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The other day I called my bank to ask for some information about my account. After I punched in the number on my smartphone, a measured voice answered my call. "Thank you for calling our bank, the people you can count on more from. How can I help you." I responded my mentioning my business and I was directed to the person who could address that issue. There was nothing odd about the whole interaction up to this point, but the monologue that concluded the call is what actually disrupted me. When my questions were answered and I had the information needed, the helpful person asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" I said no, and she replied, "Well, thank you for calling our bank, the people you can count on more from." This was the same canned phrase with which our conversation began.

When I hung up, something felt strange and I could not put my finger on it. So I told Socrates what happened and asked for his feedback. I said, "I think what bothers me is that it seems that a person I could 'count on' would just say goodbye without giving the logo speech at the end. Liam scratched his head and said, "Well, I think the bank worker has been trained to handle people like you in this way."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I mean they know something about human character and something about business," he replied. "They know that in order to get customers they have to seem like people who really care, but as bankers they can't really care--at least not in the way that their customers need."

This sounded quite cynical to me. I didn't put it past Socrates to be cynical, but I wanted to hear more. "You sound cynical," I blurted out bluntly.

"Perhaps," he smiled a wry smile as he said this. "But bankers have to foreclose on mortgages and charge overdraft fees, and you must admit those are not very friendly actions."

"No, that's true," I agreed.

"Well, as much as an individual banker might want to care, he or she cannot get too close to customers because they will have to disappoint them for sake of the bottom line. As a result, they train workers to repeat their motto, that they are the bank you can count on."

"They just don't tell us what they really mean by that," I said.

"Well, perhaps," Socrates chuckled. "But if you read the speech rightly, I think you will see this is an example of meaning just the opposite of what the words seem to signify."

"You lost me."

"Wouldn't you say the worker said this closing line in a professional way?"

"Why, yes, that's what bugged me."

"Okay, the words said, 'you can count on me,' but the professional way of saying it was like one of those big negation signs we used to learn about in symbolic logic when we were younger."

"I didn't take symbolic logic."

"Let's put it this way: We say you can count on us to tell you we want to be human enough to want your business. Count on us for loans and free checking. But we know you have many needs we cannot possibly supply, so we tell you we want your business relationship but we say in a professional way to let you know this relationship we are proposing has limits. In general, we don't want you to count on us for too much. We won't come through. So her goodbye communicated apparently contradictory messages: 'We are here for you; but we are not here for you.' Wouldn't you feel sad for someone who would actually look to a banker to alleviate her loneliness?"

"It certainly would, and I think you have put your finger on what bugged me about it. But as for me, I think, where do they get off promising relationship and then not delivering on it?"

"Sort of like Corporate Sociopathy: having neither the ability nor intention of keeping their promises? I guess it's 'let the buyer beware,' when it comes to banks. I just hope I am being formed by the Holy Spirit into a person who says what he means and doesn't overpromise. I hope the same for the corporate body of believers, too."

"Right," I agreed. "But instead of 'count on us,' don't you think it could be 'we count on Him"? 

"Absoulutely," he agreed with a quick tempo that signaled we had beaten this horse to death. "Now that's the gospel."

"Wait a minute," I blurted out as I grabbed his arm. "You didn't just give me the professional brush off did you?"

"My dear," he smiled. "You really shouldn't count on me for too much even though we are married!"

"Ah," I said. "But can I count on you for some banking needs? I seem to be overdrawn."

Thursday, 01 October 2009
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Friends who haven't visited emmahouse.org will notice the big changes in this website. All of us at Emmanuel House love the new look, but the biggest change we notice is the new ease of making content changes and the new Web 2.0 features available to us. We now feel like we'll be able to place fresh ...Read More...
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Posted on 10/01/2009 12:47 PM by Liam Atchison
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