Back in the mid-80s, in addition to leading the Bklyn/LI/SI CitiPhone area, I also managed the checkbook business for the Region.
I took a business trip to San Francisco in order to get a bird’s eye view of a remote entry process for checkbook orders that was being utilized by Bank of America.
Business-wise, it was an extremely-valuable trip as not only did I get to see the process in person & speak with several BofA employees about their perceived pros & cons of the system, but I was given a complete tour of the entire BofA back-office operation.
I spent almost 4 hours there, observing dozens & dozens of clerical, investigative & accounting functions while speaking with a whole bunch of different managers & employees.
As we (Citi & BofA) were not yet major rivals in the consumer retail banking business (we were in NY & they, California), I was allowed access to view the inside workings of the BofA back-office machine.
I remember taking pages & pages of notes during my visit, hungry to grab any nugget of knowledge that could help us when I returned home.
I did discuss the much more effective & efficient process for accepting & processing customer stop payment requests on checks they wrote that we (Citi) were using at that point in time.
I believed their process of “referring customers back to the branch” to fulfill those requests was wasteful, created unnecessary traffic in the branches & ran contrary to the whole philosophy of One-Stop Service.
They did it in order to effectively validate the identity of the customer in-person & obtain their written authorization.
I explained that they already employ caller verification procedures in their call center & besides, there’s no regulatory requirement for written approval.
Besides, is a crook gonna place a stop payment order on a check??? 🤔
I pointed out other specific possibilities for process improvement that would easily save them thousands & thousands of manpower hours annually.
I wanted to make sure that I “returned the favor” for my very gracious hosts.
And since I scheduled this trip near the weekend, we were able to spend Saturday & Sunday enjoying beautiful Northern California before having to fly back to NY on Sunday afternoon.
And enjoy we did!
First off, we stayed at the magnificent Hyatt Regency in downtown SF. Upon entering the hotel, the first thing you notice is the enormous beautiful atrium that rose 17 stories!
And those glass elevators!
“Where have I seen those before…?”
Yes, in the Mel Brooks movie, “High Anxiety”!
These elevators faced the atrium as they lined its outer walls, offering guests a unique view & experience.
For me, personally…with my deadly fear of heights…yes, it was quite the experience!
I would stand absolutely still, facing the elevator doors, whenever we rode them up & down to/from our room on the 15th floor.
(My wife, Laurie, however, absolutely loved & enjoyed the view. I simply took her word for it!)
On Saturday morning, we had arranged for a nice tour of the city & the nearby Naps Valley vineyards.
I originally was going to rent a car & just find our way around. As this was the age before cell phones & Google Maps, I’m sure that we would have had quite the, er, interesting (albeit frustrating) journey.
A very good friend of mine said that he would take care of our transportation needs while we were there. There was a message awaiting us when we checked in on Thursday…he arranged for a limousine for us for the weekend!
We had a delicious breakfast in the hotel on Saturday & then headed outside to find our limo driver.
Oh, we were dressed to the nines…I was in jeans & a cut-off sweatshirt while Laurie was just as casual!
We go out the rear door of the restaurant, onto a side street, heading toward the main entrance of the hotel.
We looked down the block & saw the front end of a white limousine extending into the street. White with solid black smoked-glass windows, it looked pretty classy.
“Wow, whoever has that ride must be loaded!”
As we come upon the entrance, we peek look around the corner…and see the rest of this massive limo!
Massive was a major understatement! (As we later found out, it was, along with its sister limo from the same company, the longest limousine in the world!)
And then we saw some limo driver dude holding up a sign, but he was facing the front doors as we were coming around the corner.
I told Laurie, “Could you ever imagine if that sign had our…” when the driver turned around as he must’ve heard us.
Yep, the sign read “LoRusso”!!! And it was even spelled correctly with the capital R!
Knock me over with a freakin’ feather, why dontcha!
“Hi. We’re…” as I pointed to his sign.
“Good morning, Mr. & Mrs. LoRusso! How are you this fine day?”
Man, we had an unbelievable blast!
It was indeed the longest limo in the world (at that time). Its sister unit…you know, the one with a small hot tub in the back instead of a trunk…was already booked, so we got the Cinderella model!
It was huge! We had to use an intercom phone to speak with the driver. It had a great moon roof, excellent for us sticking our heads out like a pair of 12 year olds!
And it was stocked with loads of food & snacks. And a whole lotta refreshments, including some outstanding champagne!
This is the life, we thought.
He first gave us a complete tour of the city. There were some thoroughfares, like the famous Lombard Street, that he actually couldn’t take as the road was too windy for the limo!
Impossible to negotiate its 7 or so hairpin turns.
He then headed out to the famed Napa Valley.
We had a personal tour of the Domain Chandon winery as well as that of Robert Mondavi…magnificent!
We even got to visit the vineyard & mansion where the TV series “Falcon Crest” was filmed…it was called the Spring Mountain Vineyard!
We had such a wonderful time & riding around in that beast of a limo was the best!
It was hard having to fly back to NY in coach.
“Hey, where’s my bubbly?!?”
Thank you for listening!