I’ve been in banking for about six years now and I’ve seen and done a lot in that time. One thing I’ve never talked about on this site is the fact that I’ve worked at a bank where I was robbed…twice. So, I thought I’d share that experience with you guys. While both situations could have turned pretty dangerous in a hurry, they’re interesting stories to tell. So, here we go.
Ok, the first time I was robbed was about a year into my banking career. At this particular bank that I worked for, we’d been given a training by a guy that’s probably saved my life on both occasions. He used to work for the FBI and specialized in bank robbers, so he had a lot of good information to share with us. One thing that stuck with me was his really animated personality. In one demonstration, he was playing the part of a teller being robbed, and the scenario asked for him to give the robber money from his drawer and the teller next to him.
So, he pretends to hand the money over in this grandeur fashion, then steps to the side where the other trainer was standing as a teller and says, “Danny, we’re being robbed. Get the hell out of the way, he wants your money!” At the time we all found that amusing. I mean, he was literally funny while he was doing it. But, he says to us, that while his performance was funny, to remember that the money is insured and it’s nowhere near as important as our lives. The money is replaceable, we are not. Give the robber(s) whatever they ask for.
So anyway, about a year into my banking career. It’s important to note that I was actually scheduled to work the drive-thru that day, but one of the guys that I worked with had this really big fear of being robbed and so he begged me to switch with him as he had no desire to work the lobby for that reason. I agreed to give him peace of mind and so we switched for the day.
As my luck would have it, a guy in a black trench coat walks in, just after the lunch rush. He walks up to the counter, just as calm and collected as you please and slides a note over to me.
“I have a gun. You scream and a lot of people get hurt. Do as I say and no one gets hurt. Nod your head once if you understand.”
Naturally, I nod. He slides me another slip of paper.
“I want the money in your drawer and as much as you can get from your neighbors without drawing attention.”
My training kicks in. I’m taking note of the guy: what he was wearing, height, weight, hair and eye color, any distinguishing marks, fidgets or ticks, anything that I can use to help identify this guy. I also manage to trip the silent alarm at this time as well.
So, he slides over a bag that I was to put the money in. I open the drawer, pull out the cash and stick it in the bag. The teller to my left was free, so I quietly step up next to her and say, “Suzie, we’re being robbed. Get the hell out of the way, he wants your money!” Her eyes got really big and she opened her mouth to scream. I kicked her in the shin and showed her the note about the gun. She sat down and crawled into her little cubby hole and rocked back and forth.
Once I was done clearing her drawer, I checked the other teller’s situation and she was with a customer. I took the bag back to the robber and handed it over, ticking my head to the right to indicate there was another customer so our drawers was all he was going to get. He calmly collected the bag and left, not breaking into a run until he hit the parking lot and jumped into a car. I grabbed a pen and ran to the nearest window so I could jot down his license plate number.
Then, I ran and got the manager to let him know we’d been robbed.
No one heard or knew a thing, except Suzie who was quietly crying underneath her counter. The manager locks the doors and explains to the few customers within the building that we had just experienced a robbery and would appreciate it if they could stay and speak with the police when they arrive. By law, we can’t hold them if they don’t want to stay, but everyone was very amiable.
While we were waiting for the police, I wrote down every characteristic, feature, and item I could think of on this guy. When they got there, I had my report filled out and gave my description of the events to the police. They asked if I’d seen the gun, which I hadn’t, so I told them no, only that he’d passed a note saying he’d had one. They tried to talk to Suzie, but she was such a mess that they suggested we send her home for the day. They recommended that she and I talk to one of their counselors if we felt overwhelmed by our experience.
I don’t know if Suzie took them up on that offer, but she did quit very shortly after. So did the guy that I traded places with that day. He about peed his pants, actually. When we told him all he could say was “That was supposed to be me!” At any rate, I know this is going to sound completely insane, but I found it exhilarating. I didn’t wish to experience it again and I certainly didn’t wish such an experience on anyone, but I tend to be bass ackwards a lot of the time, so I found the adrenaline rush exciting. When I talked to the trainer about it, I told him I did exactly what he did in the class and it was great. I think he thought I was still in shock, but the point was, focusing on that specific part of the training allowed my to stay calm and collected through the ordeal and control the situation. No one was hurt and the guy got a total of $6000. I’m sure he had been hoping for more.
I got some silly award for keeping my cool in the heat of the moment, and for making sure my top drawer limits were so low that he didn’t get a lot of money out of us. The police were able to catch the guy based on my description and some prints they lifted off the counter…turns out he was wanted on several accounts of armed robbery, and not just at banks.
The second incident wasn’t nearly as smooth as the first. I worked for the same bank, just a different location. I had changed roles within the company and moved to a different branch. This took place about a year and a half later. This time the robber came just before closing when the lobby was empty. He was wearing a ski mask and had what I’m guessing was a .9 millimeter, but I’m not very gun savvy. It looked like a gun I’d seen in the movies, except it appeared to be quite real.
This guy didn’t bother with notes. He was vocal and he was loud. He demanded to know who was in charge and our manager came out and talked to him. The guy wanted all the money in the bank – not very practical really, but these guys usually aren’t. He tossed a large bag at the manager and ordered him to start filling it up. He instructed us to keep our hands up where he could see them at all times. Well, one of my coworkers decided to try and play a little bit of the hero and went to reach for the silent alarm. He shot her computer screen next to her, which caused every one of us to hit the floor. I worked in a branch of almost all girls, so there was a lot of screeching and crying going on.
Irritated with us, he ordered us all to the vault room where he could keep an eye on us. He locked us in with the glass door – but not the big metal door – and filled the bag with the money himself. When he was done, he left. We actually got lucky because a customer came in the front door, thinking we were open – which by the time the robber left, we weren’t – and she let us out. My manager had all of us sit in different offices and fill out what we could remember on the guy. For me, it was the same as before. I had memorized every little detail about the guy. I couldn’t see his face, but there was a lot I could see and I wrote it all done.
When the police got there, they took everyone’s statement and description and recommended that we seek counseling if we felt overwhelmed by the experience. I’m thinking they’re specifically trained to say that. Anyway, the next day there was only about four of us at work. Everyone else called in “sick.” The district manager came in and shut the branch down early and told us to go home. We couldn’t really run the branch on four people anyway and she would post a note on the door and the drive-thru explaining the situation.
At the end of the day, both situations were scary. I’m not trying to make them out like they were the most exciting adventures in my life. But, everyone reacts differently to situations like this and I think I happen to be one of the lucky ones who can keep their cool.
How do you think you’d react if faced with an armed robber? Would you do as your told, or do you have a bit of hero in you?