Thursday, February 19, 2009

How to Solve Everything

Accusing someone of keeping "banker's hours" is to insult his or her work ethic, since the phrase intimates a short work day. Bankers never actually worked less than other people, though; before banking became computerized, a certain number of hours needed to be spent counting money out to get ready for the public, and then reconciling accounts manually at the end of the day. Banks were only open to the public from 10 to 2 or 3 because it took the rest of the day to keep track of things.

I just drove 11 hours in two days, and during long drives random thoughts tend to crop up. For some reason I began contemplating banker's hours, not why banks were once open only at the most inconvenient times, but what the net result of those hours might have been. For example, when banks were only open to the public five hours a day, a run on a bank could only last five hours. Today, a panic can go on 24/7, as people electronically attempt to withdraw their funds whether or not the branches are open. In a way, the short hours probably helped keep the system stable.

[And here, I present as an aside my main pet peeve about It's A Wonderful Life: As George and Mary are leaving for their honeymoon, they drive past a run on Bailey Brothers Building and Loan. A realistic scenario during the Depression, yes. However, the scene takes place in the late afternoon, and much is made about staying open until 6 PM. A bank open until 6 PM during the 30s? I don't think so.]

If not for banker's hours, we probably would never have witnessed the cliched free toaster for opening an account. Toasters and other small kitchen appliances must have been chosen as premiums because women did the banking, and women must have done the banking of necessity in the post-WWII period because the men were off at work during the hours when the bank was open. Men may have taken the mortgages and paid the bills, but it was women who deposited their checks in the bank. Banker's hours in effect helped keep American toaster makers in business.

Banker's hours perhaps also contributed to a higher rate of savings. The lack of easy credit and the absence of credit cards undoubtedly had more to do with this, but the fact remains that, in the past, if you spent all your cash Friday night, you had no more cash until Monday morning. If you had five bucks to spend for dinner, that's all you could spend. Restricted access to your funds would keep more of your funds in the bank.

Perhaps one way of stemming our current economic crisis would be a return to banker's hours, not only for banks but for monetary transactions of any kind. The market would only have five hours in which to fall. People would only have five hours in which to rack up debt. Bankers would only have part of the day in which to package worthless debt into worthless securities. Toasters would be free again, and Americans would be put to work manufacturing them. Hey, this is as good an idea as any I've heard coming from Washington.

3 comments:

Diane said...

Actually, your idea is better than anything out of Washington, because I UNDERSTOOD yours.

LVCI said...

Here's a little bit more regarding work hours beyond just the banking profession.

From a so-called 'Family Values' prospective:
Not just banks, but most retailers closed at 5 [except on Thursday night's till 9]. Weekends, for most, were not work days either. Other then movie theaters & grease joints, after 5 the sidewalks were rolled up.

This brought about a great deal of 'Family Time'. 'Family Time' has evaporated slowly over the last couple of decades causing a loosing up of the 'Family Unit'. Weekends were spent at the amusement park, shore, etc. The family unit was simply stronger because more time was spent together then in today's 24/7/365 work environment. The resulting outcome has lead to a lessening of parental supervision/guidance.

W/O condemnation the womens' rights to work element increased the workforce greatly causing a greater competition for jobs resulting in the watering down of hourly wages. Thus no longer could pop be the sole bread winner. Mothers spent less time in the home. Thus was the scene set for the gradual separation of the family unit.

At first mom went out of the home and brought in a coupe of EXTRA $'s. But as the main bread winner's wages became diluted, as a result of the increased labor pool available to employers, the family wages REQUIRE mom to work.

My little thesis here is not intended to be pro nor con. Just a bit of history of how the family unit has become loosely bonded because of the changing financial conditions.

tunsie said...

when I was in the carribean in medical school,YES,I said the carribean.barclays bank was open 3 days a week from 9 to 1 in the afternoon.they did not keep long hours like in the states.tunsie.tunsie.tunsie