Customer service, banks and the little old lady with lumps in her beverage

I have just had a horrible experience with an online banking institution that begs for a tiny bit less rigidity when it comes to the very strictly enforced ‘anti-fraud’ systems put in place by financial institutions.

I often think, how do people who don’t have internet, or who have trouble hearing on the phone, handle so many things these days that require both internet savvy and adequate hearing?

There’s a huge aging population who did not grow up with internet, cell phones and all the rest of the technology. Nor are they used to phone banking.

For people like me, who grew up with the internet, I embrace technology. But while navigating the internet for things like financial situations, I often come across just how limiting, and confusing, certain situations can be.

The end result will almost always lead you to person-to-person service. For me, this means abandoning an online bank and going to a bricks-and-mortar bank to talk with a human.

In the meantime, we were on the phone with two customer service agents in the USA who were not only incredibly professional, but also willing to make adaptations to accommodate me and my special circumstance. I spent many days in the USA while working at a flight training facility years ago and have to attest that most of the service, if not all of the service, I had received while on American ground has always been exemplary.

This is not so here. I often see rude behaviour by service people in my ‘hood, and in my general living area (GTA, also known as the Greater Toronto Area). Not always, and not often, but often enough that it registers on my brain.

For example, a little coffee shop near one of my kids’ schools sells fresh baguettes. I was standing there waiting patiently for my turn to pay when a little old lady showed up with her coffee and said “I just want to point this out to the girl behind the counter”. She showed me lumps in her coffee.

I said “go ahead” and let her in ahead of me. The girl, a new one I had not see before and probably under 25, looked at the coffee with the lumps, and said “the milk is fresh”.


The little old lady looked at me with intimidation on her face and I said to the girl “look at her coffee, she just bought this from you, there’s lumps”.

The girl gave me a dirty look, dumped the lady’s coffee, poured a fresh one and gave it to her black.

The little lady took it and stared at it.

I didn’t know how far to get involved. I could have made a fuss on behalf of the lady, but decided not to. The lady didn’t tell me if she found black coffee acceptable (maybe she didn’t mind) and walked away. If she had said something perhaps, I might have said something too, but she didn’t.

But I found it very rude and obnoxious. Who cares if the milk was fresh or not, the lady was a customer and deserved to have a drinkable coffee she paid for.

I shake my head.

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