When Chase Bank merged with WaMu (Washington Mutual) here in California, one immediate change was startling. During previous Christmas seasons at the La Habra Branch, the bank's interior had been bustling with colorful decorations and a festive mood. While the changeover was commencing, only poinsettias were allowed. Nothing was permitted the following year.
When I visited a Long Beach Chase branch yesterday, the surrounding neighborhood was festooned with lights, garland, and iconic symbols. I had just finished singing Christmas hits with a 24/7 radio station in my car.
Inside, I was greeted by engaging employees. The newly remodeled branch was elegant and streamlined, obviously with the intent that nothing but business would interface with its appearance. They chose not to install an audio system, so any type of music was impossible.
It was clear to me that the powers that be had made no provision for Christmas. On an impulse, I pulled out my iPhone and navigated to the 711 Christmas songs in my iTunes app. Within moments, Andy Williams was singing It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. The handsome young man helping me grinned broadly. A female employee, her eyes twinkling, peeked over the top of the cubicle and announced, "I love Christmas music!" Other staff members nodded approval and customers responded warmly as I exited the bank.
What is the corporate world afraid of? If yesterday is any indication of how a little celebration can produce a cheerful atmosphere in a banking institution, then I would think business could only benefit from it. Certainly, the staff was exemplary. Nevertheless, the stark contrast between a world in the throes of Christmas frolic and a sanitized bank is not easy to ignore.