22.1.12

Why NatWest Sucks: A Formal Complaint

I recently had a lovely experience with NatWest that I would like to share with you. Instead of following the usual format of my blog, however, this time I will just let the e-mail I sent them speak for itself. The reasons I'm being so public about this are two: (a) because some friends have asked me to read the e-mail I sent, so this is for them, and (b) because I think it's important to just speak up sometimes, when a company (or, in this case, a bank -- that is also obviously a company) treats you with such complete disregard. So, here it is, what I sent to NatWest:

"Dear Sir or Madam,

My name is Noel, and I have been a customer of NatWest since September 2010. Before I begin, I would like to apologise in advance for the length of this letter -- even though I have not yet typed anything, the nature of the complaints I need to do is such that this cannot possibly end up short. I promise to keep it as succinct and calm as possible, although I really want you to understand the level of service NatWest has provided me with in the past year and a half.

The first issue with my account arose in the beginning of last summer, when I visited the branch in Canterbury to inquire about my statements. You see, ever since May 2011, I had stopped receiving my statements at home, even though I had ensured in my online banking account that my preference was "statements via mail" numerous times. The employee was quite understanding, and assured me that I would be receiving statements at home by next month.

One month later, having received no statements, I returned to the bank -- only to be told the same thing as the previous time. "Don't worry, you'll get your statements," they said, and I foolishly believed it. 

In September 2010, I moved from Canterbury to London, so I informed NatWest in Canterbury of my change of address, and -- once again -- asked to make sure that I receive my statements from now on. Promises were made, then promptly broken. 

Fast-forward through the winter, the same ordeal was repeated on a monthly rota in various branches (Plaistow, Stratford Westfield, etc.) like a rerun of a funny (but utterly ridiculous) TV series episode. Then this month, I decided to try my luck with Liverpool Street. Jackpot -- they found what was wrong instantly: apparently, I had been sent a statement at my house in Canterbury in May 2011, which was then returned, so the bank marked my account as "changed address -- no statements", and every single employee I communicated with after that failed to notice. How this is possible, considering that I even changed address between May 2011 and January 2012... well, your guess is as good as mine. One would have thought that the change of address would have removed the "no statements" mark, or that at least one person would have noticed that this was the problem in the eight months of repeated queries, but then one would be assuming that NatWest actually cares about customer service.

Point #2: When I opened my account, I was offered the option to pay a monthly fee of about £7 in exchange for a list of benefits, including but not limited to a 16-25 railcard, mobile phone insurance and emergency cash. I opted for the benefits, but then in September 2011 I graduated from university, moved into a new house, jumped into the role of a bill-paying adult and decided that having access to a website with a surprisingly limited supply of films was not the highest of my priorities, so I visited NatWest Plaistow to cancel the benefits. "No worries," the lady at the counter told me. "It shows me here on the computer that you have a basic account already." Now I do not know what kind of virus the computer had that day, but two weeks later I received an e-mail informing me that my account would automatically be upgraded to Silver, the new version of what I had, apparently. So I went to a different bank, in Stratford Westfield, and the guy I talked to told me that, "yeah, it wouldn't show up on the cashier's computer because that type of account does not exist anymore." And he switched me to basic, just as I had asked two weeks before. I repeat: "It wouldn't show up on the cashier's computer because that type of account does not exist anymore." And I ask: so what?! The type of account does not exist anymore so the system automatically misinforms the cashier, and then the cashier misinforms the customer?

Anyway, that was solved as well, so I reckoned it was just another glitch. Now where my parents come from, people say: "one issue is a coincidence, two issues is a pattern." But I do not need to teach you sayings from foreign countries, because English has a nice expression as well: "third time's the charm." And behold, the charm:

Three days ago I was at a pub, and I tried to pay my drinks with my card. Unfortunately, the card machine said: "Not applicable." Figuring it was just a problem with the card machine, I paid with cash. Then the next day, I tried again at a different pub; the same problem arose. Having run out of cash, I ran to the nearest cashpoint -- only to discover that apparently, my card had been cancelled. Now that happened yesterday which, as you know (assuming people at NatWest know the days of the week, which might actually be asking too much), was a Friday. Since I was working this morning, I had to go to the bank in Stratford Westfield when they opened to sort it out.

The lady who talked to me was very kind. Only slightly apologetic, but then again it was not her fault. As she informed me, there was "no just reason" for cancelling my card. "These things happen sometimes," she said. "This is just NatWest's latest attempt at getting me to switch banks," I said. She ignored the comment; I guess I made her feel uncomfortable. I had this whole speech prepared for the person I would see; I would say: "Look, I know it's not your fault, and the last thing you need is to start your Saturday morning with a crazy twenty-something-year-old yelling at you, but you need to understand what your bank has put me through in the last year. If this is the type of service NatWest provides, if this is the best you can do, I need to know now so I can switch to a different bank that will take me and my needs more seriously." I did not say it, after all. All I did was ask: "Why?" It is a perfectly good question, I think. And you need to answer it to me. Why should it take eight months for someone to notice the reason I was not receiving my statements? Why should the cashier not be able to see that I had the old type of account? Why should my card get cancelled out of the blue for no just reason? Why should NatWest's customer service be so shoddy, poor and dysfunctional?

Before I hit "send", I would like to clarify that every single person I ever spoke to was kind, smiling and compliant. Some --like the lady who finally noticed the "no statements" mark, or the guy who switched my account from silver to current-- were even helpful. But even though nobody has ever disrespected me actively in any branch or not tried to assist me, I cannot help but feel utterly disrespected by the bank as a customer. I will repeat what I was going to say to the lady this morning but did not because she does not need to hear it, but whoever reads these complaints does: is this the best NatWest can do? If so, I need to know so I can cease being a customer.

Again, I apologise for the length of this letter. I understand that I have taken up much of your precious time, but I really needed to explain how terribly I have been treated by NatWest so far. I look forward to your answer.

Kind Regards,

Noel"

I will update when I receive a response to this. Till then, tata. (Unless I get to writing that post I had in mind about love stories that don't suck before that.)


11.1.12

Five Small Things You Do as a Customer That Make You Suck

Happy new year! It's been a while, hasn't it? I reckon it has, and it's about time I shared my new year's resolutions with you, among which was to change this blog's mission statement into something less negative and more jubilant, less about counting all the ways in which the world sucks and more about noticing the beauty in all the little --


Sorry, I couldn't even keep a straight face long enough to type this. Nope, I'm here to bitch again.

Well, not bitch. Give a lecture, perhaps? Or just be a self-righteous asshole? I dunno.

A while ago I mentioned that I got a temporary job in customer service, which would also explain the significant decrease in post quantity after that. It had been an entire year since I'd had a casual job that involved interacting with customers so the cultural shock that followed my return to the sector was quite strong. In a way, this has diminished now -- I'm used to the daily process of putting on a facade, jumping into "don't give a fuck" mode and pressing the internal button that makes you smile no matter what is being said. Nevertheless, there are certain things that still manage to annoy me, and I'm not the only one. If you have ever worked in customer service, you will recognise some of your minor (and major) annoyances in this post. If you haven't, you are likely to discover that small things you do without thinking twice about them make you a terrible customer. Without further ado, here are five small things customers do that make them suck.

#1. You place your money on the counter.

You're at the shop, and you've just picked up what you want to buy. So you take it to the cash register all excited about your new purchase, you hand it to the cashier, look at the little screen on the till that announces the amount of money you're expected to pay in order to become the legal possessor of the item, and the cashier extends their open palm for you to place said amount of money.

Then you place the money on the counter.

...


What you think your move means: "There you go."

What your move really means: "Oh, you silly cashier! Do you really think I'm going to put the money in your filthy palm? You're so beneath me that I refuse to accidentally touch your hand by placing the money on it. Instead, I will purposefully inconvenience you by dropping the money on the counter under your hand. That'll teach you a lesson for thinking we're equals."


Seriously, what makes people consciously ignore your open palm and go for the counter instead? Are there so many germaphobes out there? Or does everybody just not like touching strangers? (Both are perfectly valid arguments, but they still do not excuse rudeness. Just drop the money on the palm without actually touching the palm; it's not rocket science.)

#2. You enter the shop 30 to 5 minutes before closing time. (And forget to go away.)

It's been a rough week, so you decide to treat yourself to a new pair of jeans. Unfortunately, shops close at 9PM, and it's 8.45. No worries! Just run to your favourite shop right now; the doors are still open, that means you're welcome to take your time, right?

Alternatively: You're out with a friend, and you're walking around town looking for a place to go. It's too early to go to a pub (because you're the kind of people who actually believe there exists a "too early" for pubs), but you've got just about 30 minutes that you can spend in a nearby cafe before it closes. So you do just that. Then right when you're told you have to go because they're closing, you remember you need to use the bathroom as well.

...


What you think your move means: "Great! Made it just in time!"

What your move actually means: "Great! Made it just in time to make sure that the people who work here, who probably get paid minimum wage, will work extra time which they will most likely not be paid for so I can buy something I could've bought just as easily tomorrow/have a quick cup of coffee I will probably not even manage to enjoy because it's so quick! I am so proud of myself and my douchebaggery that makes me think about nothing but my own convenience. That's the spirit of capitalism, baby."

(What you deserve. Endless loop included.)

Dear customers of the world, remember: next time you're out and about to enter a shop or a store at the late hours of the day, just ask when they're closing. If your ass is still in there after the 30-minutes-to-go mark, be aware that you will exit with a heavy bundle of negative energy on your shoulders. And nobody likes that.

#3. You try to get rid of your change. (During peak hours.)


Back to the till. You've waited in the queue for a bit, so you've had enough time to think about what you want (hopefully), and now you've ordered it and it's your turn to pay. So you open your wallet, smile at the cashier, look at the coin pocket and exclaim: "Oh dear, that's a lot of change! Mind if I pay with coins?"

"No, ma'am," the cashier responds. (It's usually middle-aged women that do this, hence the stereotyping 'ma'am'.)

Then you empty the pocket. On the counter. And count. Slowly.

("£10.40, you said? 10p... 20p... 40p... 41p...")

What you think your move means: "Finally, time to get rid of all this change!"

What your move actually means: "Finally, time to waste everybody's time by counting all the coins I have on me while there are about fifteen people behind me on the queue waiting to pay at the same till as I! The world definitely revolves around me."


I get it. Everybody hates coins. They're heavy, they're bulky and they're inconvenient unless you're trying to pay your fare at the bus after you've realised your Oyster card is empty. This is why credit and debit cards are insanely popular, and people (myself included) use them for transactions as small as £1-2. But don't you think that if you want to get rid of your coins, you should do it at a shop that's empty? Why should you actively seek bad energy by making so many people hate you? We already established it, bad energy sucks.

#4. You start to order, and then you proceed to talk on the phone.

You've entered the shop, you've started your order, and then you remember that your girlfriend would like to eat as well. Or that your mum told you to call her to let her know that you got food. Or that your flatmate wants to know if he should order pizza for tonight or not. Or that your toilet bowl needs to know what to expect later today. So you grab your phone from your pocket, call whomever you need to call and you spend the next ten minutes discussing. Then you get to the cash register, and (a) change your mind about what you've ordered so far because your girlfriend/mum/flatmate/toilet disagrees, or (b) ask that the barista remakes your coffee 'cause it's probably cold by now.

...

Congratulations, you're an asshole!

(You.)

For added asshole points, do all this during peak hour. Or ask for something that will go to waste if you don't buy it, e.g. a toasted sandwich (that has already been toasted by the time you change your mind).

#5. You respond to 'hi' with 'just looking'.


You enter the shop. Not even five seconds go by and a member of staff has already noticed you and, like a vulture, they've walked towards you and said 'hi'. How do they expect you to have decided what you want already? You only just walked here!

("Leave me alone, I dunno what I want yet!")

Of course, the only logical reactions are either to let them know that you're not ready yet or to completely ignore them until you are, because neither of those are rude.

...


Newsflash: Most companies instruct their employees to acknowledge a customer's presence within 5 seconds. Employees don't give a fuck if you're ready to order or not, or if you're just looking and don't need their help yet. Look it up in the dictionary: "hi" is a greeting, and the only response it requires is the same or a similar form of greeting. A simple "hi" followed by looking away is all the employee needs to realise you don't need them just yet. They're humans, you know. They can read social situations. Stating the obvious makes you look like you're an idiot.

Also, bad energy. Just...


Aaaaaaaanyway, happy new year again. I promise that my next post will be less negative.

...