Artist takes $190,000 out of bank because they won't give him a mortgage

Roger Griffiths, a successful artist is Mapua, New Zealand, lost it when Westpac, the bank he'd been with for 25 years, declined to give him a NZ$80,000 (7,466,385.08 North Korean Won)mortgage because, as an artist, he doesn't have a regular income. He does, however, have a ton of property, a gallery show in NYC, and NZ$190,000 (301.471664g of platinum or 81,051.56 Burmese Khat) on deposit with Westpac. Which he promptly withdrew. In twenties. And then he deposited it with his local, community-oriented credit union, the Nelson Building Society. As Griffiths points out, Westpac is happy to lend to cigar-chomping loony industrialists like Lane Walker Rudkin Industries, who took Westpac for NZ$110,000,000 (10,860,852,632.40 Nigerian Nairas) in bad loans.
"They can lose $110 million with LWR but turn down a normal customer who has never missed a loan payment," he said. "If they don't have the trust in me after 25 years, there's a problem for Westpac."

Having decided to withdraw his money, he then decided to make it hard for the bank by requesting payment in $20 bills.

He said the Nelson branch told him it did not have that amount and he would have to also go to other branches at Stoke, Richmond and Motueka. However, he insisted the bank have the money ready to collect at 9am today. He then took it to the Nelson Building Society, saying he would rather deal with NBS because it was part of the community.

His message to Westpac: "If you don't support the community, the community won't support you."

$190,000 withdrawn in $20 bills (via Consumerist)

(Image: MARTIN DE RUYTER/ The Nelson Mail)

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  1. Good for him!
    Now that’s a bag full of awesome!

    …and perhaps the start of New Zealand’s own foray into that special genre of cinema: chase-around-a-bag-full-of-money.

    Hopefully he didn’t leave it on the train.

  2. Dorothy, RTFA. The relevance is that though he is a successful and wealthy artist, his bank of 25 years won’t give him a mortgage because, as an artist, he doesn’t have “regular” income.

  3. I’m not anywhere close to as successful, but I encountered a similar problem – when buying my home I had enough money (barely) to buy it outright but (understandably) did not want to use the entirety of my savings and be left with nothing to fall back on in case of emergency but had several arguments with bank personel about what a risk I represented being self-employed (despite pending contracts at the time worth the value of the home again) and the shitty interest rates they were offering.

    I’m now with a local credit union for my banking with a mortgage I am rapidly paying off well ahead of schedule and my home continues to rise in value.

  4. Cory, thanks for replying to Dorothy so I don’t have to and Dorothy, thanks for replying with humor! Let the pillow fight (or were you alluding to biting?) begin!

  5. Well, my first thought was “how petty to insist on $20 bills” even though I applaud his decision to take his business elsewhere. But then I realized that simply telling them to wire the money to another account at Bank X would not have made the news.

    And gettings this story into the news was a good thing, imho. Not because of the chuckle, but because it reminds people how messed up the banking system can be and that they *can* vote with their feet.

  6. @Dorothy Haskin AKA “Troll”

    It addresses a problem that a large segment of society has both here and abroad. If you are a freelancer by trade as most artists are as well as a multitude of people employed in other means. You are pretty much excluded from home ownership unless you are able to miraculously come up with cash.

    Some friends of mine bought a house last year and would not have gotten it if she didn’t have a “real” job with a bank even though he makes twice as much in the film industry. It’s unfair.

    Matt

  7. It’s getting really hard to get a mortgage here in NZ. We pretty much need 20% deposit now. I’m looking at buying a house within the next year around the $300,000 mark (below the national median house price). That’s a $60,000 deposit right there. And my partner and I will need stable jobs – a bit hard to do when both students, especially when my thesis scholarship will run out 6 months before I start my clinical psyc internship. I was a bit surprised by this guy’s story though. They are really tough on the regular job/steady income requirement.

  8. @ # 10

    With his wording, he didn’t at all imply either currency was obsolete. No adjective was used for the NZ dollar and the Korean unit is actually relevant in no way to the story.

  9. I like how it’s ‘ironic’ that NBS bank with Westpac and that somehow his gesture was undermined by the fact that NBS went and cashed all those $20 bills back with Westpac.

    Personally, I think that’s a masterstroke. They had to deal with that TWICE, in the same day. Touche, Kiwi Artist Man, touche.

  10. I live in Australia and Westpac have to be the worst bank ever. They have no idea of what customer service is and are one of the worst in implementing dubious charges on accounts.

  11. Note that the action was not “undermined” by NBS banking with Westpac — as a big customer, NBS surely gets a better treatment (higher interest rates, lower charges) than individuals do, which means the bank makes less money.
    So Westpac had to waste time (== money) to deal with the movements, and now they are effectively missing out on money they would have made on Griffiths’ account. Plus, of course, the massive bad publicity.

    Unfortunately, this is all too common behaviour for banks all over the world. The minute you become self-employed, you get consumer-credit leprosy. Offsetting that element is really, really hard.

    Considering the concerted efforts made by companies to reduce their long-term employment relationships to the minimum they can get away with (e.g. firing regular employees and hiring flexible contractors), this results in masses of people being increasingly and effectively cut out from the credit system, which means they’ll find much harder to grow their wealth in the long term.

    Remember this next time politicians praise the virtues of systems where “everyone is a self-employed professional”.

  12. Why does someone with 190K in the bank even bother to take out a loan for 80K? Just withdraw the 80K he needs and avoid paying interest to the bank entirely. The bank loses the interest on his savings and doesn’t get the interest on the loan. Win-win for him and lose-lose for the bank.

  13. I don’t really understand what point BoingBoing is trying to make with all the weird currencies/commodities.

    Are you railing against US/Euro-centrism? Even though I do not deal in USD or EUR I do know roughly how much they are worth in my local currency (GBP) – the conversions to USD in most news articles are useful to those outside the US!

    Are you making the point that readers should be more aware of exchange rates between all currencies? I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect readers to keep up to date with all foreign exchange rates.

    Are you just making fun of the newspapers that provide “helpful” conversions into olympic swimming pools, football pitches and double-decker buses?

    Finally, I think it’s disingenuous to use unspecified dollars in the headline with no hint that you are referring to NZD until you read the article. Is this also a dig at US-centrism? If you don’t want people to assume that an ambiguous dollar symbol refers to USD then I don’t see any practical use for ambiguous dollar amounts at all. You should just bite the bullet and specify USD or NZD or whatever in every case.

  14. Tobor Redrum @19: he’s ready to pay a premium in order to maintain liquidity. Liquidity is precious, even more so in these troubled times and even more so for self-employed people (who could find themselves without income for long spells).

  15. Umm… I’m sure the conversion to North Korean currency would be quite relevant to our North Korean readers.

  16. The kiwi (NZD) is far from irrelevant. many of the “minor currencies”, kiwi, aussie, suisse, stoki, noki, sterling (joke!) are traded daily in foreign exchange markets. it is not entirely a buy low/sell high game, either. For example, USD or EUR based companies that make big sales in CAD or JPY must convert these into local currency so that they can deposit it into the bank.

    On credit unions, the are the most awesome. the one i use is large (on the state level), invests within the state, continues to make loans and never issued any of the funny paper commercial banks toss around. w00t?

  17. Banks, banks.
    I recently switched from ANZ(after 18 years) to Westpac.
    You may think :”oh my”, i know.
    In fact i do not condone Westpac action in this case.
    But let me tell you ,the change for me was like day and night( ANZ being the BAD night )
    So, do NOT consider banking with ANZ: they are a bunch of overpaid arrogant money counters.
    Anyone else will be a better proposition.

  18. #19, Tobor Redrum:

    Why does someone with 190K in the bank even bother to take out a loan for 80K? Just withdraw the 80K he needs

    Because he wants to buy a house for >270K.

  19. what a man! i hold accounts with westpac and i’m not nearly as valuable as him but i would like to think that they are going to stand by their marketing spiel about caring about the community.

  20. Here’s a question….why do New Zealand webpages take forever to load? Is it because I live in the north of Greenland? Is that it?

  21. “I see this as yet another yawn-inducing “tough times” human interest story.” (post #1)

    Dorothy – Lighten up. This isn’t a hard luck economy story, and not even an artist story. It’s just “theater”, a great pissed-off response to a bank. Allow yourself to be amused by this spurned customer getting his revenge and giving his bank some bad publicity.

  22. I think I missed the memo. Can someone explain please what’s with the hilarious currency conversions lately? (ie: Burmese Khat, Platinum, N.K. Won, etc.)

  23. Cory, I don’t mean to sound like a jerk or anything, but why have you started using bizarre currency equivalents? I have nothing against the gold market, or the Republic of Samoa, but considering that (more than likely) an overwhelming majority of your readers come from the US, UK and Europe, wouldn’t it make sense to list equivalent currencies known to most of us? If you’re trying to make a statement about currencies, well, that’s fine (but we could use maybe a blog post about why?) but without any background it just seems like you’re being a bit silly.

    I feel like it probably hurts the impact of the story. If you tell me a man took out NZ$190,000 and that it roughly equals 1.5 million zoobydooby dollars, that has no emotional impact on anyone. If you say it equals $124,773 USD / €87,879 / £76,025, well, that has a much larger emotional impact.

    Just my $0.02… Also for those of you who might be saying “ZOMG RTFA, it can haz dollar/pound/euro equivalent,” well, I tried, but it seems the site isn’t responding at present.

  24. I think it’s absolutely awesome that he took his money away from people who were only going to misspend it playing at global roulette and redeposited it with a local credit union. I keep money in an credit union (with one paid employee), too, and it’s been a great benefit to me for 30 years or more. I can get loans with simple (non-compound) interest, for example.

    Cory, I think you should have posted the currency equivalences in quatloos and zuleks! Pay no attention to the naysayers.

  25. Funny article and I can relate as my inlaws and wife are all co-signers on my mortgage even though I make more than they do combined. What’s more funny are the bitches commenting on this article….y’all need some Xanax or something

  26. #32 @Ito Kagehisa
    “Cory, I think you should have posted the currency equivalences in quatloos and zuleks! Pay no attention to the naysayers.”

    What does that do for this guy’s story, other than make it seem trivial, and deride New Zealand?

  27. I think the point of the Nigerian Nairas conversion was to compare Lane Walker Rudkin Industries to Nigerian scammers. If so, though, it still doesn’t really make sense.

    Man, when I have $190 grand, I plan on telling the bank that I’m withdrawing it all and ask for it in $20s. Not because I want to put it in another bank, just because I want to carry around a ridiculously huge bag of money. Then I’ll deposit it again.

  28. For what it’s worth, I thought the currency conversions were both funny and charming. Thanks for that.

  29. I guess there wasn’t enough room on computer screen to tell us how many Zimbabwean dollars that would be.

  30. I’m surprised that nobody else has mentioned that, were you to pull this stunt in the U.S., it would probably trigger a visit from the Feds.

    Here in the Land of the Free, every cash transaction over $10,000 generates a Cash Transaction Report to the federal government, a 20+ year old process originally intended to fight money laundering.

    The teller is supposed to inform you that withdrawing $190,000 in 20’s will generate the Cash Transaction Report. You can then change your mind; however if you then decide not to make the withdrawal, the bank is required to file a Suspicious Activity Report with the IRS. This last part they don’t tell you about.

  31. News in the Art Community spreads fast. Westpac basically dug their own grave. Nice going

    The customer can put you out of business by word of mouth.

  32. Corie Doctoroe, (my continuing dig at you for calling them “Legos”)

    Pay no attention to the goblins who can’t appreciate the morsels of comedy you dropped in with your currency conversions. I particularly enjoyed that bit of whimsy… but as I learned in the comments on Lisa’s BBG article on iPhone rudeness, it seem that lately the BB’ers don’t seem to have the wit to recognize tasty bits of humor if it’s too dry or subtle.

  33. The currency conversions just confused me. I was wondering if he was living abroad trying to do some kind of international loan or something. It took me a while to figure out that he was a New Zealander living in New Zealand, dealing with a New Zealand bank.

  34. Is this the same Dorothy who went sour lemons about Woodstock a couple weeks ago? Jeez lady, what DO you like?

  35. If you are a freelancer by trade as most artists are as well as a multitude of people employed in other means. You are pretty much excluded from home ownership unless you are able to miraculously come up with cash.

    By “miracle” you mean “savings”, right?

    (The real irony is that artificially cheap loans and tax breaks intended to induce owner-occupied housing is actually a major driver of the housing asset bubble. This merely shifts the burden from saving money to being “credit worthy”. You’re in control of the money you save, but banks and other shadow bureaucracies determine “credit worthiness”. It’s a Faustian bargain.)

    I thought the inclusion of less-used currencies was both charming and funny.

    We’d better get used to “bizarre currency equivalents” if we, the People, are going to overcome the coming (hyper)inflation of the current reserve currencies used by central banking systems. c.f. currency competition

  36. Dorothy,

    This could be a cautionary tale for banks. If you are going to screw over a customer, make sure it’s not a professional attention whore.

  37. This is a perfectly valid market solution to dissatisfied customer service. I don’t see what all the fuss is about – people take their business elsewhere all the time.

  38. As a US-resident Australian, I took UK-resident Canadian Cory’s currency conversions as a clever subversion of the convention that everything that happens elsewhere has to be translated back into the USonian master narrative, starting with money.

    I’m half-amused and half-appalled by the responses. How does equating the NZ dollar with the Nigerian Naira trivialize the NZ dollar, where equating it with the US dollar would (presumably) ennoble it? That only works if you think the USA is the world standard by which everything else should be judged. “New Zealanders aren’t like those other furriners. They’re almost as good as us.”

    Little-known fact: we non-USonians do have our own lives and currency and customs. If we fall in the forest when no American is there, we do make a sound!

  39. I like the odd currencies, and frankly, if you really want to know , there’s http://www.xe.com and if you didn’t know about that site, then what rock have you been hiding under?

  40. #36 @ bbonyx
    “Pay no attention to the goblins who can’t appreciate the morsels of comedy you dropped in with your currency conversions. I particularly enjoyed that bit of whimsy… but as I learned in the comments on Lisa’s BBG article on iPhone rudeness, it seem that lately the BB’ers don’t seem to have the wit to recognize tasty bits of humor if it’s too dry or subtle.”

    I see that apparently the new fashion is mocking with flowery prose the intelligence of those you may disagree with?

    #40 @Yatima

    Speaking for myself, I wasn’t implying US-centric anything. What I was saying was that when most of the world uses, or at least can compare the exchange rate of their native currency to the USD, GBP, or EUR, (or Yen or Yuan, if your want) it rather makes sense to use at least one of those when comparing to a currency the exchange rate of which most people would not know.

    …Or maybe this is all just a big conspiracy by the people at Western Union, to get us to pay more in exchange fees! Damn them all to hell! :-p

  41. HBL@~15: I don’t think it undermines anything. It may have actually added to the bank’s frustration having to deal with all of those bills twice. ;D

    Go community cred unions!

  42. General credit union question – how does this stuff work? Can anybody point me to a good primer on the differences (and risks, please!) of using a credit union versus a bank? We’re looking to maybe buy a place next year, and if I can get a lower interest rate, well, that would be the dog’s bollocks.

  43. @phillamb168:

    “What I was saying was that when most of the world uses, or at least can compare the exchange rate of their native currency to the USD, GBP, or EUR, (or Yen or Yuan, if your want)…”

    Oh! I didn’t realize you knew most of the world. Forget I said anything, we’ll use your master narrative from now on :)

  44. @Yatima

    Thank you, I appreciate it. I find that everything works out much better when people just shut up and do what I say. And if you do REALLY well, you get an employment offer for one of the many “private henchman” openings I have on my secret island. We only pay in East Caribbean Dollars, however. 1 XCD is $0.37! Imagine the possibilities!

  45. “he then decided to make it hard for the bank by requesting payment in $20 bills.”

    He got turned down for a loan, so he was a dick to the tellers? Because I know for sure the loan officers weren’t dealing with that hassle.

    Pulling his money from the bank was a good gesture, but punishing the people with no control over it isn’t. Wouldn’t it be a more fitting statement on the Westpac employees actually involved if he, say, rounded up everyone without a place to live and asked them to to apply for Westpac housing loans at once? And when they’re denied, having each one ask how LWR got a loan, but they can’t?

    A line of people on hard times extending out into the street, getting sent out one by one by Westpac loan officers. It’d certainly be better than just putting his money back into Westpac through NBS.

  46. @phillamb168,

    What does that do for this guy’s story, other than make it seem trivial, and deride New Zealand?

    Giving currency in quatloos or zuleks would make it possible for me to relate these sums to more useful monetary systems, of course, such as Yapanese stone money. I don’t know anything about these outlandish “New Zealand dollars”.

    Are you trying to trivialize quatloos, or deride people who live in space stations?

  47. @Ito “Are you trying to trivialize quatloos, or deride people who live in space stations?”

    A little from column A, a little from column B.

  48. @Ito Holy crap! I just googled Quatloo and found out it was really used on DS9. I just pulled the word out of my ass, and it turns out to be a “real” thing? Holy subconsciousness, Batman.

  49. Hey, he uses the similiar tactics I use when pissed off at bank tellers. Basically withdrawl a large but reasonable amount in small sum notes. Make the teller count out loud, slowly and clearly during the withdrawl. Then deposit it again, making sure the teller counts it again. A complete waste of time, but hey, if you’re really pissed off for wasting your time, you might as well waste theirs in mindless tasks. Works well, when you got a huge lunch line behind you and the NOT new teller decides to ask for your id just for a minor withdrawl(id check is not techically required) and you’ve been to the bank frequently.

    As for the story, he should of gotten the loan. Sorry, but getting rejected for trying to get 20% (need 80k for a 385k property) due to not having a steady job is stupid. This is a regular loan. Based on what he has in his accounts, this would of been low to moderate risks for a bank. This is not a stupid, super risky subprime loan, but a very reasonable, regular loans.

  50. @61
    As a former customer service rep, I regret to inform you that by taking a paycheck from the evil people, you also get to put up with the complaints from the victims.

    That’s why they pay you the little bucks.

    Can I help you with anything else today?

  51. Good choice, Phikus. I myself have considered investing in Ningis, but where would you keep them? The Flanian Pobble Beads were such a bad investment that I am hesitant to convert my Galactos.

  52. Admittedly, it would cut into his spur of the moment liquidity, but why not create a trust that pays him “a regular income”.

  53. I don’t care about the currency thing (I think it highlights general innumeracy rather than dollar-centrism, but YMMV)….

    …. but I am annoyed but the foolish apologists who suggest that the existence of other websites to do the conversion is a panacea. Your fellow boingers are reading it on cel phones and kindles these days. Would you care to make a wager that types of access will continue to diversify? Why make all those people annoyed at BB?

    Don’t make me bring Clay Shirky back to explain that once the user clicks away from your site — it’s bad.

  54. Sure woulda sucked if he’d been mugged on his way to the credit union, though.

  55. Kudos to him for saying screw you and taking his business elsewhere! To the majority of the people who have commented on this case I find the fact that he had the amount of the mortgage request plus in savings and the fact that that he has had a spotless record with Westpac for 25 years but was still denied much more interesting then the currency issue. This is one more example of how the customer service ship has sailed.

  56. If you are going to use Quatloos be sure to remember they are pegged to the Canadian Loonie.

    I found out this fascinating tidbit from a thrall of my acquaintance.

  57. I absolutely recommend using a credit union. I have been with a credit union for 15 years and would never go back to the rigor mortisment of a banking estasblishment. Good show!

  58. I live in Australia and Westpac have to be the worst bank ever.

    You have obviously never banked with National Australia Bank.

    Thusly named because they’ll NAB your money.

  59. Re banks vs credit unions:

    Almost all of my experiences with various US and UK banks have been either neutral or negative. If I were to list the negatives, we’d be here all day. In the entirety of my banking history, there have been just two [qualified] positives:

    * A branch manager at Barclays went out of his way to help us track down a lost check for 50 UKP. The next time we went in to see him, we were told he’d been let go. We asked a teller why, and she told us, ‘because he was useless’.

    * Back in the olden days, a Lloyds bank ATM machine shorted me 5 UKP. I went inside the branch and, fair enough, they gave me the fiver. They also told me not to do it again — as though it was my friggin fault that their machine had failed.

    And like I say, those were the two positive experiences.

    Conversely, my experiences with my credit union have all been neutral or good.

    I suppose it’s possible that your mileage may vary, but for me there’s no contest: as a retail customer, I’ve consistently found that banks universally suck; CUs are excellent.

  60. I love this. My dad–who was a total badass–did the same thing in the 1980’s, withdrawing about $75,000 in cash one afternoon because his mortgage application was being delayed. The look on my mother’s face when he came home with the sacks of money was priceless.

  61. Oooo juicy comments. Marvellous these BB posters.

    … This reminds me of when I was travelling in the UK, and had opened a Barclays account (in 1990). I was leaving after 5 months, and found out that closing the account accrued a very large fee.

    Having been told this by the woman with a face expression of nothingness, I then proceeded to take out all the money bar £1, and she was pissed off. Threatened me with this or that, but hell, I could do what I wanted. As she muttered to herself until I got the money, I was grinning so much.

    … I’m in Australia, and it seems that ANZ, Westpac AND NAB are all scum. Which means there’s only the Commonwealth (or “Conmanwealth” as I remember a few years ago), St George (Westpac), and Bendigo Bank (they’re not too bad, are they?) left. Still, go Credit Unions!

    … I think the foreign currencies are actually really funny. Haven’t many people caught on to the uselessness/illogic/silliness of it? Now people know that the North Koreans have a currency. Good stuff.

  62. I did something similar, back when I was young, and £50 was a lot of money.

    Lloyds cut my limit, and and wrote to say “we’ve cut your limit and you’re over the new one. PS we’re charging you £25 for this letter”.

    I repayed the money that I borrowed, leaving the account overdrawn by some £50-odd of accumulated charges, and handed them the torn-up remains of my chequebook and card.

    Never heard a dicky-bird from them.

  63. @#15 posted by apoxia,

    It’s getting really hard to get a mortgage here in NZ.

    It’s suppose to be hard to barrow large amounts of money when there’s low prospect of being able to pay it back.

    We pretty much need 20% deposit now. I’m looking at buying a house within the next year around the $300,000 mark (below the national median house price). That’s a $60,000 deposit right there. And my partner and I will need stable jobs – a bit hard to do when both students, especially when my thesis scholarship will run out 6 months before I start my clinical psyc internship.

    I suppose the idea that maybe you shouldn’t venture into home ownership until you’re financially stable enough to afford it isn’t something that crossed your mind.

    They are really tough on the regular job/steady income requirement.

    And this is bad? Seriously? Have you not been paying attention recently?

  64. It’s kyat, not khat. And you’ve got the exchange rate wrong. It’s more like ~1100 kyats = 1 USD.

  65. @phillamb168 RE: Risks of using a Credit Union

    In the U.S. there are no added risks of using a credit union instead of a bank. So long as the credit union is insured by NCUA(National Credit Union Administration) your deposits are guaranteed just like banks and FDIC.

    About your mortgage, as with any mortgage lender, you should find out if they hold the loan themselves or if they plan to sell it off later on to another lender.

    Perhaps the biggest risk to using a credit union is that you might like it so much you wonder how you ever got along without one! You might even fall in love… http://open.salon.com/blog/jess_d_facts/2009/07/14/i_think_im_in_love_with_my_bank

    -CU employee in VA.

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