Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

HELP! Mr. Potter Took Over My Bank

I recently received a letter from Keith Leibfried, CEO and President of First Federal Bank, headquartered in Lake City, a town about 95 miles west of here.

He wrote to  tell me that my current bank, CBC, has been acquired by his bank. He enclosed a booklet explaining the changes I could expect. In it he said that First Federal will offer me “more conveniences and a full range of products, services, seamless transitions, and that my debit card will remain the same….”. He also said I could look forward to seeing “the same local faces…..”

There’s a photo of Mr. Leibfried in the brochure. He’s a slim, nice looking fellow, sporting a toothy grin, a receding hairline, wearing rimless round glasses, dressed very executive-like in a dark suit, dark tie and crisp white shirt. In a nutshell he looks like a banker sent over from central casting. But from what I’ve experienced so far they might as well have sent over Henry F. Potter from Bedford Falls.

Keith, the same “local faces” weren’t there. With the exception of one teller I recognized, there were all new faces. The CBC employees I’m accustomed to dealing with apparently fled like silver fish when the kitchen light was flipped on. The only “local faces” I saw was one teller, who probably hasn’t finished updating her resume yet, and a local customer closing a CBC account to bank elsewhere. And the new faces I talked with were anything but friendly or helpful.

Secondly, Keith, your claim that I can keep my same debit card was flat out not true. It was like Barack Obama telling us we could keep our doctors or our current insurance policies. Shame on you Keith. My wife and I have pin-only debit cards issued by CBC that do NOT carry the VISA/MasterCard logo and we’ve been happily using them for almost 10 years. CBC offered  VISA/MasterCard debit cards but we didn’t want them, so they provided us with pin-only cards.

As you well know, Keith, banks collect more in fees for transactions that go through the MasterCard or Visa network than the Automated Clearing House network. Small percentages of pennies add up, right Keith? I know. I worked at one time as VP of Corporate Communications for National Data Corporation in Atlanta, which processed cards as part of its business.

Keith, here’s why we want a pin-only card. As you well know debit cards that carry the Visa/Master Card Logo can be used exactly like credit cards without the need of a pin code, meaning that if someone else gets your card, or even just your number, they can take money directly out of your bank account. I already have a credit card, and don’t want what national consumer activist Clark Howard calls a “fake VISA or MasterCard.” Most places rarely check IDs when purchases are made using a card. So, anybody can swipe any card when making a purchase and be relatively certain they won’t need to prove their identity to finish that purchase. How many times have you used your wife’s credit card or has she used yours? If you lose your pin-only card or somebody gets a hold of it, they can’t can do a thing with it but pick their teeth because they don’t have your pin number.

ATM-only/PIN-only cards are also safer because your bank account is far less likely to be charged because of fraud or error. And since your card must be swiped to have money deducted,  it can’t be used for phone or online payments. Plus, your PIN must be entered. This means you may not be able to use it everywhere you can use MasterCard or Visa. But if you have an American Express, MasterCard or VISA or some other credit card, so what? If your debit card number with a “fake VISA or MasterCard” is compromised online you only have a short period of time to catch it and report the fraud. Even then, it can take several weeks to recover the money and get it back into your account. If a bad guy depletes your bank account, checks you’ve written will bounce, so between getting calls from angry merchants with bad checks demanding payment and trying to get your money back, you’ve got one heck of a time consuming headache on your hands. In the meantime the bank is happily piling up bounced check charges while you’re struck trying to sort out this financial mayhem. Where’s the benefit for your customers Keith?

When I explained this to the two not very friendly faces I encountered during my stop at Keith’s new South 14th Street bank, I was met with  puzzled expressions and then a flat out: “Nope we can only issue a debit card with a VISA logo on it.” No exceptions I was told.

It gets worse. In the booklet that arrived with the letter there were lists of the various types of checking and savings accounts the new bank will provide.

Linda and I have a number of accounts at CBC and  none of them have fees. According to the brochure Keith’s bank will attach fees to all of them unless we leave thousands of idle dollars sitting in them. By our calculations that means monthly fees that we never incurred with CBC. No thanks Keith.

Hypothetically, if Keith had taken over a local restaurant here and a regular customer came in and ordered a burger, he’d be served a bologna sandwich by a surly waitress, told to shut up and eat it, then charged above what the menu said, being told that the old joint’s prices don’t apply anymore. Then the cashier would inflate the tip on his credit card bill.

The brochure says that all of my accounts will be converted over to First Federal the weekend of August 24, so I have just three weeks to get the heck out of there and find a new bank where I won’t be served a load of  financial bologna by folks like Keith and his new gang. Through the process of elimination I already know it won’t be Wells Fargo or Bank of America, but a smaller local institution that can offer me the same or similar services we valued so much at CBC. At one bank where I inquired I ran into three former local CBC employees that used to politely and courteously handle banking matters for me before Keith and his gang showed up there. That bank is in the running so far.

But back to Kith Leibfried. His name says “banker.” Growing up he probably read the financial pages instead of the sports section, knowing that baseball or any other sport just wasn’t in the cards for him. Baseball names are ones like current Atlanta Braves catcher Tyler Flowers, Oakland outfielder Coco Crisp, former Reds outfielder Chili Davis, and Giants catcher Buster Posey. There’s no thrill when the announcer says: “Now pitching for the Boston Red Sox, Keith Leibfried.” Nope, ole Keith was destined for banking, accounting, or podiatry.

Hang on Keith, I have an idea that instead of driving customers away will help you retain them and attract new ones. Grab a pencil and paper Keith and write this down: Beer, baseball and bimbos! Got it?

Here’s what you do. Whenever an account is opened the new customer gets a six-bottle bucket of ice cold beer and joins others in the lobby to watch a game on one of the  multiple TVs. And forget those “banker’s hours” as you’ll now be open at night and weekends. But you don’t have to open the doors until noon. Free peanuts and bank beer on tap will be available at a special price for those with multiple accounts and there’ll be a VIP room for the big money guys, complete with scantily-clad buxom waitresses wearing shot glass bandoliers and pouring tequila shooters. You’ll have lines of folks –albeit it mostly guys — waiting to stuff your bank and the waitresses’ garters full of cash, Keith. You can bank on it.

In the meantime if anyone out there has any ideas or knows the whereabouts of George Bailey, and the Bailey Building & Loan contact me at because I need somebody to ring a bell and get me a pin-only debit card and a new bank. But hurry, I’m about ready to jump off Shave Bridge and  Clarence Odbody is nowhere in sight.


Did Somebody Say The Customer Is Always Wrong? Once again my Tampa Plant High School classmate, pal, and current “American Spectator” writer, Larry Thornberry, penned a piece he sent to friends recently that I  couldn’t agree with more nor have said better, but it did inspire me to add some of my own observations.

“Spectator sports used to be an affordable pleasure all could participate in,” says Larry. “But the current economics of sports are insane. Even at the humble Tampa Bay Tropicana, seats close enough to the action for those attending, even to be able to read names on uniform backs cost $50 or more. Parking is $10 to $20. Beer $8 or $9, with hot dogs in the same ball park, so to speak. So attending a game with the kids is more of an investment than a purchase.”

I love the game but, like me, Larry only goes when he can snag freebie corporate tickets, or hitch on with someone who has season tickets and no one to attend with him that night, making us “designated companions.”

I stopped paying to attend major league games in 1994, following the baseball players strike that cancelled the World Series for the first time in 90 years, but like Larry, I’ll attend when somebody else picks up the tab.

Braves pitcher and then team union representative Tom Glavine sent me over the top during the strike in 1994 when he responded to angry fans by saying; “The fans don’t get it.” No! Tom Glavine didn’t get it, and he and other millionaire players stuck it to the fans. I found it hard to dredge up sympathy for twentysomethings averaging $1.2 million annually to play a game. That same year Braves pitcher Greg Maddux said he didn’t know what his All Star Team bonus was: “It’s $50,000 or $100,000.” And then there was Darryl Strawberry, a player who admitted he didn’t work at all in 1993 because he was either too drunk or on drugs, and was paid almost $5 million by the Dodgers to just go away.

How many fans in the seats don’t know how much they make to the penny. How many of those folks would get paid if they showed  up drunk or on drugs?

Larry recalls that he had a close friend who lived in southern New Hampshire back in the Reagan days when Larry worked on Capitol Hill. He visited him in the summer with a Red Sox game always in the mix. “We’d nip down to Fenway where we bought very satisfactory seats about 20 or so rows from the field for $8.50,” says Larry. “The same seats now will set a ‘Sawks’ fan somewhere in the low three figures. The $2 beer of the early eighties is now $9 to $11. And you have to slip some shifty looking guy $40 to park in an unsecure lot within walking distance of Fenway and hope that the tires are still there by the 7th inning stretch.”

According to Larry the prices also change the makeup of the folks in the stands. “Back in the day,” he says, “if a cab driver or machinist or welder ‘Sawks’ fan wanted to take in a dozen games a year at Fenway they could do it. Now they can’t afford to go once. I remember pulling for Yaz and the boys back in the eighties. When Carl would strike out or pop up the guy behind me might yell, in that distinctive Boston accent, ‘Yastrzemski, ya banjo playuh!!’ Just a guess, but I’d say that during those days that guy was probably not a hedge fund manager. That fellow has been priced out of the park. Too bad. I liked him better than the lawyer or corporate drone who’s now sitting in that seat.”

Larry adds that it’s not free to watch your favorites at home on the tube. “A large part of your expensive cable package are the pricy sports channels. Add in-your-face political gestures from wealthy but ignorant athletes and it’s a wonder the crowds keep showing up at all. There has to be a point at which they no longer will. How many hedge fund managers can there be?”

And now that tax reform says corporations can no longer deduct those luxury boxes and behind-home-plate seats, Larry and I may lose any future chance to see another major league game. But team owners might start feeling the pinch, and start reducing those outrageous player salaries that jacked ticket prices up so high in the first place. And aren’t the local fans who are getting screwed tired of buying stadiums for these bozos?


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: After only 18 months 801 Beech Street Bar & Grill closed its doors Monday, July 23 but owner Ernie Saltmarsh doesn’t expect it to be shuttered for long. Ernie, who also owns the Green Turtle, The Florida House, and Down Under, and lots of Jacksonville real estate, isn’t used to having underperforming businesses in his portfolio and is actively seeking tenants to fill the space of this beautifully remodeled 19th Century Victorian bar, restaurant and kitchen. Got an idea, some spare cash or know someone who does, then contact Ernie at Ernie also told me that his South 3rd Street Green Turtle is now serving wings cooked by popular island chef, Joe Bain and they are so popular that the first evening they were all gone by 8:45. This coming football season the Turtle will be offering barbeque brisket and wings so expect big crowds. Mullet start running in September so where’s the smoked mullet venue? Pal Pajamadave Voorhees and his fiancé Zan Maddox, who run the wildly popular downtown PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden at 12 South 2nd Street have come up with a novel concept called The Listening Room which was given a trial run last Monday, July 30. Talented local musician and song writer Sean McCarthy sang and told the stories behind his songs to an invitation-only audience of 24 people in a special room upstairs from PJD’s while they politely sipped their beverages. The intimate acoustic only environment was a fun way to spend a relaxing couple of hours and be thoroughly entertained. Dave and Zan are planning on having other local musicians who do more than cover material to join in including folks like Woody Mullis, Davis Turner, etc. for a small cover. Stay tuned for more details. I ran across a friend at Publix a few days ago who told me an amusing story about his experience at a local eatery that has been getting hammered on social media recently. He said he and a pal ordered lunch and after 40 minutes of not even a glass of water called over a manager who told them, it would be another few minutes. After almost an hour, their sandwich orders arrived. The pair asked their waiter if he could provide condiments. He brought mustard and ketchup and mayonnaise. They then asked for “salt and pepper.” The server said “OK,” then disappeared for a few more minutes before returning to produce a beverage saying: “Here’s your Dr. Pepper.” They left vowing never to return. I’m not naming the place because it would be piling on and it’s hearsay, but since I know the folks well, and had a bad experience there myself, I believe it.

  • Comment (18)
  • I’ll take a stab at naming the mystery restaurant – Bright Mornings Cafe. Totally clueless servers.

  • BBVA Compass has served me well and has great branch personnel as well as no fees for checking or cashiers checks. And their mobile app is fantastic.

  • Dave – did you mean Davis Turner?
    Great rant this week my Grumpy friend – bit hard on the poor hard working bank executive, just trying to do his job without any obvious support/advice from an experienced proven PR specialist.
    Being a kickball fan, I failed to understand much of the “rounders” terminology but agree with all your financial observations!
    Hope the coming week is better for you. ????

  • Dave, I too am watching for new bank suggestions. Had a bad experience at CBC recently that made me wonder what’s going on there. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Dave:

    You need to focus a little when dealing with CBC/First Federal. For loans it’s still Dan Powell and for account service it’s Emiko and Avis. Community banking doesn’t get better than those folks. I’m hoping they get Mr. Leibfried trained in short order. Might want to take your time in moving to Pinebox Bank.

  • Vystar Credit Union gets my vote. Everywhere I’ve lived for the past 40 years I’ve managed to find a credit union to park my money. They tend to be extremely customer-oriented. By definition credit unions are usually local businesses although, in recent years, many are now regional businesses. They are non-profit and “owned” by the members (depositors), not the corporate big-wigs. Because they don’t make a profit, loan rates tend to be lower than regular banks and interest rates tend to be higher. No fee checking? How about no fees plus interest? I don’t know if they offer a pin-only debit card. That may be a dying breed.

    • And – if you can’t find a no-pin debit card, make sure the card has an embedded EMV chip like your credit card. Not all debit cards have them yet. The EMV chip is not perfect, but it does add an extra level of security.

  • Couldn’t agree more about the price of attending a ball game. Of the cities listed above, I would also point out the cost of living in those cities is so high- everything costs more! Miami ought to be giving beer away tho to put butts in the seats! We visited to see the Braves and bought seats in upper deck- they were covered in dust and not a single concession stand opened for an afternoon game on a Saturday. BTW, Maddux is spelled with a “U” (I should know!)

  • If the unnamed eatery was Bright Mornings Cafe, I have to agree. Terrible service, clueless servers and the worst food I have in the city. I won’t ever go back. I don’t know how they stay in business.

  • Hi Dave! Great blog as usual! See Jennifer Cushman at the BBVA/Compass next to Harris Teeter. I just moved my accounts there from CBC/First Federal. No beer in the lobby that I could see, though. You might suggest PJD add a bank to his establishment.

  • I agree costs for games are ridiculous, as are player salaries. The fact is, however, that people keep showing up. Even though attendance is slightly down (6.5%—in part due to the bad weather this spring), corporate sales and passionate fans continue to buoy the sport. I’ve heard over-and-over for several years now that the prices will keep fans away. Not happening, particularly if you’re team is winning. That, actually, has a lot more to do with attendance than prices. People will pay for a quality product, be it with films, concerts, amusement parks etc.

  • I agree costs for games are ridiculous, as are player salaries. The fact is, however, that people keep showing up. Even though attendance is slightly down (6.5%—in part due to the bad weather this spring), corporate sales and passionate fans continue to buoy the sport. I’ve heard over-and-over for several years now that the prices will keep fans away. Not happening, particularly if you’re team is winning. That, actually, has a lot more to do with attendance than prices. People will pay for a quality product, be it with films, concerts, amusement parks etc.

  • H Dave,

    I enjoyed your blog as usual.

    As far as banks go, I won’t brag or poor mouth about how much money I do or don’t have but drawing less interest than the cost of the stamp to send me my savings account statement does seems ridiculous.

    One advantage to living in Albuquerque is we only have a AAA team instead of a major league one. Tickets are cheaper, parking is cheaper and so are peanuts, Crackerjacks and beer. The players seem to play harder as they are trying to get from AAA to the show. And on top of all that we probably have the best stadium in the country.

  • Dave, good luck getting a non-branded PIN-debit card as they certainly are a dying breed. While the Visa/MC branded cards do generate additional fee revenue for the financial institutions, they do provide the benefit of being able to be used at almost any merchant; whereas only about one-third of retail merchants can process PIN-based transactions. (BTW, PIN-debit cards are not processed through the ACH system but through one of the debit networks as the merchant is then guaranteed their money while ACH transactions have no such guarantee). Almost 74 billion branded debit card transactions performed in the U.S. in 2015 so evidently a lot of people find them highly convenient. Clark Howard and I have had a couple of conversations over the years about his “fake Visa/MC” statement and while he is right that a debit card transaction directly impacts the cardholder’s money, there are some significant consumer protection regulations in place. Fraud on debit cards on a relative basis is less than on credit cards and, yes, PIN-based transaction fraud is less than non-PIN fraud. All being said, the chances of fraud happening through a branded debit card is less than one-half of one percent. Yes, a real PITA if it ever happens whether a credit card, debit card, check or ACH fraud in having to complete affidavits, etc.
    A significant part of the population doesn’t want to use a credit card for everyday transactions, either because they can’t qualify for a credit card or have concerns about running up a balance and not being able to pay it off, so a debit card is a good choice.


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