Express & Star

Andy Richardson: Breaking up is hard to do... unless its with your bank

Four-and-a-half hours. That’s how long it took for a high street to correct an error that I spotted in about a minute.

Round and round we went...

And in that time, and for a day before, they did what they do to Putin-supporting Russian oligarchs – froze my account – in case I was a vehicle of the Russian state. Which, should that high street bank be reading, I’m not.

I discovered the egregious intrusion when going to pay a bill. There were ample funds to cover the expenditure but the money wouldn’t leave. It stayed there, suspended in time, while someone somewhere else wondered why I was so tardy at paying. Except, of course, I wasn’t.

I tried to pay another bill – one of five I needed to pay. Same result. So I phoned the bank. They’d been doing routine checks and I’d sent them documents to prove to them that the customer whose money they’d looked after for the past seven years hadn’t, in fact, somehow changed his identity.

I imagined it would be easy. A quick call, point them in the direction of the documents they’d received a day earlier, a quick apology – from them, not me – and pay the damn bills.

I spent 30 minutes with the first person I spoke to, who then realised she was the wrong person and didn’t have the skills to unfreeze the account. So she put me onto a guy who could, who left me on hold for 25 minutes before cutting me off. I didn’t get the chance to tell him how underwhelming he’d been.

I called again. The guy couldn’t help and disconnected the call. The same happened when I called for a third time.

And then I went large. Whatever happens. However inept, inefficient, and unhelpful – and, yes, they were all of those things – I’d be calmer than Bjorn Bjorg at Wimbledon in 1980.

And I was. Over two tedious hours – imagine that, one call, two hours – I explained over and over and over again to the person who worked for the bank what mistake the bank itself had made.

‘You haven’t sent in the documents,’ she told me.

‘But you’ve sent me a receipt, confirming that I have,’ I countered.

‘But we checked, yesterday, at 14.09.’

‘But you emailed me a receipt at 09.37, confirming they’d been received.’

Round and round we went. I tried to point out their folly, their systemic error, their fault. And in their infinite arrogance and ineptitude, they insisted their system was error-proof and I must have done something wrong, even though their own system confirmed I hadn’t and that they’d received the stuff they claimed not to have.

I asked a question, after four hours, when the veracity of my narrative had become unarguable.

‘Do you accept an error has been made? Do you accept you are in the wrong?’

The bank clerk harumphed. And then, after cogs whirred slowly, she delivered her verdict. ‘No.’

They unfroze the account. They sent a new link to resubmit the documents. They called later – a guy from the complaints department – to look at the work of his colleagues. And they asked me to go through their security process, to make sure the person that they’d just called was indeed the person they’d just called.

I declined, of course. Why waste time on a process in which they’d find in their own favour, in which they’d learn nothing, in which they’d refuse to correct the error of their ways?

Besides, by then, I’d already submitted two applications to different banks, figuring out the hassle and time wasted in transferring to someone else would be less than the disruption they’d cause with their next error, their next bout of ineptitude.

‘Imagine if you go home after a long, hard day, dealing with tedious people like me,’ I’d said to the first clerk. ‘And you find that the locks have been changed without reason or recourse. That’s precisely what you’ve done.’

She muttered her acknowledgement. A human response to a problem that the company for which she worked had caused.

Breaking up is hard to do. Unless it’s with that bank in question, for whom I have only the following farewell: ‘It’s not me, it’s you.’

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.