Posts Tagged ‘banks’

Sometimes it just takes a little magic.

The bank I worked at had something called a call night.  These happened twice every quarter.   What is a call night?  Glad you asked.  Employee’s who are customer facing were required to profile customers.  We would look into an account and see if a customer had a lot of money sitting in a checking account that they are not using.  Or they may be paying on a loan with too high an interest rate. We would call these people and see if we could get them into the bank to talk with an advisor.  Despite the scary word ‘profiling’ this is an excellent program and greatly helps customers.  Most people don’t realize how many products banks offer. Believe it or not, to stay in business banks need you to succeed.  One would think convincing people to talk to an advisor to further their own needs would be easy. But it is not.   Peoples fear and distrust makes making these calls very daunting.

My first week at the bank there was a call night from which I was excused seeing as I had not been there long enough to profile anyone, nor did I have a clue as to what I was talking about.  Being the trooper that I am I opted to stay and join the fun.  The manager handed me a list of papers and told me to call everyone on the list.

I looked at the first name on the list checked their account and they had something like 25 grand sitting in a no interest checking account.  I looked at the history and they had that much sitting there for at least a year.  Clearly, at the very least this could go into an interest bearing savings account.  The call went something like this.

Me:  “Hi my name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank.  I’ve noticed you have a lot of money sitting in a checking account.  Did you know we can put you in another type of account and you could be making money on that money?

Them:  “Not interested”

Me—Stunned silence.

Me: “Really? Do you have that money earmarked for something, perhaps a home, or a car or sending a child to school? If you are we have many products designed just for those types of purposes that will be much more beneficial than a checking account.”

Them:  “No thanks,” CLICK!

Me:  Looking stupidly at my phone. 

At this point one of the other Tellers noticed me looking stupid and quietly told me that she just calls home and speaks to her answering machine.  That way it looks like she is making calls.  While I understood the concept, I thought that was a bigger waste.  With great trepidation I looked at the second person on my list.  His name was Bob (not really, but we will call him Bob) the first thing I noticed was that Bob had multiple accounts all with stupidly high balances.

 Me:  “Hi Mr. Bob, My name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank, I’d like to talk about all that money you have just sitting there doing nothing, in fact I’d like to transfer it into my account.  Okay I didn’t say that, what I really said was something to the effect of you really need to come in and talk to one of our people about making this money work for you.

Bob: “I don’t like big banks, they are very impersonal and you never know who you are talking too”

Me: “Well I can help you with that, I’m Brian I am calling from your branch in State College and I can be your banker”

Bob: “Well that is nice of you but I remember when it was a small town bank and I knew everyone who worked there, now I don’t know anybody and I’m not happy about it.”

Me: “I understand, progress isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, but I can help you out with your current accounts”

Bob: “Does Pat still work there?”

Me: “Pat?  Yes, she is my branch manager.”

Bob: “I remember her when she was a Teller and I’d show her magic tricks.  I’d show all the girls magic tricks and they always greeted me with smiles and were happy to see me, now there is no personal service.”

At this point I just leaned back in my chair, smiled inwardly and took a breath.  Here I was a week in the bank, my first call night I knew nothing about banking but I booked my first call night appointment.  I had a secret.  Bob was a magician, not only that, he was older which meant he was an old school magician, which meant he would have my back.

Me: “Really you are a magician?”

Bob: “Oh yes, I am a member of the magic circle in England, I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, (IBM) and the Society of American Magicians, (SAM).  I’m not much of a performer on any formal level but I do show the occasional trick, and they used to love them at the bank.”

Me: “I was the regional Vice President of the SAM in Vancouver Canada”

Bob:  Silence

Bob: “Really?”

Me: “Yes really, my father opened a magic shop in Montreal in 1974 which is still going strong.  I just moved here from Vancouver where I operated the Vancouver branch for the last 10 years.”

Bob and I talked magic for about 15 minutes and then he said:

Bob:  “So if I make an appointment, what do you get out of it?”

Me:  “Not much except the fact that this is my first week at the job and I’ll have made my first appointment during a call night.”

Bob: “And what exactly is expected of me?”

Me:  “You just have to listen, you don’t have to commit to anything or do anything.  Just listen to your options and you never know something might just be right for you.”

Bob:  “Okay, for a fellow magician, okay, set up a date.”

After pinning down a time with Bob I went to my manager and told her that I made an appointment for her for the following day with Bob.  Pat looked at me with huge eyes and told me they have been trying to get Bob into the bank for years and he has always turned us down flat.  She asked me what I said that got him to agree.  I told her I just have a magical way about me.

Out of six tellers, three desk people the manager and two investment people making supposedly 10 calls apiece I was the only one to book an appointment that day. 

Sometimes all it takes is a little magic.

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I will not forget my first encounter with David. I had been working at the bank for a precious few weeks. Out of the corner of my eye I spied him standing at the door.  David is a little over six feet tall, about two hundred pounds, he has a pocked marked face brown eyes and short greasy black hair. I know all this because as I watched him I figured I had better cement a description of him in my head so I didn’t look like an idiot in front of the police when they asked me for a description.  he seemed to be looking at us, the cameras, the windows, his toes were lined up at the threshold of the door and he stood absolutely rigid. When David finally entered the bank the lobby was almost empty. I looked around to see which of the other four tellers was going to help him. Imagine my lack of surprise when I saw that all of my co-workers had magically vanished!

Okay, so it was throw the new guy to the wolves day. David walked over to my window and proceeded to re-arrange the must have teller paraphernalia, the deposit slips had to be in a perfectly squared pile. The pile had to be two finger widths from the edge of the counter and two finger widths from the edge of the wall and yes he used his fingers to measure. The chain on the bank pen had to be just so, the pen itself had to be lined up along the deposit tickets. All of this was done repeatedly and in silence.

Finally he reached into his pocket and removed his wallet.  He held it up to his face, right up to his large nose.  He opened the money part just a fraction, just enough so he could peer in with one eye, then he closed the wallet and put it back in his pocket.  “May I help you?” He looked at me and removed his wallet again, peered inside it again.  Put it back in his pocket and re-arranged my deposit slips…again. He looked over at my coin tray,  “Do you have any Sacagawea dollars?”  understand he is looking at them in my coin tray, “Yes, looks like I have about eight dollars worth do you want them?”  Once again he reaches into his pocket and repeats the wallet ritual several times.  “May I see them?”  I spread them out on the table.  He carefully looks them over, but does not touch them. “What dates are those two?”  I turn them over so he can see the dates.  He goes back to his wallet ritual.  I look around for some help and I see the tellers have drifted back to their stations and they all had huge grins. 

He leaned in a little, looked around the bank.  “My name is David, but please don’t say my name out loud. I have an account here.  I also have a safe deposit box here.” 

“Okay, Da..sorry, Sir so what is it I can help you with today?”  Back to the wallet ritual.  “Can I have two dollar bills, four quarters and those two Sacagawea dollars? I have a five dollar bill in my wallet.”

“Of course you may, I start to gather the money while he starts his wallet ritual.  Lucky for me I adhere to bank policy, all my bills are face up and in the same direction.  I think David would have had a heart attack had I given him the bills any other way.  Finally he removes the five dollar bill.  I happen to notice it is the only bill in his wallet.  Now that it is out David has to check it repeatedly.  He held it up to the light, front and back, checked it at different angles, he checked to make sure it was indeed only one bill over and over.  He smiled almost shyly as he handed over the five and gathered his coins.  Interestingly, he didn’t even look at the money I gave him.

He leans in again, points to my coin tray, “Is that a half-dollar?” 

Now I have to admit there are times I do things or say things that I’m wishing I hadn’t done while I am still doing it.  And for some reason, perhaps nerves, perhaps a coping mechanism but looking at that half dollar with David standing in front of me I lost control.

“Yes, but I should let you know that it is a magic half dollar'”



long pause while he is thinking this through.  Over the course of the next five years there would be many such pauses during conversations between David and Myself, sometimes to the point where he had to go sit down for a few minutes while he processed information.

“Magic, how?”

I picked up the coin with one hand and placed it in the other and closed my fingers around the coin.  I looked at David and slowly opened my fingers I watched his face as I opened my fist revealing that the half dollar had changed into a quarter.  And like Braveheart from a few years ealier there was no reaction.  None.  I patiently waited him out.

“That is just a trick, right?”


“Are you sure?”


“Can I see the quarter?”  And once again I don’t know what came over me.  I picked up the coin and handed it to him.  But when he held out his hand to recieve the quarter, it vanished completely.  

“Is that also a magic trick?”


“You are sure?”


“Where is the quarter?”

“Right here” Reaching into the air with an empty hand and producing the quarter at my finger tips. “And the half dollar is right here” Tossing the quarter into my hand, closing my fingers around it, and when I open them the quarter has changed back to the original dollar coin.

I’ve done this a zillion times to people, before David and after David, but to Davids credit he earned my respect in his next move, he did something nobody had ever done before and have not done since.  He reached into his pocket and counted the change I had given him earlier.  He looked up at me and smiled.

“I like you”

“Thanks your alright yourself”

“See you next time”

Much to the relief of everybody in the bank David became my customer.  I spent five years at that bank, and I think it is David I miss the most.

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I don’t play a lot of jokes on people I think practical jokes are stupid, mean and usually don’t end well.  But in this instance I couldn’t help myself.

Back in my banking days a co-worker, (Kim) was given a betta (Siamese fighting fish) from one of our customers.  Kim kept the fish (who we will call ‘fish’) on her desk and grew quite attached.  One fateful day Kim asked me to look after Fish while she went on vacation.  I don’t know what came over me.  Two days before Kim was to come back to work I found a fish bowl exactly like Kim’s, I found the same blue gravel the same plant the same everything.  Then I got a fish, Kim’s fish was red, I purchased a blue one.  On the day of kim’s return I exchanged the red one with the blue one.  Kim went right to fish as I pretended to count the money in my teller drawer.  It took about 15 minutes before Kim came running across the bank;

“Brian what happened to Fish?”  

“Nothing, why? is everything okay?”

“He is blue!”

I didn’t really have a plan.  I figured she would assume Fish had died and I tried to cover it by replacing it with an imposter only I was too stupid to buy another red one.  But something in the way Kim looked and sounded told me that Kim thought it was still Fish, so…

Me, “Yeah, and?”

“When I left he was red!”

“Really? how long have you been gone, two weeks?”

“Brian, Fish was red! is there something wrong with him?”

Blink! “Uhm no, I thought he changed while you were still here, I guess he changed colour after you left.”

“He changed colour, why is he sick or is that normal?”

Now I have to be fair, Kim is an extremely intelligent woman and somebody I greatly respect.  Clearly however this was not her strong suit. “Kim, Fish is fine all Betta’s are blue I thought you knew that.  They start out red but turn blue almost overnight when they reach a certain age.”

I noticed that the rest of the tellers vanished into the vault, they obviously couldn’t keep it together as the conversation progressed, I also realized I had nowhere for this scenario to go and it had to come to an end.  Kim had bought the story hook line and sinker and the look of relief on her face was priceless.  But all I could think of was how to back out of the situation without making Kim look stupid. Making her look stupid was the furthest thing from my mind.  I figured she was going to be mad at me for trying to cover up the fact that Fish had died, I could live with that as Fish was fine but this reaction while even more funny, had the potential to cause some hurt feelings. 

“Fish is fine Kim”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure, wait one second I will prove fish is just fine.”

At which point I got the real fish and showed Kim.  The next line was spectacular.

“Brian! You also got a fish!”

“Well yes I guess I did, this however is your fish, the blue one your desk is an imposter”  There was a pregnant pause while Kim’s brain kicked into gear and the gales of laughter that came from her was music to my ears.  She laughed till the tears were pouring from her eyes, she saw it all,  she saw the funny part of the joke, she saw how stupid she must have sounded and how funny that must have been.  She took it the way it was given a humours, harmless joke among friends. 

I write this for a few reasons.  1) is I think it is funny.  2) I watched a YouTube video of a magician making a fool out of his audience and was reminded of why there are people who don’t like magicians.  To my magic friends, please respect your audience, they are there for you, shouldn’t you be there for them? 3) We would all be better off if we didn’t take ourselves so seriously.

By the end of the week each teller had a fish at their window.  We loved them, we looked after them made sure the bowls were always clean, they gave the bank a really nice atmosphere.  The customers loved them and the regulars would come in and check on each fish.  Some of the tellers allowed the customers to name the fish.  I however named mine ‘Stick’. People would ask me why his name was stick.  I just told them to think about it.  Usually as they were leaving the bank they would start to laugh.  They got it! ‘fish stick’

We had the fish for about 6 months or more when the powers that be told us we could not keep the fish at the bank.  We tried to fight the decision,  customers called the manager and district manager telling them how much they liked the fish, but those in power were not hearing any of it, and in the end we each took one home.  Stick, like all our pets became part of the family and lived for a good three years.  Today, a good four years after his passing my wife and I still fondly remember Stick.


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