A sobering tale of banking and judging by appearance

It only sounds apocryphal

Here’s a true story about judging by appearances. It sounds apocryphal, but you can verify it for yourself, as I did, with a visit to Snopes.com. Snopes, a reliable resource for verifying or, depending, debunking urban legends, is where I found this true and instructive story.

On a work day, you could easily mistake building refurbisher John Barrier for a homeless person. Perhaps that was the impression he created when, in late 1988, he stepped into Old National (now U.S.) Bank to cash a check. A teller cashed his check but wouldn’t validate his parking. Validations were for bank transactions, she said, and check-cashing didn’t count. Barrier summoned the manager who, looking him up and down, backed up the teller. “Fine,” Barrier said, “you don’t need me and I don’t need you.” Barrier, who had been with Old National for 30 years, moved his business to nearby Seafirst Bank. His first of many deposits was a mere million dollars.

At the shallow end, the lesson here is “treat people well despite appearances because you might find out they’re rich.” But I’d like to go to the deeper end and suggest that we should treat people well because it’s the right thing to do. Whether or not they turn out to be rich.

At first blush you might think interactive banking should be incapable of judging clients by appearances. But the digital experience is becoming increasingly personal. It may not be long before camera-to-camera use becomes the standard for interactive marketing. Now is the time for a bit of preventive maintenance as we mind how we engage across all channels.

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