1:57pm Tuesday 14th August 2012
I HAVE been writing this Tuesday column for 20-odd years and, from time to time, I have recounted some pretty bizarre stories.
But this morning’s offering really takes the biscuit. The Monty Python crowd in their heyday would have struggled to make up the tale I am about to tell. And it’s all true.
I have banked with Lloyds for 40 years and this has been, until very recently, an efficient and happy relationship. But this agreeable arrangement has over the past few weeks descended into incompetence and farce. I shall tell you of something so bizarre and absurd that it might qualify for a Bafta comedy award, were it not a great and pointless inconvenience to me. It is this: at the end of June I went into Lloyds’ Ludgate Hill branch in the City of London, a stone’s throw from where I had lived for 14 years.
As requested by the bank, I took my passport and other documentation, and informed the clerk that I was about to move from 10 Giltspur Street EC1 to a new address in Harrow.
All the official procedure was perfectly completed and I was assured that my new address had been registered. But now, what do I find? That my bank statements and other correspondence with Lloyds are still going to Giltspur Street.
So what did I do to clear up this shambles?
I tried to phone Lloyds Harrogate branch where I have kept my account since the days when I was a country parson in Yorkshire.
This phone number is listed on the bank’s official website, but I was told that it was “unavailable.”
Then I went through the labyrinthine telephonic process of trying to speak to a real human being at the bank, giving multiple assurances of my identity. (Believe me, I was on the phone for 40 minutes).
You will have come across the same sort of thing, I’m sure. You know, “security” questions such as: “How much did you withdraw from a cash machine 27 days ago; grandmother’s date of birth...eye colour...etc.”
Then, incredibly, the lady to whom I eventually got to speak confirmed that the bank had indeed listed my new address but, for some bureaucratic process passing incredulity, she told me I must visit a local Lloyds branch and confirm my change of address.
Or she would send me a change of address form. The blatant absurdity is that, as she said, she would send this form to my new address.
I trust you will agree with me that this is ludicrous. If the bank admits that it knows my new address, and will even send me a letter to this new address, what further confirmation of my new address is necessary? As I say, I have had a happy relationship with Lloyds for many years. But if they don’t sort out this nonsense (and promptly) then I shall make an official complaint to the regularity authorities and move all my accounts to a bank where rational intelligence prevails.
I recounted this Pythonesque experience to a friend, who happens to be a City banker.
He said: “Useless, Peter. No point moving your account. All the banks today are functionally incompetent. Piss-ups and breweries aren’t in it.”
We have wonderfully instant electronic communication but it is impossible to have a reasonable conversational exchange or expect an ordinary transaction which, a generation ago would have gone through on the nod, to have even a meagre chance of success.
Do you wonder the economy is in such a mess?
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