The pandemic is no excuse for poor customer service at the bank — or anywhere

Bea L. Hines
·5 min read

Recently, I was in a bank helping my godson (who is legally blind) with an estate problem.

The banker who helped my godson had gone as far as possible with his problem, and told him he needed additional information to move forward. He gave him a card and said, “Call me when you get the information, or if you have questions.”

We thanked him and left the building. Later, we worked on the needed information and got it right away.

We called the bank official to make another appointment. No answer. We left a message. Days passed; we never heard from the bank official.

After calling about six times and leaving messages with no return call, I said to my godson, “I think we should just go back to the bank.”

I live about a 40-minute drive away from this particular bank, which is in Broward. And on this day driving was hazardous, as it was raining heavily. When we got to the bank, the official we needed to see was standing at the front door, along with another official. The bank was nearly empty.

I explained our problem to the bank official, letting him know that we had the additional information and had called him several times to set up another appointment, to no avail.

The bank official said he couldn’t see us at the time. We needed another appointment. I explained our situation and how many times we’d tried to reach him by phone, but did not receive an answer nor a return call.

“I’m sorry, but you will need an appointment,” he said again.

I asked him again, if he could see us, since we had come a long way and since he’d never answered our calls. He went into his office, came back and said he could see us at 3 p.m., which was about two hours later.

It meant that I would have to drive back home in the pouring rain, and turn around to drive back to the bank, also in the rain. I thanked him, anyway, and he handed me a card identical to the one he gave me on our last visit.

“Sir,” I said, “Is this your personal card?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“So please explain to me why I should call the number on this card. … It is the same card, with the same number you gave us before. But you never answered, nor did you return the call when I left a message.”

He said how busy he has been since COVID-19 and he could only see us by appointment.

As we left the bank, I thought of how so much mismanagement and poor manners is being blamed on COVID-19. I know that some people are swamped with work.

But this was not the case at this particular bank on this particular day.

Look, COVID-19 has affected us all in some way. It has tested us in ways we never dreamed of being tested.

But some of us still have jobs in which we must interact with the public. And I know some people can try your last nerve — COVID-19 or not.

Even so, we should never use the pandemic as an excuse for the lack of good customer service and/or good manners. It was obvious that the bank official could have helped us. The bank was nearly empty. He was standing at the front door along with another official when we got there.

And when I asked him about not answering our calls, he said he was probably with another client. Granted. But what about not returning the call, even after I’d left more than one message? I didn’t understand that.

I left the bank thinking about the lessons I’d learned from the wonderful late Jane Lewis, my junior business teacher at Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School.

Mrs. Lewis knew what good customer service was and she taught it to her students, without ever knowing that there would come a day when we would enter a desegregated business world and put her teachings into practice.

It was from Mrs. Lewis that I learned proper telephone manners.

It was Mrs. Lewis who taught me the importance of taking a phone message properly and accurately, and then returning the call, if needed.

She let us know that a particular call could actually mean the difference between life and death, and that we should never take a person’s call lightly.

Our being in the bank that day was not a matter of life and death. But it was important.

And it was frustrating to have to stand there, knowing that we could have been helped but because we didn’t have an appointment — which we could have gotten — if he had answered his phone or returned my messages.

Long story short, because of the rainy-day traffic, we were late for the new 3 p.m. appointment.

We were given an appointment for another day.

Miami-Dade’s oldest Black church celebrates a milestone

A warm Neighbors in Religion salute to the congregation of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, 3515 Douglas Road, in Coconut Grove, on the occasion of their 125th church anniversary.

The original Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, which was founded in Coconut Grove in 1895. It’s the oldest Black church in Miami-Dade County, and it’s celebrating its 125th anniversary.
The original Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, which was founded in Coconut Grove in 1895. It’s the oldest Black church in Miami-Dade County, and it’s celebrating its 125th anniversary.

At another time, the congregation of Miami-Dade’s oldest Black church would be celebrating in a gigantic way, including weeklong worship services and an anniversary banquet. But because of COVID-19, the congregation celebrated on Saturday with a re-dedication celebration that included a Goombay-style parade, complete with the colorful Junkanoo Band.

The parade made its way through the streets of Coconut Grove and back to the church grounds, where there was a bazaar, games and a bounce house for the children.

Until 1895, Black worshipers in Coconut Grove had been members of the integrated Union Chapel.

But the Black worshipers became dissatisfied with the order of service at Union Chapel and longed to worship in the tradition of their African ancestors.

Macedonia was organized when 56 Black members from Union Chapel met at the home of Edith Albury to organize what would be the first church organized by African Americans in the South Florida mainland.