Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bankers? Bonkers

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.


  1. Are ecclesiastical organisations any better? How much do they spend on bureaucracy? How well are their bureaucrats paid? Do they close local churches? I can think of quite a few Anglican and Catholic Churches which have been closed while bureaucracy survived. The phenomenon is ecumenical.

  2. Your experience is a familiar one. My spouse also banks with them.

    They changed the terms and conditions on her account (which is always in credit) without informing her and stopped paying interest on her credit balance.

    Exhaustive phone calls to an expensive number failed to change things. So, she emailed the CEO (how I can't fathom) and than got a really contrite call from someone, somewhere in the UK who wasn't from her branch, but who could fix things.

    He offered to pay arrears of interest due and to credit her account immediately. Problem solved. If she wishes to continue to receive interest, she needs to change her account to a new product which pays interest, but also charges a fee. She declined this kind offer and is now seeking an escape route to another, more user friendly bank.

    1. Try SAYNOTO0870.COM which provides alternative numbers to prevent this rip off by banks, mobile phone providers etc

  3. I have banked with the Co-op for over 30 years and find them most helpful and 'cooperative'.

  4. I've experienced similar with two other "high street" banks, which in fact have little or no accessible information available at local high street level! I find it pitiful that staff shortages can be blamed in these situations when the unemployment lines are burgeoning and The Bosses are raking in "bonuses" for simply turning up to do their day jobs. But good for you Father Edwin: £3 is still worth a loaf of bread and a couple of pints of milk these days! I admire your resilience.

  5. I recommend First Direct. It's mainly an internet/telephone bank but the phone is answered quickly by a human being. They are very helpful and keep winning awards for customer service. You can pay money in at HSBC branches.