Sunday, 17 November 2013

EARTH HAS FROZEN OVER - OFFICIAL



Born into the generation that still believes banks - sadly now called financial institutions - remain dedicated to the well-being of their customers (OK, I believe in fairy tales too) and are the originators of the phrase, 'customer-service', I had rather a rude awakening, the other day, when I went into my local branch.
'I want to transfer some funds from my current account into my ISA.' I said 'Here is the account number.'
'Sorry, I am unable to do that,' said the nice girl behind the counter.
'Why?' I said
'We no longer carry that service. You can take money out though.'       
'I don't want to take money out. I want to put it in.'
She shook her head. 'Sorry, we don't offer that service. I’m afraid we no longer manage these accounts in branch. You need to telephone our savings department. I can give you a phone number, if you like, and you can use our phone. Just dial 9 for an outside line.'
'But I thought banks believed in security. Isn't over the counter more secure than a phone call?'
‘Not really, you will be asked security questions in a phone call.’
 (Are you beginning to get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach – you know the one you get when you go into the supermarket and find you can no longer identify the joints of meat on sale there.)
I dialled the number.
An automated voice replied, launching into a long-winded explanation of my 4 options plus button 5 if you have forgotten what 1 – 4 were.
I press 1. 
An automated voice replied, launching into a long-winded explanation of my 4 options plus button 5 if you have forgotten what 1 – 4 were.
Hastily I press 2.
Great, a voice. Gobbledegook and a mumbled name – but hey, that doesn't matter, I'm of an age when I don't remember names anyway.
I identify myself with my full name and my account number.
'I want to make a deposit into my ISA,' I said.
'I need to ask you some questions. Your full name? Account number?'
I take a deep breath!
'Sort Code?' the voice continues relentlessly. 'Address? Post Code? Mother's maiden name? Date of Birth?'
'1.5.46' I said.
'Age?'
Age! My grandchildren think I'm 45. I hastily crunch a few numbers on my calculator.
'64' I said at last.

(Come on – be reasonable. I didn't sign up for a maths exam when I opened my ISA.)

'Now some questions about your dependents?'
What? Now some questions about my dependents!
Haven't I made it clear that all I want to do is put my money into my account? What the hell do they want the name of my aunt, my uncle and all my 22 children for?
(You can see that I am becoming somewhat unhinged – quite normal after being forced to confess my real age.)
It was then I got this most horrific thought. What if I begin to suffer from senile dementia and can only remember the names of 21 of my 22 children? Is there an option to phone a friend or ask the audience?

And then I thought – I don’t want this. I want a bank that I can walk into, who will handle all my business over the counter, face to face with a nice girl (or boy), who has my identity (plain as plain) right in front of her.
So I said: 'I don't want this,' and put the phone down.

In the old days (and they’re not that old) the bank manager visited you in your place of business and sent you a card for Christmas, all because you had taken out a loan with them. Loyalty: that's what our generation believed in.
That's gone too.
I sighed. Perhaps it really is time for a change.
I walked down the street to a Building Society and went inside. 'If I open an account,' I said. 'Can I handle all my business over the counter, face to face with a nice girl (or boy), who has my identity (plain as plain) right in front of her?'
'Yes,' said the nice lady and produced a form. 

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