'Bankers' hours' – a phrase from another time

Bankers' hours. It was a phrase I was familiar with before I moved here, but I didn't quite understand it until I arrived in Ireland.

I had worked in a bank as a teller in Albany during the summer when I was in college. The bank opened at 9am and closed at 4:00. After closing the staff had to check their figures and paperwork and count the cash in their drawers which meant it was usually after 4:30 at the earliest before anyone left. Twice a week, however, we had 'late hours' when the bank reopened at 5pm for two hours. And the bank was open from 9 – 1 on Saturday mornings.

All in all, I never had the feeling that the people working there were under-worked. They sure as heck weren't underpaid as the rates of pay were pretty abysmal for tellers and the branch manager alike. {I'm not talking about me here. My parents were still housing, feeding and clothing me; I didn't need the money. I was making the minimum wage and saving most of it.}

All of this explains why I was so surprised when I got here and found out that (a) bank employees were fairly well paid as compared with wages generally and (b) banks were almost never open. The banks were open from 10-3 each day, BUT they closed for an hour at 12:30 for lunch. Suddenly I understood what bankers' hours was all about.

There were no late hours and no Saturday hours. If you had any sort of a job at all you probably couldn't get to the bank unless you opted for a late lunch and were willing to wait 30 minutes or so on line.

The banks and a large number of those who worked in them were arrogant. Nobody involved in banking seemed much interested in the customers' concerns. ATM's, which were a recent development when I first got here, were the only nod to the customers.

Gradually over the years the banks' hours changed. These days banks are open to 4 (5 on Thursdays) and the lunch break has been eliminated. A few years ago one Scottish bank tried to make its mark here by opening some branches on Saturdays.

That bank is now gone from the Irish market, but the other day I was in my own bank's local branch and they had a sign up advertising that they were now open on Saturdays. My first reaction was 'about time', but then I thought a little more and I realized they're too late. I only go into the bank two or three times a year. I do all my banking online these days.

Of course not not everyone banks online - yet, but that day is coming. Regardless, I can't understand why anyone would need the bank to be open on Saturdays, what with the ubiquitous ATM's and debit cards and telephone and online banking. Who cares what the bank's opening hours are now?

So it's come to pass that bankers' hours has lost all meaning here. Decades too late. Just as it was too late when the Irish people shed the deference they used to show bankers, a deference which the bankers arrogantly demanded before they ruined the country.

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