By Anthony Deyal
It is said, give a man a gun and he will rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he will rob everyone. This is why the best banks in the Caribbean are in Guyana and Barbados. Even though you put your money in them, they never make you feel that you have been cheated, treated like a worthless piece of garbage, or kept waiting for hours in the hot sun. In fact, when the inevitable rainy day comes, you are safe, sound, secure and sitting in comfort drinking one.
As far as I am concerned, the banks in the bars in those two countries are worth more than all our Republics and Citizens put together. In Barbados, there are many other banks including RBTT which used to be the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago. The story goes that it was convinced that in the other Caribbean countries where “Trinidadians” were called “Tricky-Dadians”, it would be a good idea to change its full-name, especially the word “Trinidad”, into the initial “RBTT”. It then started to put down more Banks in the region than any normal Bajan, Guyanese or even I could do in one sitting. I am not sure how it happened but before you could say, “Barman, two more Banks”, RBTT became “Run Before Trinis Takeover.”
Making the situation even worse, the Canadians returned and took over RBTT not as the Royal Bank of Canada but as the RBC Royal Bank (Trinidad and Tobago). In Trinidad, when people are suffering or going through hard times, they complain of “ketching” or “catching” their “tails”, “nennen” or now, increasingly, “Royal”. “Tail” is easy to understand. “Nennen” in almost every Caribbean country refers to a grandmother, aunt or older woman and is derived from the word “nanny” as in “minder of children” rather than the “female goat” or any part of the anatomy of females. Since it is logical to assume that older ladies, nannies or “nennens” would be easier to catch than young, sprightly ones, it is difficult to understand how catching one’s “nennen” would signify hard times, except in some warped sexual sense.
The ability to “catch one’s Royal” is even more difficult to understand since low finances or very poor treatment by underlings are not normally consistent with royalty, certainly not the fabulously rich British royalty most familiar to us in the Caribbean. The phrase seems to be contradictory, somewhat like “police service” or, in my case “bank balance” with Meghan Markle the only exception to the rule and, perhaps, Camilla Parker-Bowles. However, it is strongly believed that there are mental illness issues in the British Royal Family and both ladies might have profited from them.
Unfortunately, for over 40 years, I have been a card-holder, I have not profited from any Royal, especially the Canadian branch. “If you don’t like we and you keep on writing bad things about we in the papers, why you don’t stop your account with we and go to another bank?” one of the bank’s Public Relations people asked me. A Bajan friend puts it differently, “You related to Queen Elizabeth or Prince Phillip? Maybe they should have named you Charles, William or even Harry.” Other people tell me to dump Royalty and go to commoner banks like First Citizens. I reply with my stock answer, “The first citizens in any Caribbean country are those who belong or provide financial support to the politicians in power. Everybody else is trash or treated like it.” I then add the truth from my perspective, “It is only as a member of RBC I can know, experience and write about the way the bank treats its customers or lies to them.”
It is like what happened to me last week. The bank for some reason unknown to us decided that we must change their debit cards for a Visa Debit card. What we got was the usual hype – “Make life easier”, “Extend your payment power around the world”, “More virtual purchasing power” but no real reason or choice. Just a notice that we had to get the Visa cards or else…
I got a call from the bank giving me a deadline and promising me that there was a special line to facilitate and speed-up the transaction. I am 76 years old, and was made to stand in the heat outside the bank for almost an hour and then to remain in a line inside the bank waiting for another 30 minutes. Clearly the bank lied about the speed of the exchange of cards. I really caught my Royal but, unlike Megan, or even Camilla, there was nothing in it for me except pain and health issues when I returned home after a forty-five-minute drive. I posted the issue on my Facebook page and almost all of the 188 comments included complaints about RBC. The many shares were for readers who wanted their unsuspecting friends to know how badly RBC treats its customers.
What was incredible was a call I got from a Bank PR person who apologized but then proceeded to blame me for the problem. I chuckled. Having gone to University in Canada, the one major thing I got from them was, ironically, a First-Class Honours Degree in Journalism which I am now using to tell my story about the Royal Bank of Canada. So, let me ask a few questions that I should have asked the PR person. “Why do politicians, RBC bankers and mafia bosses like to play golf?” (Because you can play that in handcuffs too). Or, “What did the RBC banker use for birth control?” (His personality). And, “What do you get when you cross an RBC banker and a fish?” (A loan shark). Now let me add one of my own, “Why don’t the RBC managers and big-shots answer their phones? They “R-B-C” making money at our expense.
There are some things from anybody, especially RBC, that I neither put up with nor shut up about. When I lived in Belize, around 2004, RBTT lost a huge amount of money in an arrangement with a crooked company that was already in serious trouble. I wrote about it in my two columns in the Trinidad Express – my Saturday column and one that was unique in the Caribbean named “Funny Business.” The PR person at the RBTT at the time threatened to remove all its ads in the Express unless the paper stopped my articles.
The Express boss told her where to put her ads. Then eight years ago, after waiting for a very long time for a new card which seemed to have been lost in, or out of transit, and making several complaints to the bank, an employee explained that she had been looking through the records for my name and there was no “Mr Diaz” anywhere. The only thing I could do was laugh and say, “RBTT, that is the only thing you’re good at – playing, or as we say in some Caribbean countries, “forming” Diaz.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen asking, “If a banker and a lawyer were both drowning and you could only save one, would you go to lunch or read the paper?”