Monday 14 October 2019

The customer is always wrong – you can bank on it

The chances are you have been driven to distraction while dealing with your bank in recent times – for instance, we're all sick of charges that, if not exactly hidden, certainly do a good job of ambushing you just when you can least afford them. Or maybe you've had to deal with a dismissive and unco-operative bank official or teller. Or perhaps you've watched in growing irritation as you waste your entire lunch break standing in a queue when there's only one person working behind the counter.

But rather than stew in their own rancour, one customer has sent a Dear John letter to the AIB and it's as honest a reason for a break-up as you're going to get.

According to a news website, the disgruntled customer says the parting of the ways came because, amongst other things, they screwed up a crucial credit transfer, messed him around through their own incompetence, introduced iniquitous fees on customers with less than three grand in their current accounts, and let's not forget the bailouts.

The person wrote with forlorn dignity that: "I don't expect anyone in AIB will care that I, a mere current account holder with €82, is leaving, or that I have stopped banking with you. I hence forth promise to avoid banking with you where possible. I will also endeavour both in my personal and professional capacities to remind my colleagues, members of my family and friends of the reckless nature and theft you as an institution have practised to the great cost of Ireland and her citizens. It's not much, and most people don't need reminding but it is all I really feel I can do."

Not a mad missive written in green ink, just an angry refusal to let them kick sand in his face any more.

Perhaps the most depressing thing is that the author was right when he said the bank wouldn't care if he stopped banking with them – because since when did they display any sort of care or consideration toward their customers?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who believe that banks have any great moral obligation to us. Nor do I think that banks are somehow 'part of the community' – that may be true in rural areas but in cities, most people haven't a clue about the name of their bank manager, let alone harbour any illusions that he or she may have your best interests at heart.

I don't want my bank to be my friend – I just want them to do their job.

And not only are they deficient in that most basic of areas, they seem to think that the rest of us should pay for their rank incompetence and rapacious greed.

In fact, perhaps the sickest joke of all is that not only are we expected to clear up their mess, but we're expected to be grateful for the privilege.

Further stretching credulity, we're meant to believe that these extra charges and hassles are part of a drive toward greater 'efficiency'.

It's as if we've become a nation suffering from Battered Customer Syndrome, where the banks hit us when we least expect it and then run an expensive campaign apologising for their behaviour and telling us that it will never happen again – before begging us not to leave them for another bank.

Last Wednesday, I went into a branch of Bank of Ireland to make a lodgement. There weren't any lodgement forms.

This isn't the first time I noticed their absence in a branch of BoI and I initially assumed they just hadn't put enough forms out.

No, I was eventually told by the teller – it was all part of their commitment to electronic banking and did I ever think of making a lodgement using a computer?

Well, yes, I had considered it. And in this instance it didn't suit me.

But it was made very clear that I was the one being awkward for choosing something as hopelessly antiquated as actual cash.

Did we all miss the meeting when the banks decided that the customer is always wrong?

Because we seem to have forgotten the basic dynamic here – they are providing a service and, as customers, we have the right to decide which form we want our banking to take.

If they had their way, electronic transfers would replace actual money, and this desire for a 'cashless society' has been growing insidiously for the last few years. The fact that extra charges are incurred every time you engage in an electronic transfer is, of course, entirely coincidental and, anyway, it's all part of their precious and criminally late drive for 'efficiency', innit?

So let's go back to basics, shall we?

Forget about those sarcastic remarks you hear about sending senior bankers back to school to learn basic maths.

Start them on remedial English instead.

Because the last time I looked, slashing services, reducing customer choice and providing less for more does not qualify as particularly efficient.

But what would I know?

I'm only a customer.

iodoherty@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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