Useless bank! A rant

15 March 2010

It’s a shame that we need to rely on banks for our personal finances. The front-end staff are with some exceptions useless, especially the call-centre employees. Sometimes it’s ignorance – not their fault – and other times innate incompetence or buck-passing, but on occasions, it feels like a deliberate and wilful attempt to make life difficult for their supposed customers. And their owners. The bank is owned by the taxpayers.

My credit card is expiring at the end of the month, but I haven’t yet received my new card. Naturally I wanted to know where my new card can be found.

On Saturday, I called the customer phone number and was told that the new card has been dispatched on 27 February. I asked whether it was sent by registered mail or not. The employee replied that it might be sent by normal mail but she wasn’t sure. I then sifted through the post to see if it had been delivered. No, I couldn’t find it.

Today, Monday, I called the bank, twice. The first time, after pressing so many buttons (Press one ... if your card has been stolen; press two ... etc), I reached someone who seemed quite nice and willing to help. She said that the card had been dispatched, but not to my current London address but to an address in Germany where I used to live and had the previous new card sent to. I asked if she could 1) cancel the card that has been sent out; 2) reissue me a card and sent to the London address. She said she needed to transfer me to the people who deal with stolen or lost cards. After wandering through Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, I was speaking to another lady who seemed rather grumpy from the tone of her voice. She said that I needed to cancel the current card as well as the card sent to Germany, and I need to write a letter to the bank begging instructing it to change the delivery address. Could this be done over the phone? After all, I did press my card number and other personal information to identify myself as me. And it was possible to do so last time. No, she said in that rather authoritative tone. She has been working 6 years at this place, so she wasn’t going to brook any suggestion to the contrary. I was going to be without a card, and having to write a letter.

Hmm ... Best to pop down to the post office and get some stamps. But is it really necessary? In the 21st century? Perhaps I ought to don a stiff collar, a bowler hat, a monocle and a walking stick, and go to a branch. That would be too expensive. I thought I should give another try: call number two. Another round of pressing buttons, the sequence which by now I have remembered, and I reached another person. She was very helpful, and after hearing my explanation, she altered the delivery address on the computer system, just like that.

Call-centres are a real lottery. Some people are knowledgeable and helpful, but other times, it’s quite possible to receive unsound advice and wrong information. I wish these things could be done online, without the need to rely on unreliable humans.