A bank story from the past

I wrote this 4 years ago before we were married. As true today as it was even before it was written. Before you begin, be aware that we currently have an account at Discount that we have been trying to close for 6 months, sitting there accruing Shas child welfare stipends I refuse to touch, so instead I just gave them to Feiglin’s Knesset election campaign yesterday. We now have an account at Bank Yahav, a tiny nothing pisher bank we use as little as financially possible.

Now let’s go back to 2008…

There are three major banks in Israel. Bank Discount. Bank Leumi. And Bank Hapoalim. They’re all really, really bad. A combination of incompetence, greed, robbery, redundancy, and incompetence have congealed themselves in these banks to create a new level of grossness. If you’ve ever moved your oven to see the kind of decades-old sludge of thousands of uneaten meals that’s behind it that you have to clean with oven cleaner that’s so corrosive that even the idea of it touching your skin will burn you like Holy Water assuming you’re Satan and it still won’t go away, that sludge is like these banks, but at least you can eat the sludge if you’re starving to death. But not if you’ve already sprayed it with oven cleaner.

We will begin with Bank Hapoalim. Bank Hapoalim, in order to protect its customers from fraud and signature forgery, steals from said customers by committing fraud based on the assumption of signature forgery. Case in point, about a month ago, when we signed the lease for an apartment, we had to give the landlord a check for a certain amount of money. The check was signed. A few days later, said landlord is notified that the check was refused. Hapoalim has this policy that any refused check costs the account holder and the recipient a 20 shekel fine. Therefore, we are fined 40 shekels, for we will have to pay the landlord back the money that Hapoalim stole from him as well.

We call the bank. We are told that her signature does not perfectly match the signature she had 3 years ago. This is very dangerous, because if her signature changes slightly, that could mean someone is trying to forge it. Thank God for Bank Hapoalim. She is told to go into the bank to “change” her signature. She does so. She finds out the next day that the check has been refused again. Another 40 shekels – BAM! And more security! We are saved from theft! She calls the bank again. They tell her to come in and change her signature. She says she DID that. They say, “Oh, yeah. It’ll go through next time.”

She finds out that it was refused. Again. Another 40 shekels! WAP! Is security tight at Hapoalim? Is a frog’s butt watertight? Not as watertight as Bank Hapoalim! “Hapoalim – Where security is so tight, not even our customers can get past it.”

She asks about the fees. She is told that “Nothing can be done.” Of course not. The money was rightfully stolen. How could such a question be asked?

Back to Discount. “Discount – We specialize in turning your potential banking card into a paperweight.”

Bank Discount calls me. They want to know if I want a credit card. This is funny, because I have no income yet. But I don’t tell them this, because they’re going to send me one anyway, and I’m betting on the fact that it won’t work, just like the PIN they sent me months earlier. I say, “Sure, whatever, credit card.”

Sure enough, they send me the credit card. They want me to dial *6111 to activate it with the PIN number they sent me. I do that. I put in my ID number. I put in the PIN number. It doesn’t work. I do it again. It doesn’t work. I deliberate between, on the one hand, talking to a person, who will probably send me to a branch to get the problem sorted out, who will probably redirect me when I get there to the *6111 hotline for malfunctioning PIN numbers, who will probably charge me 20 shekels for using the hotline twice in a month. I decide not to bother. I cut up the credit card and throw it out and burn the remains with thermite plasma. I don’t actually burn the remains. But it would have been cool. A few weeks later I get a call.

“We see that you have not activated the credit card we sent you. Would you like us to activate it?”
“No, I would not like you to activate the card.”
“May I ask why not?”
“Because I destroyed the card.”
“Oh, may I ask why?”
“No. But I’ll tell you anyway. You would not let me activate the card.”
“So do you want us to cancel the card?”
“No, I want you to activate a card that doesn’t exist. Of course I want you to cancel the card.”
“OK, so we will cancel the card.”

A week later I get a letter that says I am charged 2 shekels for canceling a credit card.

“Israel Discount Bank – We discount the amount of money in your account for reasons WE can’t even understand.”

OK. On to Leumi. Now this one’s a real kicker. It happened nearly two years ago (6 now in 2012), when Natasha became a student. She was advised that, since she had student status and was exempt from all bank theft, to open accounts at all the banks to see which one was the least grotesque. So one of the bank accounts she opened was at Leumi. She goes there 2 years ago to put money into her account, which is what one usually does when one has said account in said bank. They inform her that there is a “problem” with the account, and she should see the front desk. She sees the front desk, who tells her the problem will be fixed and to come in some time later. She comes in that some time later to try to put money in her account. She is told that there is still a glitch and the computer will not allow money to be put into the account. She goes back to the person who deals with this stuff, who says they are trying to fix the problem. She says that she would much rather just close the account, because she has other accounts that actually sort of work.

The lady does not let her close the account.
Natasha insists. The lady insists that she will not close the account for her. This goes on for maybe 10 minutes.
She says fine, whatever, and leaves.

2 years later, about 2 weeks ago now, she gets a call from Bank Leumi. They insist that Natasha now owes them 80 shekels in fees. She tells them:
A) I have student status
B) I was not allowed to put money into the bank
C) I was not allowed to close the account
D) You people are completely insane, and I’m not paying anything

The guy on the phone says he “Doesn’t see why she can’t close the account.” That’s because he’s reading off of a paper like a telemarketer, probably. He insists that she pay the fees. She insists that she will not pay any of the damn fees. He says to come in to close the account, and then she responds, on my insistence, by hanging up the expletive phone.

“Leumi – The bank that’s actually a front for a drug-smuggling ring.”

(The good news is that Leumi called back a few weeks later and said that it was their fault, that she has student status, and is exempt from all theft. The account, however, remains open.)


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