Big Corporate Tops Small and Local

For more of my commentary on life in Richmond, Indiana check out RichmondMatters.com.
(Please note, because of the time that has passed since I wrote this article, it may no longer reflect my current views or the most accurate and complete information available on this subject.)

I'm usually very much in favor of using local vendors, service providers, etc. instead of big corporate versions whenever possible and reasonable. Current cultural trends make that a challenge. But I've recently had an experience where the branch of a big corporate bank impressed me much more than that of the local bank that I would usually like to celebrate on that basis alone.

It turns out that it's mostly about the people. If you start comparing pricing, interest rates, etc. it's often hard for local versions of a service/product to hold a candle to the big national version. (This is less true with banking, however, than it is with consumer product providers like Target/Wal-Mart versus local shops).

At the local bank, they're nice folks, and they do their job, but there's a lot of staff turnover, and it seems every time I go in they have to look up in a big binder of notes how to do the banking procedure I want them to perform. But, it's not really a bad experience, it's just a bland experience - wait in line, do your thang, leave. Nothing to complain about.

Then I walked down the block to the big national bank and as soon as I walked in I got a hello from a staff person who knows me. No standing in line, and the teller helping me not only answered my question but (gasp) offered some suggestions about how I could do what I wanted to do more efficiently. Then on the way out the door, another staff member pulled me aside to make sure I knew about a new service they were offering that she thought might help streamline things at my business.

It was a warm fuzzy experience (as much as one can have at a bank, let's not get carried away), but it made me appreciate that it's not always fair to determine the coolness of a vendor just because they're small and local. The people in the big bank live around here too, and their collective formation of a local branch is just as local as the "truly local" bank in most ways. One might wonder why the local bank has less success than the big one keeping good people around. Maybe the big bank is exploiting hungry children in some third-world country so they can afford to attract those folks more easily.

Ah yes, speculative black-and-white cynicism is so much more fun than acknowledging the complex and richly shaded grey areas of life.

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