Blinding bank robbers with kindness

Despite the friendliness of people in the Pacific Northwest (or perhaps because of it), bank robberies in the area are above the national average. But in the Seattle area they went down by nearly half in the beginning of 2007. The reason isn't known for certain, but one factor may be a new approach to thwarting bank robbers by employing "aggressive friendliness" and rattling the nerves of a would-be robber.

Scott Taffera sensed something was wrong when a man walked into the Ballard bank branch he manages wearing garden gloves, a hat and sunglasses.

But instead of following the nonconfrontational strategy used by most banks with suspicious people, Taffera approached the man with a hearty greeting and an offer to help. He invited him to remove his hat and sunglasses, and guided him to an equally bubbly teller.

In the end, the oddly dressed man requested a roll of quarters before slinking out the door.

By the end of 2007, bank robberies in the state hit a 20-year low, dropping the state from fourth most robbed in the nation to eleventh.

Comments (10)
  1. John says:

    The implication is that he was going to rob the place, but other than his "odd" wardrobe there was nothing to suggest this was the case.  Here’s an idea – maybe he was a freaking gardener!

  2. James Schend says:

    John: So he’s a gardener. The only difference is that he gets better-than-average service. It’s a win-win situation. :)

  3. George Jansen says:

    Some years ago, the then mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, saw a fellow walk into his bank with a handgun. He sat the man down and started selling him a loan, explaining terms, etc., and carried it on till the police arrived. As I recall, there was no question that the man had the handgun to rob the bank.

  4. Steve Mitcham says:

    Years ago I was a floor manager for Toys R Us and basically our rules for dealing with shoplifters was basically the same.

    An increased attention on the customer, especially suspicious ones, sets up the expectations that customers are being watched (in a good way), and that shoplifting is unlikely to succeed.

    As James says,  the ‘suspicious’ types that are really customers get better service and the thieves are rattled and bug off.

  5. Gabe says:

    So the best way to get good customer service is to act suspicious. Of course, it could also get you a visit from the police instead of good service.

  6. Jim Steiner says:


    Who needed a roll of quarters?

    Here in Costa Rica you can’t even enter a bank wearing anything that obscures your face, and cell phone use is not permitted.

  7. Drak says:


    Maybe he had parked his lawnmower somewhere where you need to put small change into the parking machine, and needed quarters to pay for his space :)

  8. Morten says:

    So the best way to get good customer service is to act suspicious.

    The problem is to figure out where you’ll get better service and where you’ll just get a squirt of mace and a set of new bracelets. :-(

  9. kokomo says:

    In the evening after a meal, some people like walking in parks. Me, I like to troll around in the local home improvement stores looking at cool cordless drills, nail guns etc…

    NOW I understand why I get better service in the evening.

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