I wasted two hours of my life today. My credit card statement included an interest payment of over £3 because the bank asserted I had not paid £20 off my bill last month. But I had set up a standing order to ensure this money was paid regularly. So I phoned. Have you tried phoning your bank? After endless options (if you are enquiring about a mortgage, press one, if you are wanting a loan for less then three days, press two.... if you are tired of living, press seventeen ... and so on). They asked questions like what was my mother's sister's aunt's maiden name, the first name of our deceased pet dog, my inside leg measurement (in millimetres). After all that, I spoke to a human being; a very pleasant sounding Scots human being. She wanted to know what was the credit card payment I had made on Thursday fortnight. Because I could not tell her, there was nothing more she could do for me.
So I got into the car and drove my still Vertiginous self into town. In the Bank the Information and Help desk was unmanned. There were people waiting to see an advisor, but no-one was in the front office. So I joined the queue at the clerks' desks. The young lady was very solicitous; she called a colleague over. The matter could not be resolved there. I would need to speak to someone who could phone someone else to discover what the problem was. So I went to wait in the outer office. Eventually a more senior lady came out; she rang and waited and eventually, yes, a human being on the end of the phone, who was handed over to me and assured me that, yes, they had made a mistake, the twenty pounds should have been taken from my account to cover the Credit Card debt, and the charge would be waived.
Success! And after only two hours of phoning and waiting and driving, I have recovered a little over three pounds sterling which was mine all along. The bank concerned is Lloyds TSB, but I have no doubt the same might have been true elsewhere. I have banked with Lloyds since I was in the Air Force, during my National Service.... so it is a long while. Part of the bank is to be taken over by the Co-operative Bank; I did suggest that things might be better then, but the clerk told me that our branch is to remain Lloyds TSB and in any case the situation would be no better because the difficulty is shortage of staff. That is why you have to go through the multiple choice exam of button-pressing rather than being able to phone your branch; because there are not enough people to answer the phone. You waste you time rather than theirs. Yet if you could ring to make an appointment everyone's time might be saved. Too simple, obviously.
This is an organisation whose bosses have, notoriously, been paid vast bonuses. Each year the profits of these organisations rise. Yet in a time of unemployment the banks save money by cutting staff in the branches, so infuriating their once loyal customers. What a mad world we are in.
2 hours ago