I sat back in disbelief. It was as though my life had become a soap opera or reality show. Perhaps this was all ebbing recorded and Allan Funt would leap out and say, “You’re on Candid Camera”. How could something as simple as closing a bank account become so complicated and confusing?
It had started after I had returned from Europe and found in the mail one of those long complicated letters from Lloyds bank trumpeting all the positive changes they were making on my behalf while in the small print it notified me that my charges were increasing to £6 a month. Currently I was paying zero as in 2005 when they started to charge I had threatened to close my account and they agreed to rescind the charges. Actually as I recall they did agree to rescind them but then failed to do so. Because in the interests of the environment I had agreed to save them the cost of sending me statements, I did not pick up on this until six months later. I was not amused and as I recall had a nightmare trying to sort it out because conveniently they seemed to have forgotten who I was. I guess this was a sign of things to come.
This particular account is in the UK. After my parents died I decided to maintain the modest legacy I received in £s to use as incidental expenses when I visited my siblings. It seemed special to propose a toast in memory of my parents as I proffered my Lloyds bankcard in payment for lunch or dinner. It was also very enjoyable to get home and not face any credit card bills. Everything went extremely well until 2005 when the banks began to exert more pressure on their small customers by increasing fees. (I have always felt they needed to do this to bail themselves out for all the bad decisions they mage with their big customers.)
So here I was somewhat reluctantly realizing that these days were over and I needed to give up the convenience of having an account at Lloyds so I faxed them a request that in view of the fees I would like them to close it and forward the balance to me in Canada. Simple don’t you think? Well I think it would be simpler to get an appointment with President Obama. The first response is a letter from Lloyds telling me that they can’t act on my faxed instructions they require a “real” letter. For some reason they are worried about fraud. So after fifteen years someone has moved into my apartment, assumed my identity and telephone number and is trying to fraudulently close my account. Well I humoured them, sent back the requisite letter and assumed I would shortly receive settlement. Well not quite. I get a phone call from a lady named Jackie asking me to call her. Her voice seemed really nice plus she had shown the consideration of not calling me at four in the morning unlike one of her predecessors, so I was looking forward to talking to her. Unfortunately she had left me a number that when I tried to call it intercepted me with a message that I had connected to a restricted area. I tried three times with the same result. Obviously I was being taught patience. So I waited. I assumed that after a day or so she would try again and perhaps leave the correct number. But no such luck. Maybe she was mad because I didn’t return her call – I have noticed that occasionally people who work for institutions behave like that. I don’t think all banks have adjusted to the fact that they are in business to serve customers.
After a week I decided to call Lloyds and try and talk to Jackie. I got through quite quickly but not to Jackie. I encountered someone who needed to get my account information. I provided her with my account number and a strange thing called a sort code that seems to be very important. She asked me to confirm my name and full address then asked me for the last two digits of my telephone banking “memorable information” Now as I have never ever done telephone banking in the past 15 years I assumed she meant the same “memorable information” that I used for logging in on line but found out that it was not. “I need to ask you some security questions,” she announced. “On Oct 26th you withdrew an amount from an ATM in Braunton, can you tell me how much?” I laughed and said well it must have been either £100 or £200. She did not laugh and said will you tell me which it was. It was beginning to feel like I was on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” with Regis saying “Is that your final answer?” “I’ll guess $200,” I said. There was a silence and I knew I had guessed wrong. However there was a second chance. “Can you tell me how much you spent at the Wine Rack on October 27th.” Now I really laughed. This was becoming more like a Monty Python skit than anything else. What kind of crazy security questions were these? At least in Canada they are something sensible like your mother’s maiden name. I tried a different tack. “Look I have no idea and I am not really trying to call you, you actually called me, do we really need to go through this?” For a moment she thawed and said, “Well there is a notice on your account.” I held my breath expectantly, after twenty minutes we were finally getting somewhere. “We can’t close your account because we don’t have your signature on file, we need a certified copy of your passport.”
As I write this the words of Roald Dahl from the Pig come to mind: Now comes the rather grizzly bit, so let’s not make too much of it. I saw my whimsical good humour disappear down the drain. The joke was over. “Having told me you are going to charge me £6 a month on my account you are refusing to close it?” I felt an edge to my tone, “This is crazy” “Well we have two representatives in Canada who can help you with this. One is in Vancouver.” “Then ask him to call me.” “No I won’t do that but I can get you his number.” The whole unreasonableness of the situation hit me like a slush ball in the face. They had created this problem and now they expected me to sort it out. Had they no concept of what customer service meant?”
Suddenly I became the witness to my experience. I realized I was getting a chance to live the insight derived from Jill Bolte Taylor in http://wp.me/phAyS-4y The chemical reaction caused in my body by the trigger allows me use the body’s reaction as a guide to choose whether I hold on or let go; I could get more irate in my self righteousness or take a different path. I observed the part of me that wanted to pursue the engagement but then I chose not to. I heard myself apologize for my reaction and tell her that I knew she was not to blame. I could not bring myself to ask her for the name of the contact in Vancouver so I asked her to get someone to call and discuss this with me. I felt my energy lift immediately and my good humour was restored. My problem is not yet resolved but I think I passed the test.