'If you make happiness your goal, then you're not going to get to it… The goal should be an interesting life."

Dorothy Rowe

Monday 13 October 2008

A brief, photoless account of a delightful afternoon - followed by a long rant on the inadequacies of a British bank [and the Post Office.]

We had a lovely day on Saturday.

We met up with Babybel, her mum and dad, Mr and Mrs Cheddar and the dogs, for a stroll along the beach in Christchurch. We had made this arrangement a while ago - and the weather forecast had been dire - but it turned out to be a beautiful, warm autumn day.

The dogs paddled - and so did Babybel, with a little assistance from Mrs Cheddar.

I beach combed, with a little assistance from Cheese Minor.

We sat on the rocks in the sun and gossiped.

We sat outside the cafe, drank tea and gossiped a bit more.

I took lots of photos.

Unfortunately it went downhill from there.

On Sunday I accidentally deleted every b****y photo.

I was so upset and cross with myself. I tried whingeing to Wensleydale and swearing at the cat. And then I tried it the other way round. But it didn't do any good - the photos were still gone and it was still my own stupid fault. So I just have to hope that the other photographers on the trip will send me copies of some of theirs [Hint, hint.]

Today has not been much better. I mentioned a while ago that someone had tried to use our credit card fraudulently. A week later the same thing happened with my debit card. Different bank, different account - same effect. Second time this year, on both cards.

Sp the Alliance and Leicester [bank] sent me a new card. These days, of course, you have to 'activate' the card by phoning the call centre. I have done this before so I collected a book and all the paperwork and phoned them. I sat and read Sandra Meech while listening to the anodyne music, punctuated by irritating messages apologising for the fact that I was still on hold.

Although I had phoned the activation number - when I eventually got through, my card could not be activated because they had no security questions to ask me. Probably because I am a dinosaur who has had the account since long before debit cards, phone banking and call centres - when it was still Post Office Giro and I opened the account because I could push the pram to the local post office and cash a cheque. [Don't get me started on the subject of the ruination of the British post office.]

So I was put through to 'Customer Services'. Of course you don't get through to a real person - you have to 'choose which service you require' and push a button. i was then asked to key in my 8 digit something number and my 5 digit phone pin number. Pardon? I have a 9 digit account number and a 4 digit pin. There is of course no instruction on what to do if you don't understand the instructions - but I discovered that if you do the wrong thing often enough you get put through to 'Security'. Who told me that they have 'changed the system'. [I had only just caught up with the old system.]

Had they written to me to tell me this? No. Had they sent me a 5 digit phone pin? Of course not - or if they had, our wonderful post office hadn't bothered to deliver the letters. [I told you not to get me started on the subject of the post office.]

So I was told my 8 digit whatsit number and I dutifully wrote it down on a piece of paper which I will promptly lose - and they are sending me a 5 digit pin which I will not be able to remember.

And then they put me through to someone who could actually activate my card.

So it took 3 people [ and a long time] to do it - because of course you never get straight through to anyone, you always end up on hold. And all on an expensive phone number. I think I have probably, single-handed, made a billion £ contribution to the rescuing of British banks.

One thing I will say for A&L - their call centre is in England and the staff do speak English - well, scouse*, anyway. [I apologise to my readers in the NW of England for that cheap joke.]

Can anyone recommend a bank where the phone is answered quickly by a real person in the UK and which doesn't take three people to deal with a simple operation like activating a card? Preferably one that isn't going bankrupt - although that limits the field, I realise!

* Liverpudlian English, for readers outside the UK.


Julie said...

Oh dear Celia, what a torrid time you've had. I do sympathise on the expensive number, holding on for hours thing. It's even more annoying when you're on an all inclusive BT tarrif and then have to pay for these calls to 0845 numbers like helplines and the Doctors. Grrrrrr!

By the way, thank you for your lovely comments on my blog this weekend. It may be a little while before I get round to making another book but I am hopeful. I have great ambitions for making Christmas presents (pardon the language) which will probably fall by the wayside!

Unknown said...

You poor love. I really do sympathise I too hate the computerised phone systems. However I would recommend First Direct as a bank - they only do phone or on line banking. I have been with them for over 10 years now and on every occasion speak to an English person (occasionally they are scotish and a little difficult to understand) but you never never have to wait for more than 2 minutes and the system is NOT computerised. When I had trouble with fraud 6 years ago they were brill at sorting things out.
Do some art work it helps to get over these days.

Jackie said...

I have enjoyed this! I know the feeling. I am in the middle of a second repair to my laptop for which had to phone Capetown. I said I couldn't understand his accent could he speak more slowly, and I aksed if he had difficulty understanding mine''No ma'am, but we trouble with people from Ireland' he said!