Picture the scene: it's a rainy Tuesday morning in the high street and you have a long list of things to do, the first of which involves a trip to the bank.
Fate, however, has other plans. The bank doors are firmly shut, the night safe sealed and the windows blanked out inside. Taped to the door is a single sheet of paper with a printed message: the bank will be closed for refurbishment for the next four weeks.
You are, it helpfully adds, welcome to visit any of the branches in the neighbouring towns, a mere 20 miles or so away. Judging by the expressions of the half-dozen or so customers reading the notice, this is a rather less than satisfactory arrangement.
A quick straw poll makes it clear that none of these customers - some of whom make weekly visits to the bank - has been notified by letter, text or telephone call that a month-long closure was imminent and neither was there any public indication in the branch itself.
Instead, the bank staff took advantage of the bank holiday weekend to 'fold their tents, like the Arabs, and quietly steal away', leaving behind one functioning cash machine and a great deal of resentment.
A clue to the motive behind this moonlight flit may be found in the notice on the door, which recommends using the bank's online service instead. Though I doubt that they contrived the closure expressly to force their customers to adopt it, the way online banking has been pushed recently by cashiers and other staff suggests that the management saw this as a golden opportunity to increase the take-up rates.
This is, perhaps, the beginning of the end for those who cannot or will not embrace the new technology and commit their savings to the dubious security of cyberspace. Banks already offer favourable interest rates and extra benefits to online customers in a clear bid to hasten the day when they can dispense with an expensive and inconvenient real life presence on the high street for good.
The same phenomenon is creeping into other spheres; businesses and the public sector increasingly offer discounts for online bill payment or official registration - occasionally followed by notification that their database has been hacked and 'it is essential that you change all your passwords immediately' - in a bid to maximise their profits and efficiency by removing any semblance of human interaction with their 'valued' customers.
"We are" said the Tavern's resident Wise Woman recently, "being farmed - it's the only word for it."
Sadly, I have to agree.
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