Credit Cards and Consumer Debt
The Japanese Bank Manager

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By bingocards
July 3, 2008

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I am a happy customer of places like BoA and ING stateside, where I have no illusions that I am anything other than an entry in a database. In Japan, however, I bank at a little bitty branch office of a regional bank which mostly collects money from farmers and old people and sits on it. I like them a lot, because they give me funny moments like this one:

Coworker: Bingocards, you have a call on External One.

Me: ?? (Nobody has my work number except my landlord and, oh yeah...)

Bank Manager: Hello, this is Mr. Bank Manager from BingoBank. Is this Bingocards?

Me: Yes sir, always a pleasure.

Bank Manager: Before I say anything else, protocol says that I have to confirm you're actually Bingocards.

Me: No problem, I'll read you the numbers off my foreigner ID card that you have on file.

Bank Manager: Bah, too much work! Do you remember that time I came to your house to deliver your credit card?

Me: Yes, I do.

Bank Manager: What are you not supposed to do with your credit card?

Me: I am not supposed to use my credit card to buy alcohol. I am not supposed to give my credit card to my girlfriend. I am not supposed to ever gamble using my credit card.

Bank Manager: Good man! OK, so this is about your wire transfer earlier today. It was large enough that the rules say I have to confirm that you authorized it.

Me: I did.

Bank Manager: Recently a lot of customers have been called by fraudsters who say "You owe us a lot of money and if you don't wire it to us, you'll get in trouble". Have you had any calls like this?

Me: I have not. Besides, anyone calling to say I owe them money is a liar, and not a very good one at that.

Bank Manager: Good man! Say, this transfer is bigger than your usual. You got your bonus, I'm assuming?

Me: Yep. My first real bonus ever.

Bank Manager: Congratulations! You know, speaking strictly as a businessman, we'd be pleased as a pig in a blanket if you'd leave some of that money with us one of these days.

Me: I understand, Mr. Bank Manager, but speaking strictly as a businessman, you'd have to pay better interest first.

Bank Manager: Touché! Although buying dollars in this environment, Bingocards, you're a braver man than I.

Me: I like to live dangerously.

Bank Manager: Oh, to be young again! Alright, sorry for the trouble. Thanks for using BingoBank. If you ever need anything, you know where to find us.


Ah, I love BingoBank (not their real name, obviously). I think their philosophy is nicely captured by what the same bank manager once said to a little boy while his mother was using the ATM.

"Hey Mister Mister what does "bank" mean?"

"A bank, sonny, is a building where you hide your money from people who want to take it. Like yourself."

(As you have probably gathered, BingoBank is not really dealing with a subprime crunch at the moment.)