BANKS AND INSURANCE

     God be with the days when if you were moderately well dressed and of sober demeanour you could get a cheque cashed in any branch of any bank in Ireland. At most you might be asked for some identification to say you were who you said you were, but often they would cash a cheque without it. I remember going into a bank in Patrick Street in Cork in the 1950ís and cashing a cheque, no questions asked and without identification. These were the days before holes in walls, credit cards and other varieties of plastic money. They were also the days when there was less dishonesty and greed.

     Itís not only people who are greedier these days. As far as greed is concerned the banks are leading the field. Many of the services that they charge for today were free in the old days when there was a single fee charged by the number of transactions on your account. I believe that nowadays banks even charge for appointments to speak to their officials. I tell friends that as they walk up College Green they should look straight ahead, because if they look left or right and happen to look through a bank door there is a little man waiting there to run out and charge them a fee.

     I get the impression that banks are not that concerned these days for the private customer. The trouble of maintaining a small account for you or me is greater than the profit they can make from it. What they want is the big corporate customer, borrowing lots of money and having lots of transactions. Itís all part of the trend that people are no longer important; its money that counts.

     The other bÍte noir of the average citizen is the insurance company. Small businesses and not so small ones are having to scale back or even close down because of huge increases in premium these days. Private citizens find their house and car insurance going up by leaps and bounds, and how is it that when you have a claim youíre often not covered for what you thought you were covered for, and needless to say thatís entirely your own fault; you didnít read the small print on your policy!

     Our family car was stolen recently, a 1992 Honda Civic. I believe that young fellows steal Honda Civics because they are zippy to drive. In our case they were disappointed; it was a Japanese import and only 1100 cc instead of 1300cc. It didnít turn up and the insurance company paid the claim- Ä1,600, the depreciated value, and that included the wellington boots in the back. However, we bought a 1993 Renault 19 with 75,000 miles, and everything working. It had just passed its NCT test, it was more comfortable, better fitted out, (you can control the radio from the steering wheel!), an excellent buy, and guess for how much -- Ä1,600; exactly what the insurance company paid us. As it transpired the thieves did us a favour. And hard as I try I canít think of anywhere in Ireland a brand new Merc can go that our 1993 Renault 19 cannot. If you have a car you would like stolen, weíll charge you a small fee to park it outside our house.