The banks are doing as much for their customers as we had expected

With lockdown in its millionth week, I keep reading that it ‘isn’t really lockdown’ as the roads are in use.

As we can’t go to restaurants, cafes, pubs, football matches, school yet, the most interesting shops, libraries and in millions of cases, work – we’re surely locked down enough thank you. At least you can go to the bank. Theoretically.

Banking is an industry which ceaselessly claims to adore its customers and do anything for them. The Halifax for example, is running a particularly emetic commercial, including a tasteful scene with a dog about to be put to sleep.

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This touching vignette is accompanied by the Oasis song Stand By Me, although the song’s opening line, which actually mentions throwing up, is curiously omitted.

This lad won't resolve all of your banking issues, but at least he works Saturdays.

The cringey slogan, “It’s a people thing”, doesn’t quite ring true if the people’s thing is to actually enter a branch; especially on Saturdays. That would be ludicrously convenient. But it isn’t just the Halifax.

There remains a need, even today, for branches run by humans; otherwise they wouldn’t still exist. But banks, who for centuries have kept ornate opening hours, have surpassed themselves during lockdown.

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Most are open weekdays, but close (even) earlier. The reduced hours are purportedly for the health of staff and customers. Complete closure we could understand. However, the world’s foremost epidemiologists all agree that no strain of Covid is less virulent between 10am and 2pm weekdays.

Some banks in Sunderland and South Tyneside advise customers needing Saturday service to go to Newcastle; if indeed they’re open there. With Virgin Money the reverse applies. Their Newcastle customers must travel to Sunderland, South Shields or Washington.

Virgin is currently the only bank in Sunderland to open its doors on Saturdays. Barclays opens in South Shields. Peterlee? Seaham? Houghton? Forget it.

The public health benefits of forcing customers to spend hours away from home to commute to another area, are not fully explained.

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If you’re lucky enough to enter a bank, please don’t berate the employees there. It isn’t their fault and they do an excellent job. The blame lies upstairs.

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