When is the last time you went in to a bank? You know, like in the old days, where you stood in line with your bank book and talked to a teller-type person at the counter, or to the manager in the manager’s little faux-wood paneled office?

Given that financial transactions these days seem all to happen in the ether, sort of like Mike Teevee wafting through the air in the original version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” doesn’t it seem strange that banks–actual, physical banks–are popping up in Manhattan as often as Duane Reades?

I’m not sure what these new banks have in mind for themselves, though, based on their interior designs:

Are we in an airport waiting room? A bad hotel?

Nope. It’s the Citibank on 14th street and the Bank of America on 8th street.

Lounges. With mod sectional “seating” and lamps and stuff. I can totally hear the conversation between NYU students now:

“Dude, what should we do tonight?”

“Let’s go watch some TV in the Citibank lounge, man, just kick back.”


Is that the thought behind these bland–and empty–faux-living room spaces? Is the flatscreen sending out subliminal messages, so that if we sit there long enough, we will suddenly leap up and say “Wait! I must transfer all of my assets to this bank, right now!”

People were using the ATMs at both banks, but inside it was echoingly empty:

I can’t quite tell what these lounges are for. Could anyone come in, sit down, watch the telly for a bit, and then venture back outside? Or are we only allowed to lounge if we’re, you know, banking? Could I sit on Citigroup’s couch while I do my banking with the devil Bank of America on my laptop?

Both Citigroup and Bank of America received huge sums of federal bailout money — 25000 million each. I’m not actually even sure how to say that number, it’s so big. And, of course, as a result of TARP and the little matter of the global financial crisis (precipitated, in large degree by risky banking practices) banks have taken a real hit in terms of public opinion.

But really guys, is this the best way to buy your way back into our good graces? A lounge? That’s the best you can do?  Seriously. If you want us to like you again, you’re totally going to have to serve cappuccino.