On finding out your best friend's a Draclia
As you know, I am one of Her Britannic Majesty's 1st Battalion Unemployed and rely on the largesse of my lovely tax-payer friends to keep me from experiencing a pauper's demise. Through judicious application of guile and not a little inventiveness regarding yellow labels, sell-by dates, a bit of ebaying and the odd lottery win (three last month, £24 up on that thanks), I have managed to stretch the £64 odd per week deemed enough for a single person to live on to cover just about all my outgoings, debts and all. The general trend of my finances has been towards the positive and whereas 6 months ago I was regularly flirting with the outer limits of my overdraft and regularly calling the bank up to beg yet another favour, all I need to do at the moment is make sure my regular outgoing payments coincide with the regular incoming ones. It's been running pretty smoothly for three or four months now. All I need do is actually manage to land myself some decent employment and I'm sorted.
There is of course, a weak link in all this and that is the Civil Service. I have been a civil servant, the lowliest of the low; the scabby dog-shit covered mat you tread on before stepping onto the bottom rung of the ladder. They are the ones who do all the work. The higher up you go, the more time you get to stand around talking about how much sick you've got left to take this year and whether it will affect your pension entitlement. Anyhow, the weak link failed, unbeknownst to me, on the 16th of September when the bastards forgot to pay me my fortnightly Dole Scum Allowance.
Now, I had been doing my maths and what with a couple of good ebay sales (we're talking a few quid, not hundreds or even tens) and the odd surprise care of Camelot, I was expecting to be in a relatively healthy position come 30th of September when the next payment was due, just in time to pay my road tax. This was assuming the regular payments had gone in, as they had been doing for nine months. All done by computer, isn't it. Failsafe. I checked my account on the 28th only to see that it had all gone, shall we say, tits up. Panic. I was £6.12 over my overdraft limit. A couple of calls and a quick rescue transfer from Sharon (hint: keep in with the ex) took me just the right side of the line and showed the bank I was on the ball. I called them, told them what had happened and that I was on the case. My next payment arrived on the 30th and thank goodness, it was a double one. They'd rectified the error. When I had a moan at the Jobcentre they said they didn't have a clue what had happened but not to worry, if I'd incurred any bank charges through their error, they would refund them. I said that I'd been onto the bank already and that a note had been made that it wasn't my fault and that there was a chance charges wouldn't be applied anyway.
Scroll forward to a couple of days ago. I open my latest statement. Notification of £25 charge for going over by £6.12. Will be taken on 9th November. Bugger. I call the bank immediately and remind them that I went over briefly, not my fault, I've been good recently, would have been well under if the twats at Dole Scum HQ had done their job properly etc. You'll recall the charge, won't you. I get transferred. I explain everything again. OK sounds fair, I'll just ask. I listen to ropey classical music for 15 minutes. He comes back. Er...we see your point but you still went over so we're still going to charge you. Especially as you said that they will reimburse you any charges. But, as a gesture, we'll only charge you half.
Half? What's the bloody point of that? If you're going to make a gesture why not wipe the charge altogether? Have you any idea of the hassle I am now going to have go through getting that charge reimbursed? Do you know what it's like dealing with these idiots? Eh? Eh? I'll need to call Chester to make an appointment with my local office in Crewe on an 0845 number from my bloody mobile, which I refuse to do, so I'll have to...oh FFS! As gestures go that's like having your car nicked, smashed into a wall and put back on your drive. Bang goes my cheap premiums next year, regardless of my protected no claims bonus and it not being my fault. It could take weeks before I get that money back yet all you've got to do is click a couple of boxes and wipe the charge off in an instant? In the meantime I've got to risk the domino effect from 8% of my income disappearing in one hit and not being reimbursed immediately. You've admitted it wasn't my fault so why should I have to break my back doing all the hard work getting it sorted when I'm meant to be getting myself a job? Don't bother with your gesture, it's a bloody insult. You're First Direct, the bank with the highest customer satisfaction rating ever and all-round good eggs. This is not like you at all. I expect more.
Hmm. I see your point. I'll get financial services to call you tomorrow. I can't do anything tonight.
Financial Services called. I won't bother boring you, same deal, no joy.
Then it struck me. Despite First Direct being absolutely brilliant with me and helping me through the worst financial nightmare of my life these last few years; being understanding, approachable, friendly and fair, and despite the HSBC group not receiving any outside help during the "crisis", they were finally resorting to type. They were suddenly becoming bankers. The new kind of bankers, the ones we've sussed this last year. Lazy, money for nothing, snout in shitty trough bankers. They'd realised that although it wasn't my fault, the tax-payer was going to recompense me for charges I'd incurred because of the Jobcentre's error. In effect, the taxpayer was going to pay First Direct £25 for doing absolutely bugger all. Or rather it was going to pay them £25 for the honour of being a cynical blood-sucking vampire. And I really don't think that's fair.
I have written a brief missive to the chief executive and made him party to my innermost thoughts. Happy Samhain.