Richard Ord: Spell-bound by customer service
Sick of scrabbling around for Â£15 school dinner money for my son, Isaac, every Sunday, I decided to open a bank account for him and set up a standing order.
If I’d have known getting him a bank account would be so much fun, I’d have done it years ago.
I filled in the forms online at home and was told the last step was to attend the bank with passports, son, and driving licence as ID. We did that the next day. They checked documents only to discover that I’d filled his birthdate incorrectly online. I was a year out.
“Can you correct it?”
“No,” the bank woman said. “You’ll have to go back online and change it.”
“Really? You can’t do it here?”
Despite being there in person, with all documentation, they wouldn’t sign him up because I’d accidentally keyed in one wrong digit.
We decided to try another bank. Isaac said he preferred Barclays anyway.
“Because of the attractive interest rates?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Because they sponsor the Premier League.” Ah, the power of advertising.
I rang Barclays and got through to a call centre.
“Which branch would you like to attend?” asked the call centre operative in a strange American drawl.
“Whitley Bay,” I said.
“Whitley Bay ... in North Tyneside.”
“Can you spell that?”
“Yes,” I told him. “W.”
“W,” he confirmed.
“Eight,” he said.
“No,” I corrected. “H.”
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“W8? Is that the postcode?”
Me (exasperated): “No, it’s W then the letter H.”
I struggled to explain it another way. “It’s the eighth letter of the alphabet. H.”
“Yes,” he said. “Eight.”
“No. The first letter is W. The second letter is the eighth letter of the alphabet. A, B, C, D, E, F, G and then H. W-H.”
“As in H for Hotel?”
“Yes.” He then asked me to proceed using the phonetic alphabet (I for Indigo, T for Tango, etc) until we finally got there.
“When would you like to attend the Whitley Bay office?”
“Tomorrow,” I said.
“I’ll check availability.” He paused. “Would you like morning or afternoon?”
“I’m easy ... either.”
“I need to know,” he pressed. “Morning or afternoon?”
“Erm, well, the morning will be fine. How’s about 11am?”
“We have no available slots until next Monday,” he drawled.
“So it didn’t matter whether I wanted morning or afternoon did it?”
“So am I, goodbye.”
As if we don’t have enough reasons to hate banks.
You know what? Scrabbling around for £15 every Sunday isn’t so bad ...