The Disco Bank
by James K. Sayre
27 June 2004
About a year ago, I walked into a new branch of the Washington Mutual Bank in suburban Lafayette, California and was quite disoriented. Instead of the traditional row of barred windows with bank tellers standing behind them, I was confronted by an odd layout, which reminded more of a restaurant than anything else, I stopped at a sign near the door, which suggested that I wait until I was served or some such. Loud disco music continually assaulted my eardrums. Finally, a bank employee came over and asked me if she could help me. Fortunately, I had no urgent business to attend to that day, so I excused myself and beat a hasty retreat.
Yesterday I was flabbergasted to read in the Business section of the San Francisco Chronicle that Washington Mutual Bank had actually been granted a patent for their bizarre new bank layout, calling it a "financial transaction processing system." All they really need to turn this "bank" into a disco restaurant are a few chairs, a few bowls of chips, some bowls of dip plus an overhead revolving light show with hundreds of tiny mirrors.
I guess that I'm just an old-fashioned guy who likes to see sturdy vertical bars between me and the bank tellers and their drawers of money. The bars are sort of a mental echo to remind you of what happens to those who try to rob a bank. Things are different these days, the banks are trying to get their hands on your money in as many ways possible.
Washington Mutual Bank has also altered its traditional ATM interface by installing an obnoxious new groovy slangy series of commands and comments. This change from straightforward English into some new hip banking jive was not an improvement.
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Web page last updated on 27 June 2004.