Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Victory For Victor Meldrew

As anyone who knows me will tell you (and are usually more than happy to do so at the drop of a hat), in many ways, Victor Meldrew was based on me. For those who do not know Victor, he was a character in a UK tv series who constantly complained about everything in his life and never seemed to be happy with his lot.

Now I'm not quite THAT bad but I do feel the need to get things off my chest and I do like the email medium for achieving this as I then don't have to deal with people face to face. Yes I'm a cowardly old Victor Meldrew but that way, my blood pressure goes down and my face remains unmarked - apart from the marks left by Father Time but I gave up trying to email him about that years ago !

So, a few days before I left for Italy, I went online and bought some Euros from a web site I'd never used before as they offered the best rate going AND they promised to deliver my Euros to my door the following day at no extra charge. Now don't jump the gun here as this part of the story went fine as this (recommended) company were as good as their claim and I had my Euros delivered the following morning and I was a happy bunny.

Skip forward 3 weeks when I looked in detail at my credit card statement. There was a whopping charge on it for a 'cash advance' tied into my purchase of the Euros. Yes I'd used my credit card to pay for them on that site as I'd never used it before (the site) and wanted some protection in case things went belly up. Call me a financially naive old Victor if you like, but I thought that the purchase of Euros from a 3rd party site using my credit card was no diferent to buying groceries or a tv set or something on eBay. What did it have to do with my credit card company ??

But it was treated by them as a cash advance just like I'd taken it out of an ATM which I do know incurs a charge.

So I'm steaming now as not only was there that one initial charge, but a while later there was another one. I went to contact them and found I had two options; I could ring them for 11p a minute or I could use their web site 'email' panel to write to them but I would be limited to 750 characters ! Can you imagine trying to limit a tirade by Victor Meldrew to 750 characters ?

I'd need that many just to air the expletives !!

But rather than ring, I wrote and it took me several rewrites to get my moan below 750 characters, I can tell you. Then I was informed they'd take at least 3 working days to reply to me. That was last Friday and while waiting for their reply, which as usual I knew would just tell me nothing new as it WAS my mistake after all, the flames of my indignation at being charged by my bank for the first time in almost 40 years burned ever stronger within me.

Or maybe it was the curry I'd had on Sunday night. Indigestion and not indignation.

Mid afternoon Tuesday (yesterday) I could stand it no longer and throwing logic and 11p a minute out the window, I rang them. For 3 minutes I got a cheery male voice telling me about new services offered by my bank and then 'he' informed me of my current credit balance, how much the minimum payment needed to be, what the weather was like in Torbay and that his wife was expecting twins in December. All at my expense.

No not the twins, just the rising cost of the call.

I was finally given 7 options and as tearing out my hair wasn't one of them, I pressed 6 to speak to someone. I wonder how many people ever hear option 7 ? Maybe it's to speak with a stress councilor.

Anyway Mr. Cheery Bank Employee wasn't fazed by my tirade and calmly told me why I'd been charged and yes, he saw my point of view completely and yes he knew he worked for a load of thieving money grabbing bastards but the perks were good and he got an hour for lunch. But there was nothing he could do as I'd been the stupid jackass who had paid for foreign currency using my credit card. Silly boy. I felt I'd just been tapped several times on the head by this pimply youth and at 11p a minutes, I gave him no more satisfaction and hung up.

That afternoon I got the reply from my 750 character complaint. The most annoying part was being informed that I was being charged for that currency purchase on a daily basis until my statement was paid off and as I do that in full every month by direct debit, there were a couple of weeks still to go till that would kick in.

So I had to go online and pay my bill off immediately to stop these charges and then I was told this would be processed in 2 working days. Arrrrgggggggg. They can start a charge in 2 nanoseconds but somehow take 2 days to stop it.

But now I had an email address to reply to myself ! Ha ! I was able to get quite a lot off my chest and boy did it feel good. I hit send and then got that awful feeling you get when you wish you could hit an unsend button and have a wee think about what you just wrote.

Ah well I'd not used VERY offensive language or made any unnecessary threats really and I'm pretty sure at least one of the bank's board of directors WAS born out of wedlock so I shrugged my shoulders and reasoned that I'd not be visited by the police for the email. Hopefully.

This morning there was a reply !

Lots of apologies, blah blah blah, customer satisfaction is very important to us, blah blah blah.

I sped read the first part of this and then my eyes settled on the next papragraph..........

However, on this occasion, I have already refunded the cash interest charge mentioned in your September statement and this credit will reflect in your next statement. However, I must stress that should a similar situation arise in future these charges may not be refunded.

So I got a result - with a sort of ticking off not to do it again. Fair enough. I may be financially stupid at times but I'm not in the habit of doing something stupid twice, not where my money is concerned.

I had to laugh at the bit where I was told that customers can reply at length to the email reply from the bank to their 750 character limit web mail service. In other words they set a tiny limit up front, then in 3 days they'll reply to that and the customer, if he or she can be bothered, can use that new email address to reply to the reply - at length. What a wonderful system, eh ?

Of course I had already done just that, and got a result. See, all those years of watching Airline paid off. In this day and age age if you complain enough, you often get your way. Terrible.

So as fair is fair, I replied again, thanking them for removing the charges, even though I felt they were outrageous in the first place. Hey I had to get a last moan in after all.

And blow me I got a reply within 15 minutes thanking me for thanking them. So we've gone from 3 working days to one working day to 15 minutes. I expect we'll be using Yahoo Chat any time now and I'll be able to find out about the birth of the twins at Christmas.

Banks ? We can't do without them but my God they make it very hard to like them.

As for my Victor Meldrew personna, well he's back in the box for now but I'm sure he'll be out again soon enough. In 6 weeks time I'll be off to America for the winter and setting that up with certain companies (tv licence, house insurance etc) will have him ranting and raving again.

I'm updating my expletives list in readiness................


Daphne said...

So glad that they refunded you the money, at least! Sadly the answer to "Why do banks rip us off in every way?" is "Because they CAN." Your account of it was very funny, of course, but when will banks etc ever take on board that we all hate pressing buttons, pickled voices, being put on hold and played music to - - and, most of all, being charged for it all?

Debby said...


Banks suck Ray.

rhymeswithplague said...

Good for you! The little guy emerges triumphant in the ever-ongoing battle against the big bad corporations.

Huzzah!!! Hip-hip-hip Hoorah!!!

I'm truly impressed.

Jennyta said...

I echo what Daphne said. In my case, I have just incurred a late payment charge and interest on my Barclaycard account because, with all that has been going on, I had forgotten to pay in time. Of course, life changing catastrophes are not a reason for the charges to be waived - of course not! When I rang, having received a snotty text telling me I could not use my card until I paid, I had the distince impression that the man at the other end thought I was making excuses.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Good post Victor. Sometimes it's good to be like a dog with a bone. It's too easy to just give in and let "them" have their way.

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