Online banking’s ‘great service’

Dealing with your bank online makes the Labyrinth seem like a Roman Road

by Theodore Dalrymple

Everyone knows what a nightmare it is to deal with banks beyond the simplest operations: if it can be called dealing with them, that is. After all, the phrase “deal with” implies some kind of interaction, but it is increasingly difficult to get even as far as an interaction.

Because of some new banking regulations, I discovered that it was more difficult for me to gain access to my own accounts via an online accounting system. Suffice it to say that it is an iron law of the universe that new regulations always make things more complex, never less, just as all attempts to reduce bureaucracy increase it.

I used to do a certain kind of three-monthly tax return in about ten minutes, and now it not only takes me half a day, but requires the expensive services of an accountant. Though it costs me more overall, I pay less tax than formerly. We live in an economy in which everyone takes in everyone else’s washing, tearing or soiling it in the process.

Anyhow, I had to go on to my bank’s website. It makes the Labyrinth seem like a Roman Road. There is, it is true, an icon on which one can click for help, but none the options given thereafter covered my case, and anyway led only to further options. Contact us, said another icon. That’s a laugh: the telephone waiting time, longer than usual as always, was more than an hour. I could write or email, but no address to which to write was given. A message in a bottle thrown off the coast of St Helena stood about as much chance of arrival.

But it was the message at the bottom of the webpage that made me scream and bang my head on the wall. “Our only focus,” it said, “is to provide you with great service.” Not good service, be it noted: great service. I wanted to make a complaint, but gave up after the second of the six stages that were required to do so.

First published in The Critic.


One Response

  1. Ah, The Banks! My favorite subject.
    Here in little old Canada the “big five” took in almost S5 BILLION in profits for the last quarter, and that after raising their provisions for bad loans to a level that has you questioning their loan approval process.
    I have no doubt,though, that these provisions are just a ruse to reduce their tax liabilities through some obscure interpretation of the tax code.

    Let me see, $5 billion… that’s FIVE THOUSAND MILLION DOLLARS in 12 weeks, from a population of 39 million… you do the math.
    They like to sell themselves as upstanding corporate citizens, making charitable donations left right and center, but the truth is that on a percentage basis they are as miserly with their donations as they are with wages to their front line staff.
    They don’t skimp when it comes to their sponsorships of golf tournaments and high profile athletes to whom they pay millions upon millions of dollars.
    My main beef with them, though, is the fact that they’ve had a free ride from all of the protest groups.
    You don’t see the feminazis picketing them for an apology in light of their lending practices towards women. Even as late as the mid seventies they wouldn’t take women’s earnings into account on loan and mortgage applications.
    Believe it or not male staff had to get permission from the Bank before they were allowed to marry!
    On other fronts, you don’t see the BLM movement calling them out for the systemic racism of their lending policies.

    You don’t see even one of their executive being held to account for the 2008 financial debacle.
    Not a penny of their subsequent recovery profits has been made in restitution for those who lost so much.
    They think that making the odd donation to charities and hospitals or sponsoring the Special Olympics is enough to make them good citizens but the truth is that these things are only done because it’s good P.R. These donations make them look like they’ve got a moral conscience (which,of course, a corporation can’t have because it’s an artificial person.)
    It’s time to impose a transaction/community tax on these organizations,it’s time to make them apologize for their past practices, just as Governments have had to do for their past wrongs.

    Mr Dalrymple’s experience with their online system is just a metaphor for the way they operate, which can be summed up as; “whatever we can get away with”

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