Humble pie not on bankers' menu


EARLY IN December there was a news report in the national newspapers about a new scam at Automatic Teller Machines. A genuine customer would go to the ATM, place their card in the machine, request a sum of money, nothing happens and then out pops your card.

As soon as the customer moves away from the machine the trickster comes to the machine and manages to remove the sum of money that the genuine customer had requested. The trickster had earlier placed some sort of device in the machine which prohibits money leaving the ATM.

The newspaper report, quoting the Garda, warned customers to remain at the machine and telephone their bank while still standing at the ATM. That advice seemed clear and sensible

On Thursday December 20 at 14.26 I went along to my bank's ATM outside their Camden Street branch.

I was in somewhat of a rush and needed cash in my pocket. I took the usual precaution, covering the pad as I punched in my numbers. I requested €40. No money is spitted out but my card is returned to me.

I immediately recall what I read in the newspaper and called the bank's number, which is printed on the reverse side of my bank card.

I was nervous and certainly felt in a vulnerable position. The last thing I was going to do was move away from the machine. I asked the person with whom I was speaking if she would contact someone inside the branch and ask them if they would come out to assist me.

My suggestion was dismissed, and dismissed in the most patronising way possible. I explained to customer services on the telephone that I had read a report in the national press, which warned people not to leave the machine. Again I was dismissed.

I spent over six minutes on the telephone, which cost me €1.72. I had no choice but to go into the bank and explain the situation, all the time worried that I was victim of a scam.

A friendly and helpful member of staff explained to me that the machine was new and was causing teething problems.

I did tell them about the story I had read in the newspaper and suggested that they should have some sort of notice on the machine screen explaining the situation. But not a word on the screen.

I was angry not because the machine had failed but because of the patronising and dismissive way I was treated by on the telephone by Bank of Ireland.

Later that day I reported the incident to the bank. I was told I'd be contacted within five working days. So far I have received no call.

My bank is currently running a catchy advert on television usuing the words 'commitment' and 'guidance'.

Well, let me assure you the last thing the bank did for me that day was offer me guidance or commitment.

It's the gap between that advert and the experience I had some days earlier thatI find so annoying. And it is a phenomenon that exists right across our society at every level - the words of spoof and appearance and then the reality, which is something altogether different.

I have been a customer of my bank for many years. I have never been in dispute with them and generally they have treated me well. But I am finding more and more when contacting customer services of any of the facilities we use, it can be tedious and frustrating, indeed nightmarish.

And right now I'd expect the banks, above all, to be that little bit chastened and maybe even humble in their dealings with their customers.