I was going to start with a rant about banks and how they suck.
However, I’ll restrain myself as I’d hate to be childish and reactive after getting off of the phone with my bank.
I won’t say who they are, apart from they have the same name as a town in Spain, also that they have shown one or two fleeting glimpses of compassion in the 30+ years I have held an account with them.
Actually, my issue is with the ‘computer says no’ mentality of organisations in general.
In Seth Godins book ‘Small is the new big’ he describes a whole state of mind from people in companies which is ‘we don’t care because we don’t have to.’
I wish I’d never read this book or watched Little Britain, every time I am faced with someone who is an advocate of ‘we don’t care we don’t have to’ or ‘computer says no’ I want to reach over and pull their still beating heart out their chest for being a crap human being.
Actually, I am going to have to tell you about my bank….
As the other long-suffering reading of my blog you will know the last few years has been a struggle for me and my mental health, now I am much better, sometimes a little wobbly but over all I have ‘mended’ – so there is no cause for alarm after reading the above.
Last year in one of the darkest weeks at the peak of my depression I ‘suddenly’ got a bill for bank charges that read like a telephone number. It was eating me all day, I was angry, trapped and felt like I had been stubbed out like a cigarette butt by the bank.
It is worth noting here that compared to LARGE chunks of the UK I am in a pretty good state, I have family, friends and a gorgeous coworking community that support me.
I have both read about and met people way more fucked than I’ll ever be, how they are able to cope I don’t know.
At the time I was ‘decently mentally ill and finding it hard to cope’ – here is the story and then I’ll get to the funny shit.
We don’t care because we don’t have to – computer says no.
Anyway, I am wandering up Oxford Street with my world collapsing for the fifth time that week. #Babybernie is holding my hand and is the only thing keeping my world held together that day.
You need to know that everything seems exaggerated, out of proportion and dramatic, I know this logically and still don’t know what to do.
There is an extraordinary distortion of the normal when you are not thinking straight, I had started to feel much better but was often lured into a false sense of security by my mind. Think this is hard trying being my wife when I am on the road to recovery and never seem to make it.
I walk past my bank and think, I’ll go in and have a chat and see where I stand I should be a grown up and deal with this.
I go in and up the escalator, I walk around and see if there is a receptionist or someone at a desk I can speak to.
There is not, all enquiries are handled by the people behind the big glass counter.
I explain that I want to talk about my bank charges and don’t really feel comfortable ‘chatting’ at the window with 10 people behind me in the queue.
I pick up #babybernie and walk to the queue, I was about to flip but it would have been rude to take it out on the poor teenager with too much gel in his hair, super pointy brogue shoes and Top Man tie.
I queue up and explain to the nice looking man behind the glass that my bank charges read like a passport code, I am fucked and not well.
There was nothing he nor anyone in the building could do, say, talk about it or help with.
It is tempting to get really funny here but I’ll press on. I am not here to take the piss out of people who work in banks, unless they have too much hair gel and super pointy brogue shoes.
I double checked with him.
So can you just confirm that there is NO ONE present in this very staffed bank building who can even have a whisper about these bank charges that look like the bar code from a large box of maths equipment?
No, Sorry Sir no-one at all.
Ok, so if he had said to me – no chance mate what we do is send you to phone with people who are trained to cut you down. Look I know it is piss unfair, but after all we are a ‘business’ and need to turn a profit for shareholders or it gets really awkward at the AGM.
Also there is so much polyester in this uniform it is like being in a kids super hero costume, think I like it?
Also it is coming up to Christmas and our Staff party gets shitter every year, so fuck the share holders I am with you on that, what I am personally concerned with is having a Christmas party (even though I am not Christian) and if you don’t pay your bank charges I have to drink crap wine in the office with some Pret Turkey Sandwiches. Just suck it up, take the cute kid and get out of here.
Instead, he lied, not intentionally – he stuck to the script and did his job – what more could he do?
He directed me towards the phone.
I though fuck it and nearly left.
Then I thought, I am going to have to deal with this sometime and the phone inside the bank always answers faster.
I dialled through and spoke to three more people who said there is nothing we can do.
In fact, they assured me there was nothing they can do, ever.
In the 30+ years, I have had the account I have had charges refunded and “They are only able to do this once a year.”
We went round the houses and then they reminded me that (after everything we had talked about) if the charges were not covered and I went over drawn when they came out I’d be charged again.
I felt like they were slowly dipping me in acid and complaining about me discolouring it as they submerged me.
Well, don’t take the money out and I won’t go over-drawn.
We need to sir. You have gone over drawn.
FUCK ME! Even if Jay-Z had these charges coming out his account he’d struggle for a month or so.
We won’t be able to do anything, we need to charge you and it is in the terms and conditions of your bank account with us.
(That I opened in fucking 1990 in Lakeside Shopping Centre when I had a Saturday Job!!!)
We do send you updated terms and conditions that you need to read.
How could I argue with that?
Looking back I wish I’d checked with them – do you have an iPhone? Do you read the T&C’s every time you do a iOS software update?
If I came over there with lie detector machine and Darren Brown
you’d all be able to swear you read all the T&C’s of everything you interact with?
Another missed opportunity.
Why does this always sound so juvenile? We have been conditioned to think it is totally fine for someone who is not a lawyer to bring us to task on what we ‘should be doing’ – if I did not have read so many adverts and mail by this bank with Olympic Athletes and smug looking F1 drivers in maybe I’d have time to read my T&C’s and be an obedient customer.
So to be clear. By this point I have explained that ‘business owner’ (freelancer), I am very depressed and under medical supervision, the main reason I had dangled a knife over my wrist with such enthusiasm earlier in 2013 is that I was very very very stressed about money, my families security, life, my own sense of self-worth and really saw no way out.
Luckily I came to my senses and went back to bed.
Would it be Ok on this isolated occasion to reconsider my or at least come to some arrangement?
No – there was nothing they could do and no one would be able to help me in the branch. Maybe I could ask someone for the money to cover the charges? – C@nT$……
Suddenly I am looking at the whole phone booth rolling across the floor towards a very shocked couple of bank workers in the glass office opposite me.
I had snapped and pulled the whole thing off the wall and thrown it across the room.
For a few minutes, I felt like the Incredible Hulk – not so much triumphant but a sinking feeling of everyone looking at me and I was way to conspicuous to go anywhere.
I expected the police to arrive very shortly and was worried about what to do with #Babybernie who was now kicking the broken phone on the floor with a war cry.
I grabbed him, in the same way, that Sigourney Weaver grabs a child she needs to defend it in an Alien movie.
Then Vidhu arrives, she is young, smart and apparently empathic, she ushers me to a side area with sofas and asks me if I’d like some water.
I feel some kind of procedure has been implemented. ‘Would Mr. Sands please go to the water cooler on level three’ everyone in positions, lead the other customers to safety and Steve you are the biggest so hide round the corner in case he kicks off again.’
Vidhu is the branch manager and in less than a minute has sorted out my charges, made sure I am ok and that #Babybernie is ok. Am I ok getting home? What am I going to do now? Is there anyone I need to call?
I am both ok and I am shocked.
Smashing up a bank is not on my list of ok things to do.
Also I am pissed that it took me throwing a phone booth across the bank for someone to be able to help me.
However, Vidhu shows genuine concern for our well being, I am touched and also very apologetic.
We leave and get the Number 25 home and sit up top at the front and hour later when we get home #babybernie is asleep and I am just about at peace.
No question – my actions are my responsibility but it seems perverse that NO ONE COULD HELP ME – but throw a phone booth across the bank and in MINUTES my problem is resolved.
I am not just saying this to be nice, chucking stuff around every time something does not go your way it not the way to build a society. But ‘claiming’ that there is nothing you can do is tragic, companies like my bank can do anything they want so saying ‘there is nothing we can do’ is a lie.
I had a thing with Talk Talk once about our broadband, just for a laugh I rang nearly every week for a year and eventually the PA to the CEO resolved our issue in a day.
I must have spent 50 hours of their time and 50 hours of my time and then the very cool PA made it work in a day.
What a waste of time and think how many people give up and then walk around bitching.
On the other hand, Vodafone have always been easy and fair to deal with, I know some of you have had run in’s with them and they are crap at paying their taxes but they have always been outstanding with any problems or requests I have had – and most of all fast and fair.
So thanks for reading.
If you need a recommendation for a bank – don’t ask me.