It started when I quit the bookstore. I quit Crown Books because I couldn't stand being a manager anymore. The upper management was so asinine that I really quit from sheer disgust with how they ran everything. That was probably a mistake, and may have been an elitist move, but one Sunday, when my boss came to my house, past my roommates, and burst open MY ROOM DOOR to yell at me about a messy calendar display while I sat in my bed in my underwear... that was it. No more. The very next day, I came to the store with my key, shook his hand, said I quit, gave him the key, said no hard feelings, and took a train to West Virginia to spend Christmas with my fiancee. The exit was quite stunning, I might add, as I walked out of the store, leaving my boss with my part-time cashier staring at each other...
When I got back, my roommates had found out what I had done, and were quite worried about my end of the rent. I applied for many jobs right when I got back, and one of them was for a bank called Dominion Federal Savings and Loan. It was a mass interview, where there were about 30-50 people milling about the lobby with clipboards. I filled out my application, and waited my turn. The girl who interviewed me liked me and my attitude, so a week later, I got a call from them to report to their training center in Springfield. The pay was $6.25/hr, which back then was pretty good (almost twice minimum wage), and more than I made as a manager of Crown Books.
Training was horrible. Imagine this: teaching someone algebra for the first time, out of sequence, condensed into two weeks. I don't know how I passed the final exam. More than half of my class of 20 failed. College graduates failed. The seven or so that made it pass that training got "On the job" training at our Rossilyn Branch. There were 2-3 of us to a teller, our trainer. The one I got just had root canal surgery that weekend, was on heavy pain meds, and later that week, her boyfriend of two years dumped her. Her password to the computer terminal was her boyfriend's pet name. Guess how bitter she was? That was so surreal, and at the end of the day, her till never balanced, and they sent us away while they balanced it, so we never knew why they didn't balance. That lasted a week.
My first real job was at our Crystal City Branch. Well, in fact, we had two. The Crystal City Underground is a series of shops, banks, and other businesses deep underground in Arlington, Virginia, right across from Reagan National Airport. It's kind of a mall, kind of an office complex, and shuts down at 6pm. Of course, as a bank, we shut down at 2. Now, since there were TWO Crystal City branches (within walking distance of each other), we got each other's calls all the time. What made it worse was that a rival bank, called Dominion Bank, also had a branch in Crystal City. Dominion Bank was a much, much larger chain that pretty much everyone had heard of. People, especially directory services, confused us all the time. So did customers. Hilarity ensues!
The first day I started working there, a customer asked if this was a training branch. I told her Rossilyn was our training branch, and she said, "Funny... I never see the same tellers here for long..." That was my warning shot across my bow. Then I got to know my boss.
Holy cow, what a bitch. I have had some bad bosses in my time, but this snotty little wench was the worst. She was a short little bundle of raw nerves with a professional pixie cut, a button nose, bad makeup, and an attitude like everyone around her was incredibly stupid. She spoke with exasperating sighs, patronizing comments, backhanded compliments, and sometimes outright vicious attacks. One teller said she was "an aggressive sneer." A customer once called her "an emotional disease." Her name was Jane Comer, and somehow, she got pregnant. I knew her from the end of her second trimester until the beginning of the third, and I pray to God her whole personality was due to the fact that hormones were playing with her moods because if she was like this before she got knocked up, God help whatever crotch fruit sprogged from that swamp-witch's stony womb. I pictured her future baby as a rotten peach that plopped from her groin to a urine-soaked pavement in an alley. God, I hated her.
She hated men. Part of her reasoning was she was pregnant and that she didn't know who the father was. She lived with her boyfriend in his trailer, and both of them knew he was not the father. I am sure this is why they argued on the phone so much. Phrases I got from her after such calls were, "Tell me, you're a male... why are you men so fucking stupid?" She patronized everything I did. At first I thought she only hated me, but when we got another male teller, she did the same to him. She also hated young girls, and we had one part-time teller she never stopped picking on. This poor girl, probably 19 years old at the time, was the victim of constant catty remarks from Jane about the girl's supposed sex life. "Honey, when you become my age, men won't care how pretty you are, or how far you spread your legs. It's over, hon. Enjoy the attention while you still can." She always said the girl smelled like sex in a cathouse, and that customers expected a professional girl to handle their money, not a "velvet whore."
Jane made two comments to me that I remember in detail, besides the constant general comments about being a dumb "Alley Oop" male and such (in fact, when I made a mistake, she'd sing the "Alley Oop Oop... Oop... Oop Oop" song. Both comments were about my lunch. One day, she said, "What are you eating?" as I was eating lunch in the back room. Her voice was heavy with the patronizing tones a bully has in grammar school. "A peanut butter and jelly sandwich," I said. "Oh..." she replied, looking down at me with those oversized glasses, like she she was trying to fake approval that one does to a kindergartner when they give you macaroni artwork. "Do you think that's an appropriate lunch for a teller?" I wasn't aware there was a standard, but whatever I answered, she cut it off with walking away from me, leaving me in my shame, I guess. Another day, the same question, in the same tone, was asked about my fried rice. I had gotten some Chinese food earlier, and as I stammered my reply, she cut me off with, "You may think eating their food will make you attractive to those little Asian whores, but let me tell you something, Gregory, they will NEVER really love you. You don't impress me with your supposed exotic tastes." I was not aware that Chinese food, especially from a mall food court, was in any way "exotic," but saying that only made her angrier at me for the rest of the day.
On top of Jane's constant rusty barbed hook of a personality, there were SO many illegal things going on at that branch. Not just a few bucks here and there, but a TON of things that we had been told, in training, was a federal crime as stated by the FDIC. First of all, as a teller, we got bonded and insured. We had an extensive background check, and an interview with an FBI agent, which ended in a photograph and fingerprinting session (in case we decided to embezzle). The FDIC is serious stuff man, you don't want to mess with them. The FBI spent a day in class putting the fear of God in us, including case files of embezzlement, bank fraud, and other things where pretty much everyone ended up getting an ass-pounding in prison. Plus training on what to do during a holdup: don't be a hero, give the robber exactly (nothing more or less) what he or she wants to the letter, remember everything you can (height, weight, scars, accents), and how to spot counterfeit bills. The bank trainers also told us that we should never, ever, ever give out our passwords to our computer logins to anyone, including our bosses, for any reason, and if that occurs, report them immediately. So after this, I thought I was working in an ironclad safety zone.
Not so. First day there, Jane asked me my password. I told her the bank trainers had said-- "Bullshit, give me your password!" she yelled at me. The other tellers told me it was okay, and later told me not to report her because the report line was a recorded message (which I verified from my home later), and that the last teller who complained (a week before I started) was fired the very next day. My password was complicated, because, you know, I came from a computer background. Mine was cthulhu65000, which infuriated Jane to no end because it was so hard to remember. "What the HELL does that mean?" she asked. "It's a spoof of 'Pennsylvania 6-5000,' a song by Glenn Miller." Her reply? "I heard of a song, maybe you know it... 'Alley Oop Oop... Oop... Oop Oop...'" She constantly had a problem with this password, because she could not spell cthulhu. With my password, she did all kinds of illegal balances and transactions for customers. I am not sure why. The transactions she did certainly didn't benefit HER that I could see. Maybe she got paid under the table. Here's the crap her and the assistant manager Nellie did under my login:
- Filed corporate account credits under personal accounts, so the customer would gain interest and evade taxes, which was illegal back then, and probably still is now.
- They forced me to put all my money in their banking system, so I left the only bank I had ever known and loved (Providence Savings, now I don't know who owns them) and deposited my meager earnings into their FDSL.
- Had a "separate booking system" that was a manilla file kept behind the safe for about 200 accounts. This file was then used to make stuff balance out, even though in theory the accounts and transactions never really existed. We had a lot of "special customers," that relied on this folder we weren't allowed to mention to auditors.
- When we got a counterfeit bill, her first policy was to try and "give it back in the next cash transaction with a customer," because any counterfeit report involved a lot of paperwork, and investigation, and "other headache you could get fired for starting." Funny, you'd think $100s or at least $50s would be the most counterfeited. Nope. $20s. Some were so fake (waxy, light-colored, off-center, obviously copy paper, etc.), I couldn't bear to give them back to anyone. Jane took care of those by putting them in our next cash pickup in the middle of a huge bundle of bills. This is probably why we'd get more counterfeit bills through our daily cash bundles than we did from customers.
- Did cash transactions over $10,000 without filing in a Form 4789, an IRS filing that MUST be done by a bank for any large cash transactions. She used to split up customer's deposits and withdrawals over several teller's logins to evade this. We had one sleazy guy who was depositing huge amounts of cash into 10 different accounts, and then having us write money orders to foreign banks. All for $9990 or less. All us tellers assumed this was part of a drug-related transaction.
- Allowed "kiting," the act of circular withdrawals and deposits with different accounts where virtual money is "created" as long as the person deposits money into the account before the check is cashed. They have $20 in Account A, which they write a check for $2000 to Account B, but before the check is cashed, they draw a check on Account B to deposit back into A before the first check is cashed, and then does the cycle again. Only $20 of the money is real, and all the checks never bounce as long as you time it right. Usually this involves separate banks, and more than two accounts, but the reason you do it is either to write a huge fat check in the end and run, or just gain interest from account balances on money that was never real in the first place. We had customers who were OBVIOUSLY doing this, but Jane overrode all the computer warnings to hold the check.
- Some of her transactions caused me to be WAY under or over at the end of the day. She took care of those and told me to go home early.
All this under my login. Traceable only to me. I was so scared that the FBI would come and get me, that after a month there, I was already looking for another job. I had a bleeding ulcer, and got sick a lot. I dreaded work so much, I contemplated suicide. I felt trapped in some horror movie, and felt used and cheap. My moral outrage was constantly screaming at me for putting up with this, and yet my lack of self-confidence and fear of not having a job (remember, I quit the last one, and my roommates got bent out of shape?) kept me there for another month. My friends told me to quit, my fiancee told me to quit. Bruce and Cheryl (former roommates and long-time friends) told me to quit, and even helped me find another job.
The day I applied at Chesapeake Knife and Tool, Chuck (the manager) liked me so much, he wanted me to start immediately. I told him I had to give at least two weeks notice, because when you quit or get fired from a bank, there was an FBI "exit interview," and if you suddenly quit, it's not a good thing. Not at all. He balked, and we eventually made a deal I'd work my last week days at the bank, and nights at his store.
Well, the next day, after work, I told Jane I was handing in my two weeks notice. She didn't seem like this was out of the ordinary (well, after all, remember what that first customer said to me?), and told me to type up my resignation notice. While I was typing this up, she got angrier and angrier. She said I was always a disappointment, and a result due to not filtering out new hires. Then she went on a rant about men in general. I was so happy I was leaving, I didn't care at all. Chuck had suggested I call in sick, and I thought about it a lot. Sick for two weeks. Yes, without pay, but hell, who cared now? Jane got upset at my cheerful mood, and said "You are such a disgrace to the banking industry, I don't ever want to see you again. You might as well never come back!"
"Okay!" I said, and never went back.
The "FBI Exit Interview," which had been trumped up as a two-on-one experience like the third degree was in reality one lady who called me on the phone. She asked me the usual stuff about why I left, and I was quiet until she asked if I had left because of any specific threats of illegal activity and that if I mentioned any parties now, I would be granted immunity if it came to trial. So I spilled the beans. On everything. I named names, named customers, named hidden files, and spilled out broken laws. I confessed some of the worst sins I had seen the bank make, and even speculated on ones I had no proof of. I thought this was going to be the ultimate revenge, like I had been the first to think about it.
No. The FBI lady said she was aware of everything I mentioned, because almost every teller that quit told the same story. "We're making a list," she said, and I never heard from her again. Later, the bank mishandled some of my money and lied to me to try and cover it up. Since I had been an employee with them, I was able not only to point out where the error had been made via the transaction code, but I also traced it to a teller that, technically, didn't work directly with customers; the teller code was for people who made corporate decisions in the home office, so in essence, an employee had embezzled my money. The bank manager was stunned into submission, and gave me my money back. The very next day, I took all my money out and changed to Crestar Bank.
FDSL got in trouble when one of their owners ran off with a lot of the bank's money to "an undisclosed South American country." This saga started while I was still working there, and customers were very nervous about the articles in the Post about it. After I left, the bank renamed itself to "Tustbank," which later got bought out by Household Bank, which merged with Central Fidelity last I checked a few years ago. I sure a lot of records, were, um... "lost." I hope that the customers weren't screwed too badly.
And that's another saga for another time. :)
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000238.html