Saturday, 28 February 2009

To read this post, press one...

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.

To return to the top of this post, press two. To leave a comment, press three. To speak to a genuine human being, press four...

18 comments:

Comedy Goddess said...

You are so right about the password prompting questions!

Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier if we were all just micro chipped at birth?

You were a cop?

chris hale said...

Hi CG.

1. Yes, I know.

2.Yes, it would.

3. Yes, I was.

Sorry, CG, all this press one malarkey must have got to me! Yep, thirty years a cop. Or Rozzer, Flatfoot, Bobby, Peeler, Esclop, Blue Devil, Raw Lobster, Scuffer, Busy, Copper...there are almost as many expressions for police officer in the UK as there are euphemisms for getting drunk. Hic!

Rob Inukshuk said...

I'm sorry, this comment cannot be completed at this time. Please press the hash key to return to the main menu. Click. Bzzzzzz.....

chris hale said...

Hello, Rob? Hello? Hellooo?

punk in writing said...

And to make matters worse, sometimes you have to listen to 20 minutes of crap muzak while you are on hold, waiting to be asked these stupid questions.

And when you do get a human being on the phone, it's some call center in god-knows-where and some poor student who can't do anything their computer doesn't tell him or her.

chris hale said...

Punky - Music! I forgot to mention the music! It's usually one of those awful warbles from a British Airways ad, or Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

I feel sorry for the call centre staff. They always incur the anger of the caller, even though they have no control over what happens.

Comedy Goddess said...

Wow! 30 years? I haven't stuck with any one field for more than 15.

And I have never met a British Bobby before. Well I did make one of the Queens Guards smile while he was at his post, which I gather is something they are not supposed to do. I guess I was too much for him.

chris hale said...

CG - Yes, thirty years. You don't get thirty years for murder nowadays...

What did you do to make one of Her Majesty's Foot Guards smile? Come on, you can tell me...

Comedy Goddess said...

I was a 21 year old traveler in your country, visiting friends who invited me to their home during the Christmas holiday. We were walking home. I was slightly tipsy from the holiday cheer. The rest is blurry. And I have been told that I should not speak of it again. That's all your gettin' from me, copper!

chris hale said...

(In best London Constabule accent) - Very well, miss. Mind how you go. And don't forget to look both ways before you cross the road. I'll be cutting along to my beat now; if the Sarge asks, you 'aven't seen me, miss, now 'ave you?

SweetPeaSurry said...

Life's petty annoyances. I had the same thing happen on the password thing with paypal, they were trying to direct me to my password. Luckily, I had created such a GOOD ONE, that even with the prompting we couldn't figure it out. I told them I probably have it written down SOMEWHERE ... sheesh.

chris hale said...

SPS - Ah! The very best password of all...one so secret that even you can't remember it!

Madame DeFarge said...

When I married and tried to open a joint account with the bank with whom I had banked for 18 years, they didn't believe that I was still the same woman. Same story trying to get a credit card as a married woman from the same provider. And I had moved addresses and changed jobs. I was a clear and present danger to credit ratings everywhere.

chris hale said...

MDF - It's very odd; it's almost as if banks and credit card companies are constantly amazed that people get married or change addresses. We should start voting with our feet and kick the stroppy banks into touch, but apparently people get divorced more readily than change their banks.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Goodness me, Chris, I'm astounded!

I wonder if we giraffes would make a better job of running planet Earth's banking systems?

chris hale said...

Raph - my guess is 'yes'. After all, you can see further than us in a literal sense at least!

Derrick said...

Hi Chris,

I spent an hour today speaking to technical persons in the sub- continent but about computers, not banking.

Just trying to get your own money out is the best one. Not only do you have to show proof of identity, you have to tell them why you want the money. Pardon?! Eventually, we said "to pay a bill", which is precisely what they wrote on the form!

It was for drugs, of course!

chris hale said...

Hi Derrick.

It does seem like they hate giving you your own money now. With savings interest rates so low and banks doing precious little for investors, I think the time has come to put your money under the mattress!

Drugs??