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Pet Sins October 2008

White bank teller treats non-white customer with suspicion while Hispanic and Asian tellers treat same customer with professionalism

I read with much sympathy R's experience, as published in your zine in May 2003. It is interesting that R, a black/Hispanic woman, encountered no problematic attitudes from her boyfriend's Korean and Mexican coworkers although his white coworkers gave her trouble.

Anyway, one recent experience that led me to relate to R's story is my experience depositing checks at a local bank, where I had been a long time customer. I usually did my banking through the ATM, and sometimes, deposits that were considered 'large' were held for a few weeks before the balance became available for my account. The bank officers said it was a precaution they took for checks not deposited in person. If I showed up in person, my check would not be subjected to a holding period. Fair enough. I never questioned the policy. It made sense.

This year, I showed up in person a couple of times at the bank (instead of using the ATM ) to deposit a check of a so-called large amount similar to what I deposited in the ATM. My funds were not subjected to a lengthy holding period (the longest was a week for an out-of-state check) when I showed up in person. At least that was the case UNTIL I encountered a white bank teller (the branch I usually go to had many Asian staff members - both male and female, both South Asian and East Asian). The white teller gave me a long,suspicious stare, and then told me that because the amount check was large, the funds would be subject to a holding period which the computer would determine.

I wanted to take her word for it, but I wondered why my previous deposit, which was in the same amount and handled by a Korean teller, wasn't subjected to a holding period. New policy maybe? No big deal. Then she informed me of holding period - it was longer than anything ever imposed on me when I deposited similar sums through the ATM! I was literally counting the weeks it would take to get access to my money. At this point, I didn't want to assume 'discrimination' - after all, a computer made the decision, right?

A week later, I had to deposit a large check (this one was TWICE as large as the one that the white teller put a hold on), I went to another branch of the same bank (still in the same neighborhood). This time I was served by a teller of Mexican descent. He had a very pleasant professional attitude, accepted my check without question and did NOT put a hold on it. I could move my money the next day.

I generally find that my life had less upsets when I did business with other people of color. But as I said, that's just a generalization of my individual experience and doesn't necessarily apply to everyone.