News Column

Cash flow problems

January 18, 2014

B COMBER

Bankers have been under a bit of a cloud since almost causing the downfall of civilisation a few years ago, but we have been constantly assured since then that they have repented their evil ways and cleaned up their act. As I have discovered, however, nothing could be further from the truth, as was revealed by a detailed examination of my most recent bank statement. Some weeks ago, I noticed a sign, printed in large and enticing letters above a bank's cash dispenser, offering "Free Cash Withdrawals". Always ready to take advantage of a bargain, I slipped my bank card into the slot and withdrew a small amount of cash. I would have taken more but had no immediate need for the money and thought I should leave some for others whose financial plight might well be worse than mine. On checking my bank statement some weeks later, however, I found that an amount equal to the sum I had withdrawn had been deducted from my account. I wrote immediately to the bank to inform it of the error. "Dear sir, madam or any combination of the two, I recently took advantage of a 'free cash withdrawal' offer at a branch of your bank and am now shocked to see that the amount has been deducted from my account. Please correct this forthwith, adding any interest due for the period during which the sum was absent." I signed it 'Comber' and awaited signs that the appropriate remedial action had been taken. Some days later, however, I received a letter from the bank explaining, rather tersely I thought, that the word 'free' in the context of the notice to which I referred, referred not to the cash but to the withdrawal. "The money," it said, "has correctly been deducted from the balance, but you have not been charged for making the withdrawal. I trust this explains the matter satisfactorily." I replied at once: "Your alleged 'explanation' is not satisfactory at all. The word 'free' is an adjective and adjectives are employed, ceteris paribus, to describe or qualify the noun immediately following them. You imply that 'free' applies not to 'cash' but to 'withdrawal'. If that were the intention, I respectfully submit that your sign should have read: 'Cash: Free Withdrawals'. Had that been the case, I would have had no complaint, but it said "Free Cash Withdrawals", which I thought at the time, and still think, entitles me to believe that it is the cash that is free, not the withdrawal. Once again, I demand a refund of my hard-earned money." The bank wrote back again: "We regret we are unable to take the action you request. In the phrase 'Free Cash Withdrawal', the last two words constitute a compound noun. It is the cash withdrawal that is free, not the cash itself." "In that case," I replied, "Your sign should at the very least have included brackets around the phrase 'Cash Withdrawal', though even then some ambiguity would remain." They have not heard the last of this matter.


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Source: Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)


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