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My dear Bank Manager,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing the check with which
I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month. By my
calculations some three nano-seconds must have elapsed
between his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my
account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of
course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire
salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in
place for eight years. You are to be commended for seizing
that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my
account by way of penalty for the inconvenience caused by
your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which
this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial

You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness. No more
will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant
incidents, for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking
as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your
very own bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I
know you will be excited and proud to hear it. To this end,
please be advised about the following changes.

First, I have noticed that whereas I personally attend to
your telephone calls and letters, whenever I try to contact
you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing,
pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.
From now on I, like you, chose only to deal with a flesh and
blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will,
therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will
arrive at your bank by personal check, addressed personally
and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you
must nominate (you will be aware that it is an offence under
the Postal Act for any other person to open such an

Please find attached an Application for Contact Status which
I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it
runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about
him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no

Please note that all copies of his/her medical history must
be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace, and that the
mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income,
debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by
documented proof. In due course I will issue your employee
with a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings
with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits
but, again, I have modelled it on the number of button
presses required to access my account balance on your
phonebank service. As they say, imitation is the sincerest
form of flattery.

Let me level the playing field even further by introducing
you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is
very much like yours. My Authorised Contact at your bank,
the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call
me at any time and be answered by an automated voice. By
pressing the buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided
through an extensive set of menus:
1) to make an appointment to see me,
2) to query a missing repayment,
3) to make a general complaint or inquiry, and so on.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention
of my automated answering service. While this may on
occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play
for the duration.

This month I have chosen the refrain from The Best of Woody
Guthrie: "Oh the banks are made of marble, with a guard at
every door, and the vaults are filled with silver that the
miners sweated for!" After twenty minutes of that, our
mutual contact will probably know it off by heart.

On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As
your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for
greater efficiency comes at a cost - a cost which you have
always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your
kindness by passing some costs back. First, there is the
matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read
for a fee of $20 per page. Inquiries from your nominated
contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in
response. Any debits to my account, as for example, in the
matter of the penalty for the dishonoured cheque, will be
passed back to you. My new phone number service runs at 75
cents per minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn't come free), so
keep your inquiries brief and to the point.

Regrettably, but again following your example, I must also
levy an establishment fee to cover the setting up of this
new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous,
New Year.

Your humble client,

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