Friday, July 04, 2008

A matter of form

We all know how big business goes out of its way to make itself inaccessible to its customers - try making a complaint to Microsoft or France Telecom. I sympathise totally with the man who drove his Mercedes into the dealer’s showroom – through the window – in an attempt to get their attention.
I’ve been wondering how to get the attention of my bank.
I used to use a friendly local bank in rural Pennsylvania where they were helpful and efficient and gave you peppermints - and didn’t charge seniors checking fees.
Then, a few years ago, it was eaten up by an ugly giant bank, promising greater efficiency, more security, high tech online facilities etc.
The ugly giant is called Wachovia Bank - a name that would be much more appropriate if spoonerised.
I’ve been trying to use these supposedly secure online services – but the trouble is they're so secure you can’t use them. When I try to register they tell me I’m already registered, but when I try to log on they tell me my e-mail address is wrong!
When I try to ring the "toll-free" number (which is not toll-free but very expensive), after 20 minutes pushing cascade buttons, a dalek voice tells me to hit a key that doesn’t exist on a French 'phone. And when I e-mail – this is the worst – they reply with a standard form letter.

“I regret we were unable to fully assist you via email”, it says; then, incredibly, “If there is anything else that we can do for you, please do not hesitate to contact us. Have a great day."

It goes on: “I value your business as a Wachovia customer and look forward to
continuing to serve your financial needs.” Yes, “continuing”!

"If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact us via e-mail”.
But when I do so, they send another form letter. Their form letters are all the same – except that they have a random name generator which selects from a list of tasteful female first names, so they appear to come from some nice, caring lady with a '40s Hollywoodish name like Barbara, Audrey or Alison. When I say “Please, Marilyn, I beg you, do not send me another form letter”, the reply is – Aw, you guessed it.

Now they have the gall to start taking $5 out of my account every month because it’s a “dormant account”. Whose fault is that?

In New York last year, I thought I’d foil the system. I walked right into their branch on Sixth like I used to do in Paoli, PA. They said mine was not one of their account numbers! Remember the name: Bachovia Wank. The funny thing is, I’ve been trying to send them money.

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