Once again, I’ve changed banks. More accurately, I stayed put — it was my bank that changed this past week. If you haven’t noticed around town lately (and all over, for that matter) Washington Mutual Bank is now “Chase.” That’s it, just Chase. Yawn.
I’m sure many people couldn’t care less; the money inside is the same whatever the name on the outside of the bank might be. But this one I’m taking personally. I liked banking at “WaMu” as the now-defunct bank was affectionately called.
You see, my wife and I were longtime account holders at another large bank with a local branch in Montrose — one that I won’t name out of courtesy for the fine people I’m sure must work there. Sure, I liked the not-to-be-named bank’s clever logo featuring a stagecoach and horses. They never ran out of deposit slips. And their parking lot had really straight white lines. But the banking experience? Not so great. Then again, maybe I was just a bad customer.
Anywho, after years of frustration we moved our vast horde of cash (my wife is rolling on the floor laughing as I write this) to Washington Mutual. We had heard friends say how much they appreciated the WaMu way of doing business, so we gave it a shot. That was six or so years ago and we’ve been more than happy ever since. Instead of feeling like we were in an increasingly adversarial relationship as with our former bank (Seriously? You want two forms of ID even if I’m just depositing money to my own account!?), our new bank actually seemed to want our business, no matter how minuscule our resources might be. Imagine that.
You’ve also gotta love bankers who are comfortable calling themselves by a nickname like WaMu. As an advertising person, I appreciated the bank’s unique brand character always evident in its in-branch posters promoting savings accounts, home loans and other banking products. Trust me, having presented ad concepts to way too many stuffy financial-type clients over the course of my career, I can testify that it’s rare for bankers to even seem human, much less friendly and personable.
OK, so I did find WaMu’s TV spots with the black spokesguy making fun of the gaggle of pompous and pasty white male bankers to be ridiculously insulting and stereotypical. However, being of the white male persuasion myself, I realize I’m not allowed to complain. But I digress, as I often do.
To be fair, I realize the building on the northeast corner of Foothill and Ramsdell hasn’t always been a WaMu branch. In fact, I remember it as a Security Pacific branch when I attended nearby CV High in the ’70s. (And yes, we used U.S. currency back then, not gold nuggets. Or salt.) I also seem to remember the building was once a Crocker Bank — or maybe that was just a really boring dream I had once.
Still, I’m waiting for the bank’s new management to crack down on the small town, friendly atmosphere that we’ve come to appreciate. In other words, to make it just like every other bank.
So far, so good, however. The same efficient-yet-friendly tellers still smile out from behind the thick plexiglass barrier. (Can you believe we used to bank face-to-face with nothing but a cheap ballpoint pen on a chain between us? I don’t know why we even need such safety barriers; these days bank robbers fly in corporate jets and testify in front of Congress.)
For now, I’m willing to give my “new” bank a chance and hope that the new owners don’t change too much. And who knows? Maybe now that my bank and I share the same name, they’ll cut me some serious slack the next time I need a low interest, fixed-rate, cash-out refi home loan. Y’think?
See you ’round town.
JIM CHASE is a freelance writer and longtime Crescenta Valley resident. He can be reached at jim@wordchaser. com.