Thursday 1 March 2012

Banker Bashing, Kinda

If you follow me on Twitter, you may remember this from November.

It took a while, what with Christmas necessarily delaying things plus normal administrative process, but stubborn me sent this letter today.
Dear Sirs

Re: Account Number xxxxxxxx

I'm sure that, in this age of computers running your affairs, you would not have noticed my accounts being run down recently. Someone, though, would have received notice of all the direct debits being cancelled, and perhaps a large amount of savings being transferred to another bank in early January might have been flagged up in some report or other.

Anyway, the result is that my current account balance now matches my savings account in boasting a nil balance, with no outstanding payments or deposits left to materialise. As such, I would ask that you close both accounts, cancel my card and remove any trace of my online banking.

If you check your communication records with me, you will notice that this is in response to an incident in November where you debited me what I felt to be an unfair charge.

Now, I'm pragmatic enough to realise that incurring charges with banks is somewhat of an occupational hazard. It comes with the territory when dealing with any large, unwieldy organisation, in fact. In my 16 years with your bank, I have taken such charges with good grace, and not felt the urge to complain. You know, a bit of the old 'it's a fair cop' way of thinking of things.

However, in November, I anticipated that I might go overdrawn so transferred funds from my savings to cover the shortfall. Additionally, I also paid in a cheque for £500 two days prior to this from someone who also holds an account with you. Due to a small miscalculation on my part - that is, forgetting that I'd bought some cheese, a nice bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and a couple of packs of minced beef from Sainsbury's on my way home a few days earlier - the cleared balance dipped into the red by a princely sum of £5.97 for less than 24 hours.

The actual balance was nearer £500, but your ability to mistrust yourselves on the five figure contents of another account held by you meant that you could levy an £8 charge on me, with an almost straight face.

All things considered, I felt this was rather heavy-handed so - for the first time in 16 years - rang you to ask that it be cancelled as a gesture of goodwill. I was expecting a genial two minute conversation, as was the young man who first answered the call in agreeing that I had shown good faith. I recall his words were "I don't think that will be a problem, Sir. I'll just put you through.".

Unfortunately, I was then transferred to a woman who, it would seem, has earned a place in your crack customer services team for her supreme skill of being able to press a button on a computer. Sadly for me, the computer said no.

I asked to speak to a supervisor but I can only assume she hasn't got one as the only option she offered was to raise a complaint, and that someone would ring me back the next day. She was, however, arrogant enough to suggest that your bank was actually doing me a favour by only charging £8! "We have reduced our charges substantially recently", she condescendingly added. I must admit to raising my voice a few decibels at this stage as I pointed out that the reduction was a result of the OFT ordering you to, rather than any voluntary largesse on the part of the bank.

I was duly called the next day by another customer service representative whose 'service' seemed to consist of ringing up 'customers' and saying that, yes, the computer really did say no. Oh yeah, and that they were doing me a favour as the charges had recently been reduced. She did at least chip in that, apparently, they would like nothing else but to over-ride the computer but that it would be unfair to all other customers. I was by now enjoying the comic nature of the situation so assured her that I would refrain from running up the High Street with a loud hailer if that would do the trick but, no, the computer still hadn't changed its mind.

The computer was similarly unmoved, as was the customer services whizz, when I said that I felt strongly enough about the matter to move banks seeing as the goodwill you attach to my 16 exemplary years with you - along with the profits you have earned from my money and loans in that time - was worth less than £8.

"That would be your decision to make, Sir", was the response, probably safe in the actuarial knowledge that most people can't be bothered with the hassle of changing banks. Sadly, I am afflicted by a stubbornness gene which reacts badly to being shafted, so I have shifted all my banking to xxxxxxxx as a result.

I got a good deal too, with better terms for my current account and a more favourable savings rate, proving the benefits of shopping around. I have since used this to my advantage by putting out feelers for a new banking provider for my business, and have had productive meetings with three different banks eager to attract our six figure monthly deposits. Sadly for you, every debit has a credit as you well know, and the bank we choose for the future will be benefiting from the hundreds of thousands of pounds per month that we currently entrust to you.

Still, at least you still get to keep that £8 towards your Managing Director's huge bonus. I hope he doesn't spend it all at once.

Yours faithfully
Dick Puddlecote Esq.
There. I feel better now.


Patnurse said...

Good for you DP :) sadly, I fear big corps, inc banks, utility companies, the leisure industry, have all become so robotised that they've forgotten how to deal with real people. 

The computer will probably eat your excellent letter and the MD won't see it come in because he'll be out troughing on all those £8s legally arm-twisted out of other poor sods. 

Ron Hughes said...

The added benefit (and a free one) is the sense of satisfaction of successfully doing something positive.

I've had a couple of 'policy disagreements' with Barclays. 

Technically & contractually, they've been within their rights to make minor, single-digit charges for inadvertent errors on my part.

Like you, reasonable requests for clemency fell on deaf ears of the minions who are not empowered with discretion.

The answer, in my experience, is to dispense with a second opinion of a 'supervisor' - jump all the way up to the Chief Executive's office.

One of their PAs has the authority to agree with a 'reasonable' request from a long-standing customer.


Jay said...

Any chance you would be willing to share which bank this was, Dick?  I'll understand if you'd rather not do so.

nisakiman said...

Nice one DP, I like it. I hope you cc'd it to the MD.

Yes, banks are good like that. I remember back in the 80s I closed a business and the relevant account when I moved overseas. The bank wrote to me and told me I was seventy pounds overdrawn, as my account had been debited with a seventy pound fee for closing the account! WTF? Needless to say, there followed a call from me to demand an explanation, with the inevitable "Spin on that..." conclusion. (I was a lot less mellow in those days.)

I went away for a couple of years, and on my return to UK, discovered that in my absence I had been the lucky recipient of a nice shiny CCJ. And not only that, the seventy pounds had grown to more than a grand. And I wanted a mortgage. Fucking bastards. I had to stump up to satisfy the CCJ, plus do a bunch more jiggery-pokery to get the mortgage. Assholes. Never used or recommended that bank since, and I never will again. I love it when someone gets one over on them. Bastards.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

The added benefit (and a free one) is the sense of satisfaction of successfully doing something positive.
Oh, I feel very satisfied, Ron. I was chuckling as I posted it earlier. Funny you should mention Barclays, I've had run-ins with them before. 

Dick_Puddlecote said...

I've left a clue. ;)

David said...

In stark contrast to a similar scenario with my bank (Midland) many moons ago, when computers were more stupid (or not, depending on one's point of view). On receipt of a statement, I phoned my branch and within 30 seconds had to issue resolved to my satisfaction. In those days it was much easier to open and close accounts. I remember opening my first account at Nat West in 73. Walked in with one proof of identity. Ten or so minutes later, walked out with an account. Gone are the days when you could just phone the branch rather than having to deal with a foreign dialect (Scottish and Welsh included). 

BT don't do themselves any favours either. No joke, in 2010 I reckon I must have spent going on three working days trying to convince them they were ripping me off. I must have explained the situation to scores of different people, all of whom conceded I was right and promised to sort it. They had the dreaded option system, made worse by asking what music I wanted to listen to whilst being held in a queue, and often ending the call 30 minutes really was enough to reduce a grown man to tears. 

moonrakin said...

Ah...  BT - I worked for a company in the 90's who produced call logging equipment - to catch the night cleaners calling their relations in Oz or sex chat lines etc.. I thought initially.

Nope - no so - I discovered that one of our customers made a very successful business out of catching BT overcharging - usually to the tune of 20% - which, on a £2.5 million telecom bill isn't small potato.

Never admitted, simply wiped from next bill.....

Whatever happened to BankBusters I think they were called? IIRC some spreadsheet armed Canadian accountants who worked on a percentage of the overcharging they found on your bank statements?


Henry Crun said...

I removed my accounts from RBS around the time they were about to go belly up. I wrote to their Head Office explaining that as they could no longer manage their own finances I would not entrust them with mine. I moved over to a building society and have received exemplary service ever since.

What always makes me laugh is the amount of money they charge for sending payments overseas. The banks use a communication called SWIFT for which just about every single bank charges 25 quid to you and me. In actual fact, the SWIFT costs run to pennies per transaction - I know, because I used to work in the international division of a large South African bank and used to set up the SWIFT arrangements with overseas partners. Banks - they are all bastards.

Lyn Ladds said...

It is so refreshing to see some people with the balls and principles to stand up to these bullies, instead of people like my mother and husband who just shrug their shoulders and say 'well, we can't do anything about it, so we just have to get on with it'.

That attitude is exactly why big businesses, such as banks and utility companies and, most of all governments, have been able to trample us under foot for decades - too many just shrug their shoulders.

If only we could clone ourselves (those of us who will shout and take action, that is) - the message just might get through then!

Talking of Barclays, I too had a run in with them some years ago when my husband then and I both had separate personal accounts.  I chose to close my account, but as my husband was overdrawn in his, they deducted what he was overdrawn by from my account prior to closing it!  I went berserk and accused them of theft, but only got the money refunded when I threatened to go to the national papers.

Some businesses just get far too big for their boots and forget, completely, who it is that keeps them in business, thereby 'earning(!)' them their obscene bonuses!  As said by others here "Bastards"

Vapingpoint said...

Absolutely GREAT post. I am going to have a wonderful day! thank you!

Neilsnowden8 said...

They won't give a s**t Dick. As one early 20's 'manager' said to me. "If you walk out, then others will walk in". This after nearly 40 years with the same bank and never a black mark.

I walked out.

Insufferable said...

Another Barclay's tale...Some years ago I had a substantial compensation payout for endowment mis-selling (not Barclay's).  Initially I tried to deposit it in my Building Society account only to be told that over the counter deposits could not be made for online accounts, transfers had to be done electronically.  No problem I thought I will put in my Barclays current account, let the cheque clear and then transfer it using online banking.

The cheque duly clears but when I try to transfer funds the transaction is blocked.  A call the the online banking service informs me that despite it being my money I am limited to transferring only £2000 per day "for security reasons" to which my response is, "so you are telling me that your online service is insecure then?" Cue much back-pedalling and arse covering.

Well there was no way I was going to take that many days (greater than 6) to transfer the money in individual transactions.  A trip to the branch is required.

Once at the branch they tell me it will cost me £25 to make the transfer to which I reply that as you have had my money for five days before putting it in my account and will have made much more money off it than £25 I expect the transaction to cost me precisely nothing!

Barclay's at this point are not going to concede the fee until I ask, "How much does it cost to bring my account up to date and close it?"

"That will be free Sir".

"Good! Write me a counter cheque for the balance and close the account"

The grunt disappears in to the back and returns with the branch manager, who after establishing the facts agrees that the £25 can be waived.

The moral being never back down with these bastards

lleweton said...

Bravo Dick. Numquam carborundum (to coin a phrase). I fear that 'systems' everywhere are designed in such a way that middle ranking officials are discouraged from, and then forget how, to think for themseles and take common sense initiatives.

Jaycas said...

Just to widen the rant...After 23 years of loyalty to the AA, I switched after inadvertently forgetting to renew my sub and a few days later breaking down.  I'd managed to pull into a service station to phone them.  They charged me double the usual sub fee and, because my card didn't show the bank account number, charged another fee.  To add insult to injury, they towed me about a sixth of a mile to the garage adjoining the service station.  They did offer to waive the fee charged because of the lack of account number but would not accept that, despite years of loyalty, I wasn't a desperate new customer.  I expect to drive for many more years and they will have lost more than they gained from charging me the 'desperate newbie' fee .  I guess computer said, "No".

Bucko TheMoose said...

That post made my night. Mrs Bucko's too. I wish I had more than a couple of quid to take away from the buggers sometimes.
I only got a bank account because my new job wouldn't pay cash (About ten years ago). When applying for the account they asked for my wage slips for the past three months. I asked why because I didn't want an overdraft, chequebook or debit card, I was only asking them too look after my money. She said it was to proove I wasn't a terrorist; new rules after 9/11. I said that in that case I will need to see their accounts for the past three years to prove my money was safe.
She changed the subject and asked if I had debts. I was tiring of the conversation so I said I was up to my eyeballs in them. She said we can only offer you an account with no overdraft, chequebook or debit card.
Bingo! I says. Just what I wanted.
I never had to show the wage slips and I still got a debit card.
After ten years they have given me all the other stuff plus loan and mortgage opportunities which I have ignored.

Manu said...

Awesome letter DP! :-)