Banks love finding ways to get new people to deposit their money with them and open an account. Decades ago, in the United States, at least, that involved giving away free toasters, alarm clocks, or other cheesy home electrical appliances to new customers, which grew to be an expected perk for opening a new bank account. Indeed, the free toaster became so closely associated with new bank accounts that it has influenced how banks are depicted in American media and popular culture.
Whenever there is a scene in a bank, the Bank Toaster can commonly be invoked in signs or promotional displays advertising new accounts or in character dialogue. If one of these toasters is established as part of a promotional display at the beginning of a bank scene, certainly anticipate something happening to it by the scene's end.
In bank robberies, the Bank Toaster usually comes up as a comedic device, such as an item Stupid Crooks may try to steal either in a last-ditch attempt to take something from the bank after any effort to take the money has failed or in a clueless mix-up/failure to realize there would be something more valuable to take from the bank.
As it has become much more rare for Real Life banks to give out toasters and similar house appliances in our present day (though freebies and perks are handed out for new bank accounts to this day), this trope has grown into more of a Forgotten Trope.note
- The page image, above, comes from a commercial for Chesapeake Bank of Maryland, which implies that larger banks, here represented as "Big Bank", are so out of touch with their customers that they equate giving out items like the toaster with customer service.
- Ernest P. Worrell did commercials for regional banks involving this trope. While toasters weren't mentioned specifically, other appliances were featured such as a television and a Weber brand grill.
- A David Letterman "Top 10" list from January 1990, "Top 10 Signs that Your Bank Is Failing", includes "#10—Free handful of Cheetos with every new account", "#9—They hand out calendars one month at a time", and "#6—Free giveaway toaster is made by G.E.", General Electric at the time having been found guilty of defrauding the U.S. Department of Defense during the previous year (and also owned NBC, the network Letterman was on at the time).
- Stephen Colbert quipped on The Late Show that the Russian bank Vnesheconombank has such close ties to Vladimir Putin that if one opens a checking account for $100 or more, one receives "a free toaster and a dead journalist."
- An old joke in LGBT culture is that if you turn someone queer, either you or the other person gets a toaster oven. This is based on the homophobic belief that LGBT people have to actively recruit others, especially children, to the lavender side.
- In Spider-Man 2, a Morally Bankrupt Banker, on top of denying Aunt May and Peter Parker a loan, denies them a coupon for a free toaster.
- In Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine, he opens a bank account and receives a free rifle. He cut out the part where he had to pick up said rifle from a proper Sporting Goods store and had to clear a background check beforehand, though.
- In The Admiral Was a Lady, the male characters (all demobbed World War II soldiers who are currently unemployed) use this to their advantage to make a bit of extra money on the side. A local bank offers a free piggy bank as its opening gift. Instead of simply cashing their unemployment cheques with the cheque-cashing man who charges a fee, they deposit the cheques in a new bank account, get the piggy bank, immediately close the account (for a cash withdrawal, no money lost)... and then sell the piggy banks to the local pawnbroker!
- In the period western comedy The Cherokee Kid, when the title character approaches a teller at what is intended to be a bank robbery, the teller eagerly explains to him that if he opens a new bank account, he can receive a complimentary bar of pine tar soap. He then continues to name bigger rewards for opening bank accounts with larger deposits. When the main character finally announces men are here to rob a bank, the teller gets to mention that with a new account deposit of $300, one can get a new gun, which the teller promptly produces to deter the would-be thieves.
- Dave Barry mentions this in one of his books, remarking how the only question banks used to ask was whether you wanted the toaster or the electric blanket.
- In Our Dumb Century, during The Great Depression, Herbert Hoover introduces a Free Toaster Premium Initiative (bread not included) to boost confidence in the nation's banks.
- In Eerie, Indiana, the ghost of Grungy Bill, "The Worst Bank Robber West of the Mississippi" ("worst" as in "no good, incompetent") who has never committed a successful bank robbery, tries to run away during yet another unsuccessful attempt to rob a bank with one of the Eerie Bank's free toasters. Managing to be successful at stealing the toaster, Grungy Bill determines this to be a successful bank robbery and his soul can finally rest in peace.
- The episode of The Lucy Show "Lucy Takes a Job at the Bank", Lucy takes a job at the bank handing out the complimentary toasters, and screws things up in a hilarious manner.
- In a Superdude skit on All That involving the superhero having to thwart a bank robbery by an evil Costume Copycat, when Superdude is incapacitated and the villain has taken all the bank's money, the villain turns around at the last minute to steal one of the bank's free toasters, as well. The villain's balked escape gives Superdude enough time to recover and defeat his foe with his magnetic butt that pulls the toaster (and the villain who won't let go of it) back to him.
Superdude: You should've let go of the toaster, but you HAD to be greedy, didn't you?
- There's a Monk episode with this trope. In fact, the bank manager gives Monk one of the toasters as a reward for solving a bank robbery, which is greatly welcomed by Monk after the show had begun with Adrian at breakfast contending with burnt toast and a subplot developed necessitating he and Natalie getting a new one.
- On Laverne & Shirley, Laverne agrees to help a woman who she thinks wants more of the bank's free dishes. Instead, she turns out to be a bank robber, and she and Laverne are both arrested.
- Referenced/parodied on Ellen DeGeneres' sitcom Ellen, during the famous coming out episode. When Ellen's lesbian friend, Susan, casually comments on how she thought Ellen was gay, the (still-closeted) Ellen hilariously freaks out and accuses Susan of trying to "recruit" her.
Susan: I'll have to call up national headquarters and tell them I lost you. Damn, just one more and I would've gotten that toaster oven!
- The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. episode "Crystal Hawkes" features a scene where Brisco steps into a bank offering a free branding iron to anyone opening a new account.
- In the Fresh Off the Boat episode "Hi My Name Is", the family needs a new toaster. However, instead of just buying one, the ridiculously frugal parents decide to have the youngest son Evan sign up for a bank account just to get the free toaster.
- All in the Family had Edith explaining to Archie why there is money in the bank they cannot use. It seems that she used money from the main account to open some new accounts so she could get free stuff (a heating pad, an electric blanket and a radio). There's a "substantial penalty for early withdrawal" so the money has to stay in those accounts for now.
- Discussed in Season 1 of Mad Men, when the admen mention how giving away toasters and other appliances is a gimmick to get housewives to stop visit the bank. This is the starting point of Sterling Cooper's actual pitch to get men to open new accounts with what they call the "executive account," which emphasizes features to ensure privacy against snooping wives (like sending statements to a man's office, rather than his home).
- The Capitol Steps' parody of "You'll Never Walk Alone", "You'll Never Get a Loan":
Dream on, dream on,
With hope in your heart,
But you'll never get a loan!
You just might get... a toaster!
- Mentioned (almost word for word) at the beginning of this song by Marc-Uwe Kling
Wegen einem Toaster hatte ich ein Konto bei der deutschen Bank
- Newspaper editorial cartoons which focus on the American banks during the global financial crisis of the early 21st century make use of the bank toaster visual.
- Newsday's Walt Handelsman's "Bank Toasters: Then and Now,"◊ Then: "What banks gave to you" (the toaster); Now: "What banks do to you" (burn you... in other words, "You're toast!")
- The New Yorker's Peter Steiner's "Return Your Toasters"◊ suggests that people who were pulling their money and assets out of Citibank were also returning their free toasters.
- This cartoon◊ made after the 2008 government bailout of major banks in the United States suggests that all American taxpayers got for their troubles is the free toaster (along with a "toasted" economy)
- Inverted in a cartoon from the Sacramento Bee that advertises free banks for purchased toasters.◊
- In one Sherman's Lagoon strip, an octopus is seen thinking about the various options and account choices banks provide, ending his inner monologue with the remark that getting a free toaster used to be so much easier.
- From Baloo Comics:
- A man who just opened a bank account asking for his money back so he can buy bread for his free toaster.◊
- A bank manager being informed that people coming to close their accounts are also bringing back their free toasters.◊
- The bank in Freefall apparently offers a choice between a toaster and a waffle iron. It's generally recommended to go with a toaster, as the waffle irons tend to bite.
- Sev Trek asked why anyone would want to join the police force set up by the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (2003). The winning punchline: Every recruit gets a free toaster! (Cylons are nicknamed "toasters.")
- The Scamalot video Toaster involves a prankster demanding a free toaster in an e-mail reply to a Nigerian fraudster trying to pull a 419 Scam. He claimed he needed to open a new account to take advantage of the Nigerian gentleman's incredible offer, and he might as well claim the free toaster while he was about it.
- The League of Super Evil schemed to steal $5 so they could open a bank account and obtain a free toaster.