Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chuck Schumer: I Love You, Man!

© 2009 Leighann Lord

I love Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY). I don't love him out of some misguided sense of state pride or in that restraining order kinda way. I love him because he has a knack for bringing attention to the little things in life that matter to the little people. He had me at the "airline passenger bill of rights." Yes, there's haggling over health care, too many or too few troops in Afghanistan, but last week Chuck put the spotlight on the issue of egregious ATM fees. I love you, man!

If you've used an ATM to grab a little cash then you know fees have gone up. If you've availed yourself of an ATM that is not owned by your bank, then you are charged a fee by both. If it sounds like double dipping and smells like double dipping then it's banking business as usual. It's the bail out they never have to pay back.

And the timing of Chuck's charge is no accident. In a nutshell: "C'mon guys. It's Christmas!" During the holidays no one, not even banking executives, wants to be labeled a Grinch, a Scrooge, or the Burger Meister Meister Burger. Nice use of holiday guilt, Senator. You are the smoothest version of the Ghost of Christmas Present.

To avoid ATM fees I take money out of the bank the old-fashioned way. I go to the bank during banking hours. I fill out a withdrawal slip, take it to the window and tell the teller what denominations I want. Twenty dollars in singles makes me feel flush. If I absolutely have to go to an ATM, I make sure I go to one that’s owned by MY bank. I refuse to pay a fee to withdraw MY money.

For good or ill I do the family finances. My Husband came home one day and dutifully gave me an ATM receipt for a withdrawal he made from his checking account. I noticed that it was not from "our" bank. "Well no," he said. "I couldn't find a branch of 'our' bank, so I went to another one. Does it make a difference?"

I guess I must have blacked out because when I came to I was flipping through the Yellow Pages looking for a divorce lawyer. Of course I wouldn't have been able to afford one, what with our family fortune being frittered away on fees. Our marriage survived and we learned a few things. If a man really loves his wife, he won't go swiping his bank card all over town in just any old ATM machine. But that same love, no matter how strong, does not endow a man with the ability to magically read his wife's mind. But it should.

He should have known that ATM fees drive me crazy. Chuck knew. That’s why I’m glad he’s championing a cause of the frugal folk. My lofty hopes were laid low, however, when I heard that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, "promised that his agency will conduct a review of the major rise in ATM fees imposed by banks on customers who are simply trying to withdraw their own money." Oh no, not "A Review." Feel the fear? Me neither. The only thing that could make this more disingenuous is if this review is done by a committee of "Industry Leaders."

This "review" could be accomplished with a simple conference call between Bernanke and his friends:

Ben: Hey guys, why are the ATM fees so high?

Banks: Duh, because we make more money that way.

Ben: Yeah, I know but Chuck called so knock it off.

Banks: Do we have too?

Ben: At least until after the holidays.

Banks: Awww!

Ben: Don't make me adjust the prime rate.

Banks: Okay, fine .... F*&k Chuck.

Ben: I heard that!


A review sounds so lame. Bernanke isn’t flexing his muscle in Alan Greenspanian fashion. He's passing the buck. Or rather, letting his friends continue to pocket them. Nothing was said about stopping, restricting or regulating ATM fees. And even if there was something else would take it’s place: A bank cover charge with a two transaction minimum? A withdrawal slip fee? Call it a "going green" campaign and it'll be bullet proof. Even worse, it might be Chuck proof. I still love him for trying though.

Leighann Lord is a standup comedian. See her perform Friday, 12/18 @ the infamous Ottos Shrunken Head for the No Name Comedy Show! Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

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