Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stories We Like

Maos' Last Dancer presents a very American perspective on a true story of struggle and hard work with a happy ending. We like it because we can identify ourselves with the hero and it fulfills our basic need for justice.

Here is another true story. Mr. Y has 3 old and useless Shekel banknotes buried in an envelope in a drawer. On his way home from work he listens to a radio program. He is a big radio fan and radio programs helped him more than once in his life. From the program he learns about the extended period these banknotes can be exchanged. Once home, he looks it up on the net and prints out the relevant press release from the Bank of Israel. He goes over the last sentence with a marker. He fully expects he will need this. At his bank branch, he heads towards his usual banker, but gets transferred to another clerk, Haim. Haim listens to the request and is puzzled. He never heard about this. He calls someone in the Center. No answer. He tries a different number. He explains the problem and listens.
H: "Mr. Y, I'm sorry, but this can only be done at the Bank of Israel."
Mr. Y shows him the printout. Haim is now even more puzzled. He attempts to make another phone call to find out what to do, but Mr. Y stops him.
Y: "I'll leave you the banknotes, you find out the procedure in your own time, and then transfer the amount to my account. I really have to go."
H: "I have to give you a receipt for the banknotes, at least. I can't take money without a receipt. Could you give me your account number for the transfer and I'll see what I can do?"
Y: "Sure. 1276490/58".
H presses the keys on his keyboard and watches Mr. Y's financial status coming up on his screen. Haim watches the numbers and changes his attitude in an instant.
H: "Mr. Y, I certainly understand you are a busy person and I don't want to waste your time. I'll figure out how to handle this." Haim's attitude is metamorphosed completely by the time the last figures are displayed.  He walks over to a teller, takes out a few banknotes from the cash register without any receipt, and hands them to Mr. Y. "I know how precious your time is Mr. Y, please take the money and I'll deal with the paperwork later."

There are no surprises in the dancer's story and there are no surprises in this one. It's a known fact banks treat wealthier customers better than poor customers. So why do we still like the story?

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