The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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By Forrest Hershberger
View from the Handlebars 

Values Where They Count


August 3, 2022 | View PDF

Over time I’ve heard people criticize different restaurants on their first day out. The food wasn’t right. The delivery was slow. The lights were too soft. We’re all good at fifth-quarter criticism.

The media is good at that. For as humbling as it is, being human means mistakes happen. We owe it to the restaurant, retailer, or media office, the chance to correct mistakes. That chance isn’t always available when the supplier of those services are removed from the discussion table.

Small towns and small town services have an advantage the big lights can’t offer. There are deals and contracts made at a lunch counter, or favorite watering hole, and formalized with paperwork. There are safeguards in place because of relationships. The person at the counter has the luxury of momentary credit for the coffee drinker who left the house without his wallet… because he is recognized. He is considered safe and reliable with the “I know where to find you” and a familiar smile.

I’ve said newspapers, community newspapers, have their own accountability because we live next door to our readers. We see you in the cafes, the grocery stores, the banks.

The same can be said from the other side of the counter. Suspicious activity in a bank for example is earlier to identify when the teller understands typical behavior from his or her customers. Mrs. Smith draws $20 from her account every Wednesday for Thursday morning coffee. Mr. Jones prefers to make deposits in person because he likes talking to the person he puts in charge of his money. Interestingly, that habit is what kept him from being a victim.

He was drawn into one of the most common cons in recent history. A down-on-his-luck young man pleaded for some help, stating his case like an experienced attorney. Mr. Jones, seeing him as someone who referred to him as “Uncle John” reluctantly agreed. The transaction was stopped because of bank protocol, and suspicion by the staff.

This really did occur to someone I know, at a nearby institution I still use. The staff have a history with “Mr. Jones,” from his smile to his tall tales, even his limp in his left leg. What they are not accustomed to is a youngish man and woman walking in with him, a couple who do not fit the type of people he associates with. The observation of the tellers quite likely saved my Mr. Jones from a lot of heartache, and financial troubles. The couple’s intent was to deposit an inheritance in his account and take “some” money out.

It’s accounts like this that defines the values of small towns. A bank customer can walk in and ask for a specific person instead of calling an 1-800 from a website.

They can talk to the person at the desk about the kids’ baseball games, review last night’s concert, while waiting on the paperwork, and look the bank officer in the eyes while doing so. Without Mr. Jones having a personal history in his bank, the Mr and Mrs. “Ruff and Tumbl” wouldn’t have raised any attention.

It is an advantage in doing business transactions across the counter, in the town you live.


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