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A cartoon depiction of the author, wearing a hoodie and smiling

No Quarter

I stopped in a bank on the way back from grabbing some lunch. It wasn’t my bank, but I needed some change to do laundry and I had a 10 dollar bill in my wallet. When I asked for the roll of quarters, the teller said “Are you a member with us?” I looked around the empty bank and said “uh, no.” She went on to explain to me that she wasn’t supposed to do this, but she would this one time.

There’s this weird thing in customer service right now where people go out of their way to tell you what a favor they’re doing for you because of the boneheaded thing you just asked for. I’ve made it a point not to apologize to them, because I didn’t do anything wrong and I wasn’t given a choice about the outcome. If it’s a hassle for you at your job, I would just as well leave and patronize a different business where what I want isn’t a hassle.

The same thing has happened to me at grocery stores all across the country— I might be visiting my parents or friends and stop at a grocery store chain I’ve never set foot in before with the intention of buying a gallon of milk and a box of cereal. I arrive at the register and I’m greeted with “Do you have your shopper’s card?” Well, no. “Would you like to sign up for one?” Oh, haha, no. I don’t live here. Then: SIGH. I guess you’ll scan that little dummy card that every cashier in every grocery store has across the country. It’s possible that you’ll get in trouble for this if you do it too often, I don’t know, but if that’s the case, then I’d rather you just not do it. It’s unfair of you to be punished at your job because the random sample of people you helped that month happened to be forgetful or visitors or whatever other reason (out of the many valid ones) that a person may not have a discount card.

The only positive thing I can think of that comes out of this kind of interaction is that the employee gets to have a sort of power trip/ultimate rebellion situation where they make you feel like they’re either swooping in to save you from the evils of the company’s dumb policies (which they may or may not have exaggerated in order to put themselves and you in this situation) or they have some sort of control over you, your fate, your life. Thank you so much for giving me these quarters, I would say. It was unreasonable of me to ask a bank to exchange money of one type for another type of the same value, and you will probably get yelled at by your boss for being a loose cannon, but now I can go home and do my laundry, dreaming of the day when everyone will be as kind as you.

No. You do your job, and if your job can’t help me, then I’ll take my business elsewhere until your business gets the message that it would be cool if they could help me. The root cause is not your fault, but the behavior is annoying and only ends up making me less likely to ever come back.

Finally: I understand that in a bank, rolls of change are a limited resource, so serving only members may be the way they’ve decided to control the flow of things like quarters, which are a valuable thing in an area with a lot of apartment-dwellers. But the fact remains that this person was going to give me quarters. I’d rather you just give me the quarters or don’t. Don’t act like you’re doing me a favor, because you’re not. If this were actually a favor you wouldn’t want me feeling crappy about it afterward.