Following The Pack - Drive-through Banking
June 24, 2015

Growing up in Australia, I never once encounted a bank with drive-through service.

We had banks with parking in front;

A suburban bank branch in Prospect, South Australia with parking in front.

We had urban banks;

A bank branch along the main street of the town of Gawler, South Australia.

We had banks inside malls;

A bank branch inside of a shopping centre in Noarlunga, South Australia.

..but I have never once seen a bank with a drive-through in Australia, and life went on as conveniently as ever. Nobody complained. That is why it surprises me how virtually every single bank I have seen in America has a drive-through.

A typical suburban bank branch with a drive-through in Conway, Arkansas.

Banks even have drive-throughs in places where no other business would be allowed;

A bank branch downtown that has retrofitted a historical building with a drive-through in Conway, Arkansas.

A new bank branch in a new urban development in Conway, Arkansas. I know the developer and I highly doubt he would have given any other type of business this special treatment.

I am trying to appreciate the little things in life; to take pleasure in my everyday activities than to rush through them. If I am visiting a business I like to go inside and enjoy the change of scenery. I certainly do not want to be sitting in my car at the bank with my window down for 10 minutes - letting the Arkansas heat or cold in - while they process my money order. Life is too short for that misery. I would rather just walk into an airconditioned building and sit on their comfortable sofas while I wait. The positive thing about going into an American bank is that everyone else takes the drive-through, so I have never had to queue!

There is no good reason why a bank really needs a drive-through - especially in an urban setting like downtown Conway. If you wanted drive-through banking - why would you drive downtown to do so, and not visit a suburban branch? I guess most people would choose their bank over their interest rates, account features, and branch locations rather than if it had a drive-through or not. Or, at least I did. I feel that the only reason American banks insist of having a drive-through is because that is just what banks do here.

Australia is just as much of a car-commuting, single-family-home-owning country, and our banks do alright. Do not let a bank, or any business for that matter bully you into thinking they need a drive-through. If you have a vision of a great place - go ahead and just build it.


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Paul Fritz • 07.14.2015 • 15:33 PM (MDT)
I also don't understand drive-through banks, or drive-through anything really. They seem to be proliferating. You never know what kind of drive-through you will see next. I agree with Andrew in that I would much rather go into a bank and interact face-to-face with a real human being. I even prefer interacting with a human being in a bank over an ATM. This probably puts me in a minority. It is also generally a smaller line if you actually go into a place. I think you probably get served faster if you are willing to get out of your car. I'm concerned about how the drive-through mentality is creeping into more business types. Like pharmacies. A new development has been proposed in our downtown consisting of a CVS and a bank. Hugely controversial for a variety of reasons, one of which was the drive-throughs. The developer insisted the drive-throughs were required. After a long process (and a couple of lawsuits) the project is supposedly moving forward, but without the pharmacy drive-through or a drive-through ATM. Small victory on a pretty dismal project. The site is ironically across the street from a bank drive-through which I can't for the life of me understand why it was ever approved. Thankfully, after the CVS debacle I believe the city council has passed an ordinance prohibiting future drive-throughs of any sort.
Thomas • 07.05.2015 • 20:06 PM (MDT)
I'm going to wildly speculate here as to why there is such an abomination as drive-thru banking in the States (they also have them in my southern city). 1) Americans are fat. I am not being flippant here. Objectively speaking, Americans are wildly overweight, monstrously so in many many areas of the country. What you see on the street with your own eyes is even an optimistic sample of what's lurking behind closed doors or perched in the driver's seat whizzing by. Again, I'm not being crass for the sake of it. If you've ever worked in a profession that brings you inside people's homes, or do the Craigslist hussle with any sort of regularity, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Anyways, not having to heave yourself out of your car, waddle inside, wait inline on your own two feet, drag yourself back to the car, just to get a check cashed, is a big comfort. It is also kind of a chicken or the egg thing, but that's not this discussion. 2) The playbook of American public life is intensely unappealing to the grumpy, the introverts or the misanthropes. Compared to many other countries, doing your errands in the USA is a big performance, requiring smalltalk and pleasantries, a big smile, a confident gait. This is totally fine for most people, but exhausting for those who do not gell with this attitude. In europe for example, nobody will bat an eye, if you have a piss poor attitude when making a deposit, hell, the teller him or herself may have a piss poor attitude. In America, you're a freaking weirdo or an asshole, if you don't go along with the "how are you doing, have a great afternoon, is Timmy still playing the clarinet,..." smalltalk. Especially, in smaller towns and cities, especially in the South where it's a badge of honor that everybody is just so NICE. So here too, the ability to not have to interact with people is a comfort for those people who don't like that. These poor souls exist all over the world, but because America is so relentlessly smiley-happy, it is just extra draining and miserable. Best to avoid it, by just going thru the drive-thru. 3) Americans are steeped in the cult of "keeping it real", everybody is equal, everything is jsut as worthwhile as anything else. Let me try and explain. A drive thru bank is kind of offensive, but why? You probably don't feel the same about drive-thru fast food. It's like, it's not proper; a bank, with a drive-tru? EWW, GROSS! It's because in many cultures, there is a certain hierarchy to social activities, to running errands, and it reflects in the way you conduct them. In most countries, it's OK to go grab a hamburger in your flip flops and pig out in the front seat of your car in the parking lot. But a bank is a step up; it's an institution which save-guards your hard earner money. People working there are educated and not pimply teenagers, if you live in a place long enough, you will grow older together with them. With some of them, you have shared your financial goals, discussed your future. You probably will at least wear pants without a rubber band when doing business there. And the ladder goes higher; should you ever go to an attorney's or accountants office, you may even ditch your sneakers and wear a suit. And should you ever meet with a congressman, you probably are going to wear a tie. None of that in America, everything is the same, and everything gets as much esteem as anything else. A hamburger joint has a drive-thru, well, why wouldn't a bank have one? It's just another place to get some shit done. 4) Americans have a total disregard for the built environment, etcetera, etcetera, ... this is what this blog is about. 5) in many cases, it IS a time savings, perhaps a small one, but still a real one. Many of us are strapped for time.In the majority of the country, you will be driving for your errands, and they will be in different strip malls. and it takes a long time. especially with traffic, it can be a crapshoot of how long it will take to do groceries, pickup a cashier's check, drop off Timmy at clarinet practice and so forth. (and fuck, if I get out the car, than Timmy has to come with me, lest I get thrown in jail for leaving a kid in the car for 10 mintues, and hes playing his videogame now, and he's going to throw a tantrum if I drag him out of the car,...). Plus, you need to answer some emails, text with your spouse to arrange whos going to make dinner, and so forth. Might as well do that while queing through the bank drive-thru. American daily life is thoroughly unpleasant describing it like that, but it is reality. Hence, we end up with drive-thru everthing. And online window shopping. So, I think, because of all this, we ended up with drive-thru banks. It's totally unsophisticated, ugly in many senses of the word, but that's how it is. Best roll with it buddy!