Bankers (a reprise)
Realising that the end (of the chequebook) was nigh, I requested another one when I was in the branch three weeks ago.
Not that this was straightforward. I was due in town to have my eyes tested, and decided I would set off early in order to have time to pay in a cheque and make enquiries about the missing replacement cheque book. A plan which was derailed just ever so slightly by the fact that Somebody Had Stolen My Bank. Honestly. I went to where it used to be, and it wasn't there any more. I mean, the building was there, obviously. But it no longer housed bank employees. Or anyone else, if soaped-up windows can be relied upon as an indicator of non-occupancy. Neither did it have a helpful sign, written in crayon and sellotaped to the door, saying, "We have moved! Follow this completely out-of-scale, hand-drawn-by-someone-with-no-cartography-skills-to-speak-of map to find our new premises".
Bemused, I decided to continue to limp slowly onward to the optician. I would arrive early, admittedly, but they know me there, and I was confident they'd be ok with me collapsing into a leather armchair and poring over brochures until such time as they were ready for me. Particularly given my predilection for falling so violently in lust with pairs of spectacle frames that I simply must buy them there and then. Or at least have them ordered for me.
At some stage during my weary attempts to avoid the vast number of pedestrians whose sole purpose in life appears to be to bump into me, I realised there was a new, shiny bank hoving into view to port. Very flash. It has burly security guards Of Few Words and young, enthusiastic greeters with headsets who pounce on the unsuspecting customer the moment she sets foot in the premises. Wilting visibly under the charm offensive of the young man who had attached himself to me, I ordered a new cheque book. He took some persuading that there really was nothing else he could do for me, but I was eventually released back out into the sunlight. The combination of 21st century banking and Tramadol was rather more than I could cope with, but at least I had been assured that my cheque book was on its way.
Ok, so hands up all those people who think my chequebook actually arrived....
No, you're quite right. It didn't. And the online banking system doesn't have an option for ordering a new one. So I looked up the phone number for the issuing branch. Imagine how thrilled I was to note that the phone number for all branches is now the same.
Anyway, I rang it. I was doing quite well until the automated system asked me for the first and fifth digits of my security code.
I combed the furthest reaches of the website for an alternate number. One which put me through to a call centre in India.
I explained what I needed.
The woman I spoke to was prepared, just this once, to transfer me to customer services. Even though I should have used another number.
I know, I said. I've already tried that number. It asks me for digits from a security code which I can no longer remember as it's approximately five years since I last used telephone banking.
You should use that number, she said. You have to follow the prompts, and you will need to have your security code ready.
I may have turned just a little bit tetchy at this point. Possibly. At any rate, she didn't seem to want to carry on talking to me. I was put on hold until someone from Customer Services was free to take the call. Bizarrely, that bit of Customer Services is in the UK. Am I the only person whose mind boggles at the thought of the technology required to put a call through at the touch of a button from India to the UK?
She was nice. She listened. She understood that a person might forget a security code if they hadn't used it for a while, so she asked me some other questions to prove to herself that I am who I was claiming to be. My mother's maiden name was the clincher. We were in.
I read out the handy 16 digit number on my debit card.
She asked me for my full name, as it appears on my account.
"Certainly. Miss F LaFoo* MBE."
"So do I call you Miss MBE?"
"Oh. What should I call you?"
"Oh. So what does MBE mean?"
"It means I'm a member of the British Empire."
~ horrified silence ~
"Oh, God. I am so embarrassed."
"Don't be. That's the best laugh I've had all day. You've cheered me up no end."
*Not my real name. In case you were wondering...