Where is our National Commercial Bank?

I was a loyal customer of our NCB Bank now Republic Bank for over two decades and one of my reasons for joining that bank was that it came about when Grenada was in a state of thinking big, with big ideas and the Grenada National Commercial Bank was something to be prideful of.

It was a product of a time when the rest of the region showed respect to Grenada for thinking out of the box. Sad enough to say, this bank which is now Republic Bank has decided on as a policy, I was told, that anyone who walks into that bank with a hat needs to take his or her hat off and pose for a camera shot.

It makes me wonder, how did Grenadians get here and have we lost our sovereignty because Trinidad and Tobago decided that we must subject ourselves to that policy – losing one’s dignity or individual right on the premise that if you have a cap or hat on, you immediately have become a suspect?

On August 31, 2018, I walked into NCB/Republic Bank in St. George’s, stood for a while in line after filling out my transaction slip and waited politely to be called. I had my carry around documents, dressed presentable with no gesture or given the impression that I was about to holdup the bank.

However, when I got to the teller, passed on my slip stating the amount of funds I intend to withdraw from my account and asked to make my balance available once the transaction is completed; she said: “Remove your hat”.

I repeated after her and asked what for? She replied it’s bank policy that you have to take your hat off so that the camera can get a full view”.

Just imagine and think about it; you should be reduced to taking your head gear off according to that teller so that the bank camera can take a full view of you. It’s like you have committed a crime and now is the time to take a mugshot.

Having a little legal education and all of my exposure including but not limited to teaching about individual rights, consumer rights and so forth, but generally when I take a more comprehensive view of what I have just experienced at Republic House where I did have a discussion with bank personnel on my discomfort with such humiliation.

It also reminded me of a similar experience one of my cousins had about a year ago or so at the Grenville Branch which led to an intensive discussion. This is a problem and it’s an intrusive one and has got to stop.

With my cousin’s experience, my experience and so many others who have not only had a Grenada experience but travel extensively with the absolute liberty to walk into the various banks that you are a customer, do your transaction and depart that institution with your humanity intact and feel the ease to continue doing business with the various banks to which you are attached is not the feelings one gets at Republic Bank if you choose to wear a headgear.

In this tiny beloved island of ours, bank employees seem to be willing to discomfort their customers in a very intrusive way because, yes, they believe they have to follow protocol implemented by their Trinidad headquarters, if that’s where that intrusive and degrading policy came from.

The customers need to let them know like I say I didn’t commit a crime, has no intention to rob the bank and “will not pose for any such camera”.

If I did commit a crime, call the police but will not allow myself to be treated like a suspect and believe it’s ok. I DID NOT REMOVE MY HAT AND DON’T INTEND TO. I intend to do some evaluating on Republic Bank as to whether or not I remain a customer.

Yes, they have all right to put security devices in their institution and they already have plenty of that, but I will not subject myself on the premise that if I have a cap or hat on my head I’m a suspect.

I got the freedom to relinquish any business relationship with Republic Bank once I complete my evaluation. I “HOPE” I also have the right to remove my money from that institution with or without my head gear on.

I didn’t put my money in that bank because I believe Trinidad will dictate to me as a customer and Grenadian what I put on my head and the position in which I tilt it.

I joined the Grenada National Commercial Bank because I was proud to have attached myself to a bank that was named in the spirit and pride of Grenada. I will expand on the “Hope” that I emphasised on.

Yes, I hope I’m able to withdraw my money and relinquish my ties with Republic Bank if I so choose and the time in which I decide to do so without any more uninformed lecturing.

Yes, I consider my discussion with the floor manager or supervisor uninformed. By she stating that if I don’t remove my hat the teller will not serve me, I believe she has demonstrated a lack of understanding that my money is in that bank and have a right to have it with or without my hat.

She further stated that to make her point that it’s not discrimination, well indeed, discrimination is fitting here once you are subjecting someone to a different treatment – rightfully or otherwise it’s discrimination.

She should have understood what the word itself means before getting caught up in a discussion that shows her inability to be reasonable and come across as unintelligent on matters of importance.

My sister tried to convince me more about what she thought is her institution right but failed to realise that I have the absolute right to my money whether I agree with her dress code or not and in this case I am adamantly opposed to that ill-advised Trinidad rule if that’s where it originated.

Why do you need to compromise your right to wear a hat and in the position you choose because Republic Bank need you to pose for their camera in order to get a full view of you? I’m not a handsome man either, why I asked?

I have had over the years no reason to challenge this bank, I thought there was no reason to, but if I allow Trinidad or whomever decides on a policy as ridiculous and intrusive as it is for me as a customers of now Republic Bank, then I fail in my capacity to defend my own right as a customer within the context of a friendly professional and business relationship.
One needs to be comfortable and should be especially with a bank entrusted with their money. Republic Bank, you need to act and act quickly to correct that wrong and misguided policy.

And for you sister, supervisor, manager on the first floor, you know who you are, and as much as I realise you have a job to do and need to keep it, but while doing your job which is in part to follow protocol, please don’t come across as ignorant or misinformed and don’t you ever tell a customer that the teller will refuse to allow a customer the right to his or her money because he or she don’t adhere to Republic Bank dress code.

Furthermore my sister, as you have indicated and maybe to make your point that it’s the bank policy, now, if it is the case that you are doing the same job in the same title and realise that a man is getting rewarded more because it might be the institution’s policy to pay men more, would it make you uncomfortable and does it make that policy right to treat you lesser than that male colleague just because he is a male?

In that context my sister, a wrong policy must be challenged and not blindly go along when it’s wrong. I hope this piece was helpful to you.

Martin Johnson

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