It’s 1943 and we’re in Stalag Luft XXIIIb, a prison camp for allied prisoners of war, somewhere in the centre of Germany. In the centre of a hut, allied prisoners sit around a table which has a reasonable amount of food on it. In the corner of the room, a couple of German guards, the Camp Commandant and two Swiss Civilians from the International Red Cross are asking questions.
“So, Flight Sergeant,” begins one of the Swiss,”are you being well treated? I can see from the food here that you’ve been receiving the red Cross food parcels….”
“Well….yes……” the Sergeant looks nervously at the Commandant, who is staring at him with an intense expression normally seen before he utters the words ‘Solitary Confinement, 21 days.’. “Very well, thank you, sir. The Germans are a great bunch and feed us well….”
“Excellent…excellent….now, Commandant, can we see another hut please?”
The Germans and Swiss leave the hut, and after a few minutes a guard returns and sweeps the food in to a bag, removes the only working light-bulb and says “Vell, English-pigs, zat is ze visit of ze red Cross over for another 6 months – back to normal food for you! Remember to cook ze food vell to kill ze weevils!”
OK…it’s a cliche of popular fiction, but I was reminded of thsi today by a news item from the BBC – that most people seem happy with the service they get from their banks. I admit that I was rather gob-smacked at this, especially the figure that about 90% of folks who’ve NOT shifted banks are happy with their current bank. Then I read further and noted that 48% of people wouldn’t think of changing banks because it would cause too many problems, and that’s when I started thinking of the above scenario. No doubt more folks would love to change banks if they thought that they could do so with ease, be guaranteed of finding another bank that would take them on as customers, and also not get any ‘comebacks’ from their bank in the meantime.
It perhaps says a lot today about how cowed we are on the whole that we put up with the way our banks have played with our money and charged us for the privilege; anyone who’s been in debt knows that you are locked in to your existing financial service providers for a while after you have debt problems because your credit record is damaged, and often it’s only as ‘existing customers’ that you survive. Coming to a new bank as a new customer would probably see you thrown back.
I’d like to believe that the banks are starting to listen and making things easier for people; I have to say my own bank has recently been more reasonable than I’ve experienced for some years – which is great news – but I think that it’s going to be a long time before I can look at these sorts of surveys and take them at their word.