There was an wonderful piece in the Financial Times recently, all about Iceland.



What?  You don’t know about Iceland?

Iceland was very hard-hit by the recession of 2008-9. It had a couple of banks which were offering miraculous rates of interest back in the mid-2000s, and people from all over Europe (especially the UK) were putting their money there. Then the crash hit, and Iceland was hit hard, and those banks died.

What happened then?

The Icelandic government, out of necessity (it’s a small country) went on an austerity kick. It sought to increase revenue and decrease expenditures.

It’s a small country – did I say that before? – so its defense budget was not enormous. It made cuts across the board, but it cut social welfare programs less than other programs. Also: it increased taxes on wealthier individuals, but sheltered people who made less money.

Are you getting this?

Four years later, Iceland is doing very well. It’s almost completely recovered. Another thing: all the depositors who lost money in those failed Icelandic banks will (over time) get their money back. Not the investors in the banks, but the depositors. See?

There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

I wish I could figure out what it was.

Customer service: the flip side


I have written before about bad customer service.  In my young-and-foolish days I used to put up with it, thinking that I was a poor humble sap and that the cashiers and tellers were treating me badly because I somehow deserved it.  As I’ve aged, however, I’ve gotten smarter and crankier.  I have actually made a couple of customer-service people burst into flames when I focus my anger onto them.



A TD Bank recently opened in downtown Providence.  I was curious, and went in for some casual transactions.  They have lollipops! They have dog biscuits! They open the door for you!  They’re almost invariably cheerful!  (I’ve seen one of the tellers looking a little melancholy once or twice, but she didn’t take out her bad feeling on me, and I felt sympathetic for her.)



So I decided to join the TD revolution.



I could not have done better.  The folks at my old bank (whose name begins with a CITI and ends with a ZENS) were snarky and unpleasant when I closed out my account. The customer-service representative (a football-hero type, beefy and bluff) tried to talk me out of my decision, until I pointed out to him that he’d kept me waiting for several minutes while he chatted and flirted with a couple of the bank’s other employees.  At this point he became rather chilly with me. 



I am deliriously happy with TD Bank.  They’re cheaper, for one thing; their fees are much lower than those at my previous bank.  And the staff are cheerful, and they actually make a point of being helpful.  If I see someone in the bank wearing a nametag, I can actually ask him/her a question, and he/she will actually answer it, fully and helpfully, with a smile. 



I think my head might explode with joy. 



Now: if they opened up a few more branches in Rhode Island – preferably up here on the East Side of Providence – my life would be complete.



(Can this be true? Can the world actually be getting better?)



(I doubt it.)



(But I’ll take whatever I can get.)



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