So the Next order finally arrives. Minus a packet of hair scrunchies.
I ring up and asked when I might be able to receive the missing goods, which aren't marked as being delayed on the order, and have been charged for.
"Well Mrs. Lomax. What you can do, is re-order the scrunchies, then I will send them to you - with NO POSTAGE - while we trace what has happened to the originals."
"No, you don't understand" I say. I've already paid for the item, so I now just need you to send them to me............
The conversation is long and unfruitful. I suggest to them that they may NOT want to lose my very loyal custom for a £2 packet of scrunchies. The next day, a parcel arrives, with scrunchies, and another addition to bill...............
I'll wait until the end of the month on that one, to see how many items I have been charged for.
Meanwhile, my other dear friends, the unmentionable large institution with four letters forming their name, run a critical illness insurance policy for me. It's paid for by monthly direct debit, on a certain day of the month that Hubby's pay goes into the account.
This month however, they decide, for their own reasons, one day before pay day, to call for the direct debit early. Knowing that it will not get paid, I ring the people who run our personal bank account at NatWest. They by now know me by name, so it cuts a lot of the time wasting out.
It seems too that they have a new system at the NatWest, where, quite brilliantly, you can choose to reverse a direct debit, as long as you call them before 2 p.m. on the day it is presented. Now of course, it does mean that you need to be addicted to the accounts on your computer like a hawk, but providing that you haven't got anything better to do with your time than play banks, you can actually win the game. In defence of NatWest, the bank that we recently changed to, they do seem to have realised that the branch system works and that human beings are actually better than machines. So, there are only another few thousand institutions to go, and then we can make progress............
So, I salvage the few remaining pounds back into our bank account to last us to pay day, the next day, and then go forth to tackle the "other lot" with four letters in their name and arrange for an online payment one day later.
"Hello Mrs. Lomax, please may I take characters 2 and 4 from your personal security number?" "But this is a life insurance policy, there is no personal security number". "It's the number that you set up on your account when you first opened it.............."
I rack my brains.
No number emerges from the fog.
I admit defeat to the four lettered bank and ask if there is some other way that we can sort this out.
"No problem", they say, "we'll reset your security number using your security questions."
This seems to be straightforward enough..............
The first question is:
"What's your memorable town?"
Sorry? I say.
"Oh, it's a town that you would have given us when you set up the account. Probably where you were born, or somewhere special that you lived."
I stop and think. I give them the name of the town where I was born. Yes. Jackpot.
Great. One down, two to go.
Now tell us the name of a special person.
Again I am baffled slightly by the question.
They explain in kind terms that it's likely to be my mother's maiden name, or another family members name. They also explain that it is a one shot system, so if I get it wrong I can't get through security.
"But, I don't know which name it is", I say. "I can give you my mother's maiden name, but I can't play "guess the question"!"
"Well I'm sorry Mrs. Lomax, but it's for your own security, and that's the way it's set up."
Knowing that I am playing Russian Roulette, I opt for my mother's maiden name.
I fail the test. I have not passed "go". I did not guess the question correctly. I cannot collect £200, (which is a shame because given the time of the month it would have been useful), and I cannot access the information to my life insurance account.
"So what now?" I say.
"We'll get the customer care team to call you, within the next day or so, and reset your security."
"NO!!!!!" I say. Shout. Scream even. "I demand to talk to the manager. I JUST WANT TO PAY YOU SOME MONEY!!!!"
The manager of the call centre cannot help, my stress levels rise uncontrollably, and so the chances of them having to actually pay out on my critical illness cover get higher. I finally give up and trounce off to phone the Chairman's Office of the four lettered bank.
Today a very nice man called Gary, from the four lettered bank, calls me. He is very happy to deal with me on a very human level. We sort everything out. I've got his direct line and full name and can call him with any queries. Everything is sorted, and Gary and I are best of friends.
It seems then that the way to tackle large institutions is to cut out all middlemen -call centres - and go straight to the top.
It will take time I acknowledge, but eventually, they'll realise that putting human contact back into banking might just be more efficient!
Sally's writing is about being a mother of five, now all too grown up, children, (four girls, one boy) a husband, a dog, and a serious ambition to be a mortgage free and famous actress, voice over artist, broadcaster, writer and teacher.
The "Cast" List for the blog includes:
Hubby - Her husband,
ED - Eldest Daughter,
ESOS - Eldest son only son,
Sensible - Second daughter,
Gymnast - Third daughter,
Tinkerbell Mushroom - Youngest daughter and youngest child,
Mad Dog - AKA Lucy - the border collie.
Guest appearances by MIL (mother in law), parents, two brothers, inlaws, nephews, nieces and great nephew.