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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Now I Remember Why I Hate Bankers

One of my policies is to not do business with an organization, if that organization fails to provide the service that I expect. I have developed a pattern, throughout my life, of changing banks, from time to time, whenever a bank's staff behave in a way that I don't like. About 20 years ago, I concluded that I disliked bankers, lawyers, and insurance companies. The reason is that, more often than not, instead of acting like businessmen, they act like impediments to doing business. All three engage in unholy alliances with "government," to foist themselves upon us.
When I moved to the UK, just over eight years ago, I opened an account with a major UK bank. I picked them simply upon the recommendation of the Black Queen. She banked with them and took me down to the local branch, where she introduced me as her new husband. At the time, the staff seemed most accommodating. They opened a current account (checking, for American readers), provided me with a debit card and opened a Visa account for me. In the years that followed, they upgraded me to one of their premium customers. I don't know if I am getting mellow in my old age, or what, but I stayed a loyal customer for over eight years. In the last half of our relationship, I have encountered a slowly growing number of problems from them, but still, I didn't change. Probably it's not me being more mellow, it's just I couldn't be bothered with the hassle. Besides, two decades have taught me that, inevitably, one bank is as bad as another.
Recently, I have had a growing urge to open an account with a different bank. Last Saturday, I finally decided, enough is enough. I planned to go to one of their competitors and open a second current account. The idea was to shift most of my dealings to one of their competitors. I wanted to do it after work, on Monday. However, I ended up getting out of work too late. The same thing happened on Tuesday. Finally, today, I was out at a decent time and I headed to a place I dread, Bracknell high street. It's not really the high street I dread, it's the parking. I had selected NatWest Bank as the intended beneficiary of my new custom. They are frequently advertising for people to switch accounts to them and claim to be better than other high street banks at customer service. Besides, they are one of the few banks I am not already annoyed with, for one reason or another.
When I arrived at the branch, I found they close at 4:30PM. My current bank stays open till 5PM, so I wasn't impressed. Still, it was only 4:15PM, so I entered with a cheque for £93 burning a hole in my pocket, just itching to be deposited in a new account. After glancing over a brochure describing the different accounts they offer, I sauntered over to the customer service desk. It was staffed by two people, a man and an attractive blond woman. The man was busy, so I was "helped" by the blond. I informed her that I was interested in opening an account. She asked me if I had ID. I did. She then asked me if I had a bank account with another bank. When I admitted that I did, she then asked if I had a bank statement, with me. At first I said "no," because I didn't think I did. She then said they couldn't open an account for me unless I had a bank statement from my current bank. Looking through my briefcase, I discovered that I had two with me, but from July and August. I asked her if they would be sufficient? No, she informed me, I needed three months of statements. I was starting not to like her. I then did something which she was totally unprepared for I asked her, "why?"
The only answer she could manage was, "you just do." In other words, she didn't know why and had never been interested enough in her job to find out. I proceeded to question the wisdom of being willing to open an account for someone with no bank account, but not open one for someone with one, but who only had two statements, not three. She told me that without the three, they would only be able to open the most basic account. It had all the features I wanted except a checkbook, but I hardly ever write a cheque anymore, anyway. I told her that would be fine. By now, she had probably sized me up as the type of customer who wouldn't just accept any old bullshit that is fobbed off on him, but who will ask embarrassing questions. So, she passed me up the chain to a person who does the account opening, washing her hands of me.
A tall man introduced himself, wearing that surface, customer service smile that seems to be an essential requirement for most face to face sales positions, these days. He took me in a private office and we sat down. I asked him why I needed three bank statements for the account one up from thebottomm. At least he had an answer. "It's so we can see if the account is being managed properly," he replied. It's the answer I expected, but blondie should have known it. I asked him if I could, subsequently, provide the three statements, could I upgrade the basic account and he assured me that I could. Fine. Let's get the show on the road. I laid out the cheque that I had with me. In the old days, the sight of money used to tantalize bankers, having a similar effect to a woman flashing a man a glimpse of her ample cleavage. He then asked me if I had ID. I produced my drivers license, which is a photo one. He asked if the address on it was my current address. I admitted it was not. I had moved this year, but hadn't yet changed the address on my license. Problem. They needed proof of my address. I whipped out a utility bill addressed to my new address. Not good enough. Credit card statement. Not good enough. He asked if I had a passport. I whipped out my trusty American passport. I didn't point out that it was expired. Hopefully, he wouldn't notice. He did. Because it was expired, he said he couldn't accept it. Hang on a minute, sunshine. The department of Work and Pensions had accepted my expired passport as ID, combined with the utility bills, bank statements, credit card statements, drivers license, and car registration. They are a "government" department. If they would accept that, surely some measly bank would? No. I waved my cheque at him, pointing out that it was a benefit cheque, which I had been awarded, based on my expired passport as ID. I mentioned I had wage statements, sent to my new address, with me. I had my car registration. I had a photo ID card around my neck, on a strap, from the company who's offices the restaurant serviced. I had passed a security check to get that and once again, done so with my expired passport. No good. I had an American, photo drivers license. No good. He asked if I had the award letter that told me of my benefit. Had I gotten one of those? I handed him the letter that came with the cheque and he went to consult "higher authority," to see if he could use that. You can tell how well you're doing by how many levels of an organization you can get passed up.
Is the absurdity of this situation apparent, yet? I had four forms of photo ID on me, three of which were government issued. Only one was expired. Clearly, there can be no doubt that I am the person in the photos. I had a utility bill, two bank statements, several wage statements, a credit card statement, and my car registration, all with my new address. Surely there can be no doubt that I am at that address. I only wanted to open an account and deposit money. I wasn't asking for the keys to the bloody vault, for Pete's sake.
The British have a word, "jobsworth," used to refer to a person who insists on following regulations to the letter. It's so common here, they have coined a word for it. Historians claim that the Nazis planned, if they were successful in invading and conqueringBritainn, to rule it by using British bureaucrats, because they have such a reputation for obsessive rule following. To make matters worse, most British "officials" won't even accept a bribe. What good is being an "official," if you won't take a bribe? Even in the Soviet Union, they used to take bribes.
Tall man comes back. New wrinkle. After consulting "higher authority," he was now refusing to open any account for me without an unexpired passport. Of course I asked, "why?"
"Because you're not a British citizen."
"So? I have been living here for over eight years. I am a resident. There is no legal requirement for me to obtain a passport, so long as I am not traveling anywhere." I might as well have saved my breath. Trying to employ logic with a jobsworth is pointless. Robots have more sense. The only reason I hadn't yet renewed my passport is that it costs more money than I spend on food in a month and I have no money to travel anywhere, so it is an unnecessary expense. I grabbed all my "papers" and my cheque, muttered something about taking my business elsewhere and left.
I walked down the high street. Next stop, Abbey National. They advertise as being all customer friendly, although they aren't as big as NatWest. Abbey was open till 5PM. A plus already. This time, I didn't mention the passport at all. I offered my drivers license. "Is this your current address?" the Abbey woman asked. I should have just lied. If the papers were sent to my old address, I have my mail forwarded to the new address and I could just change the address, latter. I'm too in the habit of being honest. I admitted that it wasn't. She shut down then. "We need ID associated with your new address." She wasn't interested in any of my other papers. I muttered something about wasting my time and walked out.
It seemed like I would have this problem at any of them. It seems that this is the result of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and tightened security due to identity theft. The humanbots who work for these organizations have so completely numbed their brain cells, they can't recognize their own absurdity. Recently, there was a report in the news about high street banks leaving customer information in the curbside rubbish, where it can be rifled by identity thieves. I gave up and went home. We are all doomed.
If you live in the US, boycott Direct Merchants Bank, they're muppets.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I dislike bankers, lawyers and insurance companies."

DITTO to that Joe, as they are the richest companies in the world, off of our little income, and although we pay into, we never seem to get what we deserve...out of them!!!

6:35 PM  
Blogger JosephintheBracknell said...

Through fractional reserve banking, banksters create money out of thin air.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Su-May said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading your muttered expressions of the banks. Which bank did you use in the end?

3:52 AM  

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