Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Changing patterns of banking and spending

Not so long ago, withdrawing a hundred rupees from the bank meant going to the branch, filling out the withdrawal slip, waiting in line to get a token, and waiting your turn at the teller for someone to give you your money.

Just the process was so boring, and irritating, that one would do pretty much anything to avoid having to go there too much. As a result, most people made their rupee stretch a little bit further before they were forced to make the next trip to the bank. All other banking activity too was equally cumbersome and time consuming. And to top it all, you had to deal with the supercilious and rude behaviour of the staff. They behaved, and some still behave, as if they were doing you a great favour. Never mind that you were dealing with your money, and that your custom paid their salaries, you were still made to feel like the beggar.

No wonder people hated banks, and having to go to the bank was such a huge chore. On the other hand, things have changed so much these days that banking is almost a pleasure. With the ATMs that have sprung up all over the place withdrawing money is fast, easy, and hassle free. No more endless queues, no ill mannered tellers, no more waiting. All other kinds of transactions have been simplified too. You can drop checks in the drop boxes at all the ATMs, instead of having to deposit them at the branch yourself. From paying bills to making payments for your credit cards, ATMs, and phone and internet banking are easy ways to accomplish most banking chores.

You don’t even have to move out of your home anymore. Pick up the phone and call in your need, log in to the bank website and click your way to your banking solutions. Even things like loans have become so much easier! You no longer have to feel like you are the supplicant come to beg the mai baap to give you a little piece of their jagir. Customer is no longer the beggar now, and while he/she may not yet be king, they are at least in a position of some advantage. In addition, with private and international banks entering the arena in India, banks, old and new, have finally realized that they are in the service industry. Unless they teach their employees to smile, and be nice to customers, the customer will take their business elsewhere.

However, all the pluses are not without a few minuses in tow. Banking has become a lot more impersonal now, and one no longer builds up a relationship with a particular bank, branch or employee. While phone and net banking have made life easier, they have also increased your security risk, and phishing and other kinds of scams are on the increase. And, worst of all from the point of view of the younger generation, the easy access provided by ATMs has made it a lot easier to overspend. Credit cards are dangerous in the hands of the undisciplined, and overall, the traps have multiplied.

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