A Very Short Financial Honeymoon

It comes as a bit of a shock when you phone your bank with a routine enquiry, only to be told that they're no longer a bank. When I mentioned it to a colleague she asked what they're turned into. Perhaps now they are a greengrocer? Or maybe a pet grooming salon? Have they spent my meagre savings on hair dryers for dogs? Or cabbages and carrots?

Fortunately, the change is only due to the consolidation and reorganization of the several banks that are now owned by the government (or, to be more accurate, by us taxpayers) and my bank is continuing to operate but not accepting any new business. However, it also is not accepting any changes to existing accounts either, and their advice was (amazingly) "I suggest you move to another bank!" So I have done.

Of course, the problem is that our lives are now so complicated by direct payments, standing orders, bank credits, and other bank-related puffery that you'd assume switching to another bank would be a complete nightmare. Even though they say they have all these clever systems to move everything over automatically. But, hey ho, what else can I do?

So I chose a bank that's UK-based, part of a major banking group, and has top ratings for customer service. And that doesn't charge an arm and a leg every month for "account maintenance," or for "valuable additional services" that I don't need. And when I phoned their customer service department to ask a few questions it was answered immediately by a real person instead of the expected "press 1 to be annoyed and listen to inane music" message.

Even setting up an account was easy and quick online, and for a while it looked like a wonderful financial honeymoon was on the cards! Until it came to setting up some additional services, where the system seems incapable of selecting the appropriate one of the two joint account holders. So I log off and apply for the additional service as a new customer, but now it says I can't do that either because I'm already a customer.

No problem, just call the nice man on the free-phone number and ask him what to do. That's when you discover that (a) it's not a free-phone number once you become a customer, and (b) on the number you have to use now they do have a "press 1 to be annoyed and listen to inane music" message. So I'll submit my question over their secure messaging system instead. Except that it won't let me tell them which account I want to talk about because "the application is pending".

Maybe I just expect too much from technology...

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