I went into my bank today. I had to go into my bank, as it was not possible for me to withdraw the low remaining sum from an ATM.
I cannot be the only person who has noticed an increase in the level of overly-friendly “customer service” provided by the counter staff, and how it is directly proportional to the financial mess that the banks have left the entire country in. I do not want to be engaged in this transparent distraction technique by some excessively-polite, smiley do-gooder. This is a business transaction, not a social interaction. I do not want you to try and be my pal.
It began with the blonde woman marching up and down the queue of four people, enquiring if we are “just paying in?” I am not sure how much time it would really save, in such a small queue, to be directed to the faster-payments thing. At least it is keeping her in a job, even if it does mean that I have to reveal the nature of my business in such a way that the earywigging people around me become aware of private details. I resent that. If she would just hold her horses, the reason for my presence would be made quietly known to the teller.
As bad luck would have it, I was called to one of the two tellers at the low desks. I was not really in need of a seat, and having to sit down when making the quickest of withdrawals is an unwelcome chore. I aim to be in such unpleasant places for the briefest amount of time, and needing to sit in order to be at eye level feels like they have added an element of captivity, not comfort. Worse still, the teller had evidently been a model student in his customer-facing training. He wanted to know if I was having a good day.
If this question felt in any way sincere or unscripted, I would be less annoyed by the persistence with which their staff always ask it. Instead, I find it to be intrusive – it is no concern of any stranger’s whether I am having a good day, a bad day, or an indescribably mediocre day. It has no bearing on whichever of my affairs I am in the process of conducting.
Bank staff are singularly bad for this. I will happily converse with the checkout staff in my local supermarket, with the conductor on the train, or the ticket office staff, and with just about anybody else who conveys any genuine warmth during the course of our encounter. By way of example, my supermarket staff unfailingly ask me if I “need any help with packing?” I always reply in the negative, and if I am in a reasonable mood I jokingly add “but you can help me pay if you like.” This usually elicits a smile and, more than that, everybody declines with good humour but in a different way. My point being that I am not above a casual conversation and a smile, provided there is some human depth to it. The banks, perhaps to nobody’s surprise given the crisis they created, lack humanity.
I find myself, then, entering into terse and largely one-sided dialogues with courteous but target-focussed individuals, whose individualism is denied them by their corporate masters and by the script they have rote-learned and from which they must not stray. If they thought about what they were asking, then they might stop and ask something else instead – something relevant, something less personal, or something that did not immediately lend itself to having its stupidity highlighted.
“Are you having a good day?” I was asked.
“So-so,” I replied.
“Could be better?”
By definition, if my day can be described as so-so then yes, it could be better. I neglected to point this out, instead telling him matter-of-factly:
“Better if I wasn’t taking out the last of my money.”
“Okay,” he said without listening, checking the balance of my account. “You have nine pounds thirty.” He began counting it out, continuing the line of questioning.
“Are you up to much today?”
Drily, I answered “Not with nine pounds thirty.”
He smiled. It was the smile of a man satisfied that he has done as his job requires of him. It was a smile that did not belie any indication that he had appreciated my attempt at injecting a little bonhomie into his day. Perhaps the possession of a sense of humour is seen as subversive. They trained him on which questions to ask, but not in how to respond adequately to the answers.
I had a letter in the mail today, from my bank. They’ve written to me to alert me to the fact that they are going to send me statements less often, in a bid to save paper. Even though they wrote that on paper and posted it.
It arrived next to a statement showing just how much interest I have paid on my overdraft this year. If they were really determined to be greener, they could have put both of those letters in the same envelope. Hell, I have online banking and they know my email address, so really they had no need to print anything off.
It is still stupid, though, to me at least, that we are kidding on that it is somehow better for the environment to print less – is anyone taking into account the amount of power and energy required to make, run, and maintain computer systems, servers, and the entire internet? Is printing less really the answer? I doubt it.
Still, we are so irrevocably fucked as a race, as this juggernaut hurtles towards the edge of the cliff, that it’s hard to hold any hope of us recovering. We are living an unsustainable existence – my bank wants to generate less paperwork, but their cash machines are running off the mains all day every day and their billboard adverts remain lit overnight.
And the stupidest thing of all is that, when I was last online, I changed the settings in my account and switched to paperless statements anyway. So they have written to me to let me know that they won’t send me something I’ve asked them to stop sending anyway.
I was charged for having insufficient funds by RBS, and also for missing the payment by RBS Visa. This seemed like racketeering to me, given that it was established that money was due in my account the following day, and they change the payment date monthly. My first two letters elicited copied-and-pasted responses, appended with a photocopied signature of someone too high up to read correspondence.
By the time I wrote this third letter, I had completely given up all hope of getting any kind of personal response from the “customer care team” at RBS, and – seizing on the name of the person who’d sent me the latest copied-and-pasted reply – sent this letter back. I knew I wouldn’t get anywhere with them, which is why I put the swear-word in – past the point of caring. Having worked in Customer Service myself for a number of years, I know that as soon as the customer swears the argument is lost. I never swear when making a formal complaint, certainly not in the first instance. This one was in the context of a relevant quote though, and it was already clear that no appropriate reply would be forthcoming. I wrote this more in the hope that it would be passed round the office for entertainment, rather than acted upon.
They did reply, and said they wouldn’t enter into any further correspondence on account of my coarse language. That was copied and pasted too, so I can only presume that they get that quite a lot…
I consider this matter closed, and only post this letter here for your entertainment. Names and addresses have been removed, the rest is exactly as sent.
16th March 2010
RB Scare Team [Address Redacted, mis-spacing deliberate]
Dear Mr [Namesake of Famous Actor, Redacted]
Re: Your letter regarding my complaint, new reference [redacted]
I presume you are not the actor, although since your namesake once wrote a sitcom, it’s hard to be certain – your letter is a joke. It was good of you to take the time to copy and paste so many paragraphs, most of which were irrelevant to my previous letters. I did enjoy the irony of you apologising “if I feel some of the points raised in my letter were not dealt with, or responded to, correctly” in a letter that also failed to deal with or respond to my points raised. And OF COURSE the ‘bank considers its charges to be fair’, despite the overwhelming public feeling that the opposite is true – if you stopped charging everyone you would have to forgo those hefty bonuses, right?
I appreciate that you refunded £38 to my account, it’s just a real shame it seemed like a transparent bid to appease me and get me to shut up. It remained in my account about a day before you took it back out in interest or something – I’ve lost track of what you actually call your theft these days, but at least if you hadn’t repaid it I would have been hit with further ridiculous charges, so thanks for that. I suppose in your line that counts as compassion or something. Now, you assure me ‘my comments were noted’, but your company has failed to respond to them, for the third time. You know, I was asked recently if I would like to book an appointment for my annual customer review – let me make it plain that, as soon as my debts are paid off, I will not be your customer ever again.
Many people, it seems, are concerned with their carbon footprint. I am worried about RBS’ oxygen footprint – it seems your staff are using far too much of this valuable resource, and I would like to ask you all to stop forthwith. Surely your managers are largely breathing through gills anyway, unevolved as they clearly are. If only they could train chimps to copy and paste then they could do away with your entire department and reward themselves the money thus ‘saved’ (rather than, you know, repay the taxpayer). Anyway, I digress.
I have no idea what’s going on with my account, your staff are busy giving me conflicting answers in what could well be a deliberate ruse to confuse – last week I checked I had enough money to cover two switch payments. Then I was told the next day that they WOULDN’T be covered. So I borrowed £20 to pay in, only for it to sit there a week. Today, when I enquired what was going on, and if I was or was not £20 up (to spend on luxuries like food – mental, isn’t it? I’ve tried living on dust but it’s not so filling.) I was told that the £29 I thought was in my account has virtually gone in an interest payment. Quite fortunate that I left it there, isn’t it? You could, of course, do me the small courtesy of letting me know exactly when you plan to remove money from my account. If you include such information with my statement, then stop emailing it and instead post it to me again – I’ve explained before that I don’t have internet access. Or a TV licence, or anything else that so many people are able to take for granted.
Anyway, since you are clearly destined to ignore my questions and points for all eternity, I may as well just quote Al Pacino in the movie ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ and say: kiss me. I like to be kissed when I’m being fucked.
Please, I implore you, also remember to use a condom – you are shafting so many people so royally (ah, that must be where the R in RBS comes from), I’m worried that you will infect me the same way your entire infrastructure is infected. You are a disease, your bosses are the cancer of society, and I look forward to reading what you are able to cut and paste in response to this. In the meantime it seems I, like so many others, have little choice but to bend over and take it.
PS: Don’t forget to grow a spine.
PPS: I realise you are probably just the minion to whom my case has been assigned, don’t take my comments personally. I did address two letters to the [Name Redacted] who photocopies her signature on all correspondence, but she’s clearly high enough up the food chain that she doesn’t have to take criticism. If you happen to know her, please inform her that evolution is a wonderful thing and she should try it sometime, instead of being thoroughly impersonal while pretending exactly the opposite.
PPPS: I have deliberately taken the time to word my letters articulately and with humour, because so many others must just be sending you outright hatred and heartfelt swearing. I don’t deal in standard paragraphs or cutting and pasting – please afford me the same courtesy in your reply. Even if it ‘is not company policy’ – your company is morally corrupt anyway, and you are – I presume – a human with your own brain, which lets you formulate independent thoughts and opinions. Just saying.
Again, I consider this matter closed, and only post this letter here for your entertainment.