Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thumbprint ID Policy Great: For People With Thumbs

"No Thumbprint, No Check-Cashing, Bank Told Armless Man"
FOXNews (September 2, 2009)

"A Florida man born without arms says a Tampa bank would not let him cash a check because he couldn't provide a thumbprint.

"It was supposed to be a quick stop at the Bank of America...."

"...Valdez said he was cashing a check from his wife, who has an account at Bank of America. But the teller told Valdez she needed a thumbprint in order to cash it — it was company policy.

"It's not that Valdez didn't want to provide it. He couldn't provide it, and the teller even acknowledged it...."

Reasonable enough, so far. Tellers have to follow policy as written. They don't, as a rule, have that much discretionary power. The teller checked with the supervisor. The supervisor confirmed that there was zero tolerance for people who didn't provide thumbprints.

Mr. Valdez was given two options.

"...'One is, you can bring your wife with you. And the other one, you can open up an account with us. And I said, no, I don't think so,' Valdez added.

"Valdez said he reminded bank officials the American for Disabilities Act would have a problem with their unfair treatment, but that didn't seem to bother them...."

Hey, this is the Bank of America: apparently federal regulations are for the little companies. Besides, Mr. Valdez looks funny: he was born without arms, and uses prosthetics. Which don't have thumbprints.

Eventually, Mr. Valdez got an apology from a regional supervisor with Bank of America. Which was, I thought, awfully nice of the bank.

I see at least two solutions that might prevent this sort of Dilbertesque cluelessness from happening again in America:
  • (Traditional approach)
    • Require all prosthetics with hands to have unique print patterns on
      • Fingers
      • Thumb
      • Palm
    • Establish a Federal Agency to Make sure
      • The prints really were unique
      • Anything else wanted by
        • Legislators
        • Agency officials
        • Federal judges
  • (Daring approach)
    • Let bank officials decide that they don't want to alienate customers
I'll admit that both solutions involve risk: but I like to think that the hapless, hopeless company that Dilbert works for isn't typical, here in the real world.

On the other hand: It took a regional manager to realize that a man with no hands - or arms - couldn't possibly provide a thumbprint?! Valid identification, sure: but that one type?!

To be fair, I suppose Bank of America may be one of those outfits with rigid rules, run by control freaks and bean counters.

In a situation like that, in today's job market, I can imagine a local manager being much more concerned about making sure that every rule, no matter how daft, was obeyed precisely; and less about not making the company look like it was run by control freaks and bean counters.

Just the same: This was a lot of fuss over an obviously 'armless chap.


Unknown said...

I imagine the branch employees were in a tough position, knowing that the written policy forbade making exceptions, but you would think that the manager would have wielded enough power to make a judgment call. Isn't that what they're for?

Brian H. Gill said...


Agreed. One of the many things do, to earn the bigger bucks, is make judgment calls.

I don't know what the corporate culture is like in that company: I've been in places where the written rules and the rules-as-enforced correspond only occasionally.

Or, the manager may have been new on the job, or one of those people who don't see the 'big picture' as well as they do written rules, or something else.

But, yeah: as described, the manager doesn't come off looking all that splendid.

(Sorry 'bout the delay - September was a hectic month for me.)

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