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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Live Richly?

Live fearfully would be more accurate.


There used to be a time that you could walk into a bank, present your account booklet to the teller and withdraw some of your paycheque to pay bills. It used to be that easy. Apparently, things have changed. Whether it's because of 9/11, November 17, anarchist's Molotov cocktails or just plain paranoia, one bank in Athens seems to have an unwritten dress code for their clients before they withdraw their own money.

About two weeks ago, the son of a friend of mine, Giorgo (not his real name) had just returned home from a short tour of duty in the Greek navy. Because he's a responsible person, he decided to go straight to his bank to withdraw money to pay the bills that had accumulated while he was away at sea. Although he is not a fashion icon wearing conspicuous name brand labels, he has never had a problem conducting his personal financial affairs wearing jeans and a t-shirt until two weeks ago. He walked into the Citibank branch he had been using for years and stood in line waiting to pay some bills and withdraw some money for household supplies. He was then asked to leave the lineup and accompany a security guard who had decided that he was a prime candidate for an interrogation. He demanded that my friend's son produce his ID card and state his reason for entering the bank. Giorgo provided the security guard with his ID card, bank passbook and stated his reason and was released back into the lineup once the guard scrutinized the documents before him and decided Giorgo was no longer a threat.

Giorgo believed that the only reason he caught the attention of the security guard was due to his casual clothes and the fact that he didn't shave that morning. He did not complain or create a scene but quietly submitted to the pop interrogation even though he was somewhat embarrassed to be questioned in front of so many other clients and bank staff.

If it were me, I would have produced all the evidence the security guard required and then I would have stood in front of the lineup and told all other clients that they better think twice about keeping their money in a bank where it has become necessary to treat people as criminals first and clients second. Then I would have withdrawn every cent I had in the bank and closed my accounts.

I do realize that banks have been the target of bombs, robberies and vandals over the years but if it's that dangerous for them to open their doors to the public, then maybe it would be better for them to reconsider doing business in Greece altogether rather than subject the very people who keep them in business to humiliating interrogations. It has been my experience that bank robbers usually don't wait in lineups wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Their modus operandi is more likely to involve masks, guns and a mad dash to the tellers' booths. If people have to dress to the nines in order to enter a bank and avoid these checks, then maybe it's time to choose a safer bank. We mocked our grandparents who preferred to keep money in a sock under their mattresses. Considering the risks of banking today, maybe they were right all along.

It is a bit extreme i suppose, but deemed necessary. Perhaps they should have asked to speak with him more politely. (i.e. "do you have a minute, sir?")

This is a growing concern but it is greatly exagerated by the media. It is infact not that bad, concidering that our population is greatly increasing, the "exetremists" to normal people ratio should still be around the same.

but increasing media coverage and government warnings have made it look as if we are all going to die in the coming months.

hope for the best i guess.

-Rahi

Seawitch,

You are talking about the daily life of the "Scruffy American". I always get scrutinzed for my scruffy appearance and secondly for my obviously foreign appearance.

I've never encountered exactly what you described at a bank. Mainly just aloof looks from the tellers and staff. But, when I produce that "Majestic American Passport", it seems that their expression changes from "Oh, he's not some Polish painter, he's an American!". I have yet to receive bad service once they realize who they are dealing with.

Some Albanian aquaintances have not fared equally as well I'm afraid.

DISCLAIMER: There is nothing wrong with Polish painters. In fact, sometimes I tell people I'm polish (like if I accidentally walk in the middle of an anti-American demonstration). My scruffy appearance suits me well...

CitiBank, they are American aren't they?? LOL

Anyway, I'd encourage "Giorgo" to email CitiBank and make a strong complaint. The treatment he recieved is out of order. You never know, he might get a token of goodwill out of it!

Saying that though, if he doesn't wear expensive labels then I suppose it could have been a fair mistake to make. I mean, let's face it, you don't see many terrorists in Gucci!

I don't know what is all the fuzz about. If your are improperly clad, people will look at you with contempt. The security agents have a job to do. Do you expect them to stop a dandy dressed in a three piece pin striped suite ?

In my store if I see a curious "customer" whose outfit does not do justice to the image of my environment, that customer is not permitted to perambulate ,he is removed by my security, no questions asked and he can go and complain to Mahtma Gandhi if he wishes.
I have hired some burly boys to stand guard, (in busy friday's and saturday's night, the store becomes swarmed and poorly dressed louts try to come in) they have been issued with irreversible instructions : improperly attired customers, slovenly dressed individuals,suspicious looking faces, do not cross the front door.

There's ONE HUGE DIFFERENCE between your example (which is a fair one) and the story told be SeaWitch.

You obviously work in a store, if you don't like the look of someone. You can have them removed and that's the end of it.

At the end of the day "Giorgo" was visiting his local bank. The place that holds all of his money. He pays them to provide a service and the treatement he recieved certainly isn't good service. Anyway, since when does a bank have a dress code? If you work there than yeah, turn up in a uniform but if your a customer. Wear what you like. I certainly don't see myself saying "right, need to go to the bank, let's take off my jeans and shirt and put on shirt and trousers".

I would definately complain! I'm sure the head office would agree.

I agree with Ossa if you have a club (bar, nightclub etc), that it makes sense to have face control. They do it all over the world and I wouldn't complain or would I try to enter a hip nightclub as the "Scruffy American".

However, if I want to enter a clothing store as my normal "scruffy", I believe it would be normal to be upset if someone refused me to shop if I had the "Green" in my hand.

My favorite example, years ago before the movie "Pretty Woman", I went into a Kolonaki store and was treated rudely by the store clerk who thought I probably didn't have the money to buy. Well, fortunately for me and unfortunately for him, another hip location accomodated me, and I made a point to rub it in the other clerks face. All this before Julia Roberts strutted her stuff in "Pretty Woman".

But, again, I agree with Ossa if he has a club, nightclub or bar. Other than that, I wouldn't agree.

P.S. Ossa what store do you own so I can try and get by those burly security types with my scruffy appearance.

Rahi...yes, you're right, media coverage has blown things way out of proportion but at what point will the powers that be conclude that we're safe? National ID cards** thousands of CCTV cameras, police street checks, alarm systems...at what point do we say 'enough is enough'? Just to deposit money in my very small bank this morning, I counted 5 CCTV camers BEFORE I even entered the lineup. (2 were exterior and 3 at the entrance). Maybe other people don't mind being treated as criminals first and lawful citizens second but I do.

Scruffy...your "majestic American passport"...LOL I find people become more hospitable towards me when they find out I'm not American. I guess it's all in perception.

Ellas...I did advise Giorgo to make a formal complaint but he's more laid back than I am. As for terrorists in Guccis...don't underestimate them...the reason they get away with their criminal acts is because they DON'T draw attention to themselves. If they looked criminal, they'd be out of business. And...THANK YOU very much for my Holly leaves on my blog. I think they're great!

Ossa...I am not complaining about the security guards. It's not their fault ...they are, as you said, doing their job. My problem is with being pulled out of a line to answer them in the first place. If you treat your customers with contempt because of the way they're dressed, I don't know how you stay in business. 95% of our customers do not dress in Armani, Prada or Dior. In fact, the ones with the Mercedes, Lexus' and BMWs, are usually the worst-dressed because they have nothing to prove. If I had to throw people out of my stores for looking "odd" then my cash register would be empty every single day at closing time.

National ID Cards blogged here:
http://theseawitch.blogspot.com/2005/05/may-i-see-some-id-please.html

Seawitch,

You are one of the few who truly understand my sense of humor. That's why I like to "kick it" here at your blog.

Really, though, other than politics about Bush, I don't get any nasty comments specifically about being American. As I said on Diva's site, they tell me oh, your ok, cuz your not Polish, Alby, etc.

But, I wonder if really, when I leave they say, there goes that SOB American.

Who cares though, I guess.

Oh, I forgot to ask Ossa what specific part of Turkey his store is located in. I'm planning a trip there soon and want to check it out.

Scruffy

Sorry but I don't think you would get past the first line of the security personnel at the stores.
Obviously there will not be undue inconveniences if you showed up neatly attired and spruced up a little.

Ok, Ossa, I'll dress up, and come to your store, but only if I get 10% discount on your designer dashikis. I keep forgetting to ask you. Tell me again where in Uganda is your shop?

Scruffy

You reveal yourself as a cantankerous individual. Turkey, Uganda ? where is your next try, Cameroon, Brunei, maybe Tibet, or try Macao ?.
The moment you hit the target, I'll invite to one of my stores, but there will be no discounts.
If you are looking for discounts try a gipsy stall.

Seawitch,

I just saw on your profile that you've read Freakonomics. Isn't that a great book. I liked the part about societies with high abortion rate have low crime, although I'm not sure if it's true, but since they have 300K abortions a year in Greece (and almost used as birth control), and the crime rate is fairly low compared to my country (where abortion is frowned upon)(USA), could it be true?

Your thoughts?

I enjoyed reading Freakonomics too Scruffy. Levitt makes a strong case for his connection between high abortion rates and lower crime stats but I can't say with 100% certainty that high abortion rates=lower crime rates since even he stated that lower crime rates are the result of multiple factors such as increased police presence, decreased crime reporting and the decriminalization of some crimes. But I do definitely believe that it's a contributing factor in lower crime rates.

The only complaint I have about the book is that it wasn't long enough. LOL

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