I've had things too easy for too long. Every now and then I might need to cancel a direct debit, set up a new one, or pop into a bank to order a new cheque book. All fairly small transactions, I'm sure you'll agree. But I wasn't prepared for the amount of treacle (or molasses, if you prefer!) I would have to wade through as a result of Moving From One House To Another. The capitals are deliberate, by the way. Having read through this post a couple of times, I feared that it might be the worst kind of post; A Rant. But please don't dismiss me as a miserable old git. I think most, if not all of you will have encountered something similar in the recent past.
I like to think that I'm fairly well organised, and I thought I could approach the Moving House thing in a systematic way. You don't spend thirty years in law enforcement without at least learning how to run a tea club (a very difficult task) or talk a robbery suspect down from a four storey building, (a rather easier task than running a tea club), so I thought the old move would be simple by comparison with such things. I made a list of all our bank accounts, direct debits, account numbers; you name it. Then, I determined to approach each one systematically. Dear bloggy friend, they didn't make it easy for me. One organisation was insistent upon a letter with both old and new addresses; another would only allow me to give the information by phone; still another, only via its (unnecessarily complex) website. The phone ones were fun. They would demand (for security purposes) the first line of my old address, the first line of my new address, my new post (zip) code and my name. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't they just asking for the information I would be about to give them if they hadn't interrupted me with these 'security' questions in the first place? Some demanded a password that I had apparently agreed with them at some time in the distant past. If I wasn't sure what it was, they'd try to prompt me. Doesn't that defeat the object of a password in the first place?
Another telephone encounter left me bemused. After the usual crop of 'security' question, they added a whole new layer of bureaucracy. 'If you have to phone us again, you'll need to answer these questions: (i) the name of the hospital where you were born; and (ii) the place where you took your first holiday as a child.' Dear friend, I will not be calling them again.
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's almost impossible for an average person to open a bank account these days. The banks place so many obstacles in the way of the ordinary Joe or Joanne to prevent money laundering. So poor Mrs. Miggins can't open an account because she can't produce three recent direct debit statements in her own name. Meanwhile, wealthy ne'er-do-wells who know how to circumvent the rules are gaily engaged in laundering vast amounts of cash under the bankers' noses! Whilst standing in a bank queue this morning, I heard a Respectable Middle-Aged Lady fulminating at the fact that, in trying to pay money into her account, the bank wanted both her signature and her date of birth. No, said R.M.A.L, I'll not sign anything, and I'm certainly not giving you my date of birth. You can just give me the cash straight back. So that's what they had to do. Oh, by the way. A collective noun for bankers; a Wunch. And the definition of a banker: someone who lends you an umbrella when it's sunny and takes it way when it's raining.
Internet banking. Now there's a whole new topic. What a marvellous idea; to be able to pay bills, move cash around, set up direct debits, and all on line! But, of course, every banking house has a different login procedure. Some ask you to input a twelve digit number sent to you by post, then your mother's maiden name, and then a four digit PIN you've decided upon yourself. Others want to know your debit card number and whether you prefer fish to chicken (true, I swear!). Still others send you a little plastic keypad that you need to use when carrying out online transactions. Now, what's the result of having all these accounts with different login numbers, PINs, favourite relatives, foods or pets? You have to do the unthinkable. You have to start writing them all down somewhere. Which is something, dear friend, that banks have been telling us not to do.
The post arrives early where I live. Among the letters that plopped onto the mat this morning was from one of my building societies, telling me not to lose my ISA allowance for this year. Now, this building society was one of the first to be notified of our change of address. And guess what? The letter had been redirected by the Royal Mail from my old address.
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