A trip to the market


I popped out at lunchtime because I had, as the Scots say, a few 'messages' to get. First port of call was the dry cleaner to collect my suit. The customer before me was just leaving, so it took no more than thirty seconds.

Next was the fruit stall on the market. There were a few people waiting (it's always busy and lunchtime) but there were three people serving and it cannot have taken more than a minute for me to get served, load up, and pay.

Then I went to the local mini-supermarket to buy crackers and milk. There must have been about ten people in the queue waiting to check out, but then there were about seven people serving, so I grabbed the goods and again I was out of the door within a minute.

On a roll now, I went to the bank to pay in in cheque. There was a long queue, as there always is at lunchtime. And there were only two cashiers on duty. After five minutes with very little movement, I gave up and left.

Why can the smallest fruit-seller or dry cleaner serve lunchtime customers in less than a minute but a huge high-street bank can't? The answer is that there isn't enough competition in retail banking. Customers find them much of a muchness. There's no point in me switching my account to another because the lunchtime queues there will be just as long. And why isn't there enough competition? Because, over the years, banks have merged to become bigger and bigger. Meaning that they are fewer and fewer.

And why have they done that? Because the cost of regulation is so enormous that you have to be big to afford all the compliance officers you need to tick all the regulatory boxes.

So that's it. Don't blame the market for bad service. Blame the regulators who try to 'improve' the market and end up strangling it.