Blankety Bank

by Kathleen O’Loughlin

Remember Miss Corrine? That little hedge witch who tried setting up a hen-petting business during the Covid lockdown? (See “Hens Lay Plans Too” on

Remember all her travails in relation to banking? Well, things haven’t changed much for her. Her small country market baking business never recovered after Covid, whether it was everyone having learned how to make banana bread during the lockdown or everyone trying to lose the Covid stone or so. She found that the demand for her delicious home-baked treats just never recovered, and neither did her income. So, when the sky-high energy prices hit in 2022, she knew she had to budget very carefully if she didn’t want to have her electricity cut off. To that end, Miss Corrine decided she would be better off with a chequebook to help her budget rather than the direct debits she had signed for her electricity, insurance, home security, and other vital service providers, so she got online and canceled all her direct debits.

Well, needless to say, that didn’t work out very well for her. The lights went out, the house was cold, and the home security company threatened to take her to court for three months’ subscriptions in lieu of giving them three months’ notice of intent to stop their service, which she no longer felt a need for, as there was no longer anything in her home worth stealing.

When Corrine went to her bank and patiently waited in the queue to talk to a member of staff at the help desk, she had every confidence that the representative would see that she was on the right track in seeking a chequebook to help her balance her budget. After all, this bank ran ads on Instagram where home of the year judges gave advice on how to keep one’s house warm and cut down on food waste. She was shocked to discover that the helpful staff member wouldn’t recommend a chequebook at all but gave her a quick tutorial on how to pay her bills by bank transfer. It looked easy enough; Corrine was sure she could manage. But when she got home, she found transcribing the twenty-two individual characters that constituted each individual payee’s IBAN was a bigger challenge than she realised.

When Miss Corrine tried to sort out things the first time, the bank staff were most helpful at the information desk, with one young lady helping her sort out her issues with her energy provider. The following week she needed help with the car insurance, and the next week her house insurance. On the fourth week, when she sought help to make a small donation to Concern, she was met with a very frosty bank manager, John, who told her the bank was unable to provide her with a personal assistant to sort out her finances. Miss Corrine very sweetly explained to him that she wouldn’t require any such assistance if the bank would just provide her with a chequebook for her account.

“Sorry but no, that will not be possible; the bank has a policy of all transactions being digital and is phasing out chequebooks.”

“But surely some accounts have chequebook facilities.”

“Business accounts only, I’m afraid.”

“But paying bills is my business!”

But Miss Corrine failed to change the hard-hearted banker’s mind and came away from the encounter without the chequebook. As she limped away, she blushed as she recalled how foolish she felt following her skirmish with Miss Delphine regarding the hen-petting business. And she muttered to herself as she straightened up, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” and she resolved not to be bested by this banker.

Corrine had a little spiel prepared for her fellow active retirement group members who met the following afternoon at their club for a bingo session. She stood at her table, cleared her throat, and started: “Ladies and gentlemen, can I talk about a disturbing situation I encountered lately before we get down to the business of the afternoon? I’d like to go back to paying my bills by cheque rather than by direct debit, but when I visited my bank to request a cheque book, I was informed that the bank was going fully digital and had a policy of not providing chequebooks. Has anyone else had this experience?

“Well now that you mention it Corrine, I find it so difficult to cancel subscriptions that I’m completely broke paying for services I don’t use at all!” Said Myrtle.

“And I’ve completely handed over my financial affairs to my daughter as all these bank transfer business is completely beyond me. I yearn for the old days when you just wrote a cheque and got a receipt,” said Alison.

“Since I was scammed out of so much savings last year by clicking on that link, I thought was a bill from Revenue, I’ve completely lost confidence in my ability to sort out my financial affairs,” said Edith.

“Well, I think it’s high time we reclaimed control, or we won’t be able to call our pensions our own the way things are going on,” said Corrine.

They all looked at her expectantly, hearing aids turned up, as she leaned in and whispered her plan.

Friday was market day in town. So, at 8:30 AM all the members of the active retirement group queued outside the bank and took some money out of the ATM machine in 20 Euro denominations and then went about doing their shopping using cash only. The vendors were delighted initially with the cash, but it did make them question the wisdom of investing in those card reading machines their bank had promoted. It wasn’t long before the retirees needed to replenish their stash of cash, leading to more queues at the bank. The bank ran out of 20 Euro notes and had to put a notice in the ATMs advising that cash could only be dispensed in 50 Euro denominations, so the retirees queued at the counter and the bank needed to put more staff there. At this stage the queue was out the door, and the bank manager, John, who was at a meeting with an inspector from head office at the time was rung to provide advice on the situation.

He ignored the call, silly man. His deputy at the bank thought there was a run on the bank initially, but about an hour before the bank was due to close, even more people started piling in, this group were the vendors wanting to lodge cash before the weekend, the queue was down the street, the deputy rang the manager again this time he picked up:

“What on earth is the matter, that it can’t wait until Monday?”

“Please come immediately, we have a crisis on our hands, we have queues of people wanting cash transactions stretching down to the town library. And only two tellers at the cash desk.”

“Stay calm Denis, I’ll be there in five minutes.”

John made his excuses to the inspectors without any explanation and headed off back to the bank. When he saw the queues, he nearly hightailed it back to the head office. He was spotted by one of the vendors he usually met only on the golf course who hailed him with:

“John, can’t you do something about all this, we all have to get back to business you know.”

Everyone looked around and John felt like a rabbit caught in headlights, he smiled weakly,

“Just give me a few minutes, folks, I’ll have this sorted in no time.”

And out of the corner of his eye he spotted Miss Corrine in the queue taking out cash from the ATM, initially he couldn’t place her but as he rolled up his sleeves to open another window at the counter, he remembered, “ah yes” he thought, “the little old lady who wanted a cheque book.” He plastered a smile on his face and asked the first customer he had to deal with how he could help him.

“Well, you can give me my money back on this card reader for a start, none of my customers will use it, they’re insisting on cash only transactions” said the man as he placed a fair-sized bag of coins on the counter.

“Oh, I’m afraid we don’t take coins any longer, maybe you can use that to shop in the grocery store or something?” Said John keeping his smile in place with difficulty.

“I am the grocer, dammit,” said the customer “and if you can’t give me better service than this, I’m moving my account.”

“Well, just leave it here with me and I’ll see what I can do, have you counted and bagged the coins?”

“Haven’t you got machines for that?”

“We haven’t used them for so long, I’m not familiar with them any longer.”

“Well, here’s your chance to re familiarise yourself, isn’t it?”

“Is there any chance you would just step aside, let me deal with the other customers and I’ll sort out your business then?”

“A resounding no, I’ve queued long enough, and anyway most people here, are on the same errand, lodging cash, including coins. Deal with it.”

John looked over the customer’s shoulder and called out:

“Is anyone here looking for any service other than cash lodgment?”

Miss Corrine waved her hand and piped up “I’m just looking for a cheque book.” John gritted his teeth, “just step over to customer information desk, ma’am, and I’ll see what we can do.”