra charges, your budget can begin to feel the strain. With ATM fees at record highs, a lot of people will probably refrain from using them.

Those good old days of cash and carry and layaway plans are looking better and better. Many of us are beginning to hate so-called easy credit with a passion. And as a result, some are learning to do without things they once thought they couldn't.

I suppose, though, with the automobile manufacturers having to file bankruptcy, we really are going to see big changes in the way people do business in the future. Many people see this as an indication that, as Americans, we can't continue to consume more than our share of the world's resources. We are simply going to have to behave more responsibly.

And if as a result of this dire financial crisis we should emerge more thoughtful, more considerate and more concerned individuals, surely that can't be all bad. If so, let's hope the lesson is learned for good.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.

 


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