It is fashionable these days to see banks provide water dispensers in their banking halls for the convenience of customers. One bank even went a step further: apart from the water, it provided another dispenser for orange squash. What a considerate bank! However, after a short period, the orange squash dispenser disappeared and never came back to the disappointment of those who would stroll into the bank to have a sip of the yellow stuff even though they were not customers of the bank.
For those not in the know, the bank’s introduction of water dispensers would seem a welcome development. Marketers would probably tell us that the practice is an example of customer care. But those who know how bankers think would tell you that banks do not provide services for free—they charge for every service they provide—including balance enquiry or mini-statement request at ATMs.
Bankers persuade you to let them keep your money for you. They then lend that money to others—including yourself if you ventured to ask for a loan. These rates are beyond this world and far above the interest rates you would get for opening a fixed deposit account.
As if that is not enough, they would charge you hefty fees for keeping your money. That is how bankers do their thing—they do not do things that will not benefit them.
Hence, when you see water dispensers in banks, the intention is not what you might think, to provide convenience to customers. It is, rather, a trap to make a fool of you.
They know that once you take a sip of the chilled water, you will need to visit the loo sooner or later, especially after standing their long queues for hours.
Their interest is to see you embarrassed as you piss in your pants as was the experience of a certain gentleman recently. They make sure that they do not provide toilets for customers, even outside their building.
They cite security as the reason for their refusal to provide toilets. This reasoning is not only barbaric and idiosyncratic. It is a show of how backward bankers can be in their thinking. Human physiological make-up requires that people visit the loo from time to time.
When I was in primary school, my teacher would urge us to go to the toilet after some intervals. In this regard teachers are smarter than bankers. God bless the teachers! The fact is that some of the customers who go to a bank may be patients on treatment or suffering from an upset stomach which might force them to visit the respectable room at short notice.
Talking about security, between the central bank (which is banker to the commercial banks) and the commercial banks, who would be more security conscious? The central bank of course! Then how is it that Reserve Bank of Malawi head office provides a toilet for customers within the reception area?
This issue raises some questions: Are there regulators for these banks? If there are, don’t they ensure that the buildings which these banks operate are customer-friendly? What about those who approve building plans for institutions which open to the public– do they not insist that toilets are provided for in the plans before the plans can be approved?
What about institutions that deal with the environment and sanitation issues—what is their role in ensuring that public buildings have sanitation amenities?
The recent incident that happened recently is a wake-up call to all these regulators to start doing their work. I remember in the recent past the then minister of Tourism used to inspect tourist facilities such as rest houses, inns, motels etc. Where toilets and bathrooms were not available or were in bad condition, the minister used to close up those joints until the owners provided the required sanitation amenities.
The authorities regulating banks could borrow a leaf from the tourism example. Regulators should please ensure that banks, other financial institutions, libraries, markets, stadiums, bus depots, big shops, schools, churches etc. which are open to the public should ensure that toilets for customers are made available or else close them down till they comply. Additionally, water dispensers at banks and other places where there are no toilets for customers should be removed with immediate effect until toilets for customers are provided. n