Feckless bankers – coming to a cash machine near you!

It is very easy to take some technology for granted. There was a time when an ATM machine was something evil that charged you for the privelage of withdrawing your own money just so that you could spend it. There was also a time when cash was King, and most shops would not accept debit cards. Things have changed, and this modern world that we nlive in now has both ATMs and debit cards as an everyday fact of life.

Of course sometimes Satan likes to do something nasty in your kettle of life. Last Saturday appeared to be my turn, as whilst on holiday the ATM at Porthmadog in Tesco’s carpark did just that. It ate my debit card as I was trying to withdraw cash. The card wasn’t flagged, and I wasn’t trying to withdraw money that I didn’t have or indeed anything else naughty like that. No, the machine just crashed and took my debit card with it. Whilst watching the tiny screen scroll through a Windows XP desktop, it was apparent that my card was not going to re-emerge. The machine belonged to Royal Bank of Scotland, though thoughtlessly they had failed to provide anywhere contact numbers in case of issues. How thoughtful of them.

The manager of the Tesco store was quite helpful, letting me use his phone to call RBS. It should have been simple, but it wasn’t. RBS failed at every level to take the issue seriously. Their automated switchboard disconnected me twice before it even let me speak to a human. At least I assume she was human, though maybe it is a requirement of working Saturdays in an RBS call centre to be an unhelpful and obstinant idiot? Refusing to help at all, she instead spent ten minutes trying to lecture me on how it was their ‘policy’ to not return eaten cards, and instead have them destroyed. She would not even transfer me to some-one else or furnish me with any helpful numbers for perhaps contacting HSBC – my card provider.

Once again the manager was the only helpful person, finding a copy of the Yellow pages to get a number for HSBC and again letting me use his telephone to call them. HSBC (lovely ‘Tom’ – if that was his real name – sounding suspiciously like he was pulling a night shift in an Indian call centre) cancelled the card, and then promptly infomerd me that a replacement would be sent out ‘within three to five working days’. Oh yes, nice one Tom. I just told you that I was 200 miles from home, on holiday, without any means to pay for anything else including the petrol required to get myself back that 200 miles to reach the replacement card, if it did indeed arrive. Apparently I was expected to scrounge from people any money I needed. Hey, cheers for ruining the rest of the holiday. I had £1.12 to my name, and only a cheque book that no-one would accept because cheques are so last decade don’t-you-know and anyway the debit card was also the essential cheque guarentee card too.

It isn’t nice having to ask friends to pay for things even as simple as a cup of tea or food. Getting them to fill your car with petrol too for good measure seems even more embarrassing and humiliating. Kiss goodbye to any daytrips because, you know, sponging for the price of a ride on the Ffestiniog railway seems a little too much to lay on the person you already begged £40 off for petrol.

So the modern world collapses faster than the operating system of an RBS cash machine. The nasty letters have been sent, outlining in advance that empty apologees without actual actions aren’t acceptable. But you just know that the behemoths of the banking system aren’t really interested. If it doesn’t involve ripping us all off and making the world’s economies collapse whilst paying mega-bonuses for irrisponsible financial risk taking, then they don’t want to know.

As of yet, the promised replacement card hasn’t arrived. Oh joy. It’s particularly irritating because I’m off on a sailing expedition for a week and a bit on Saturday, so if it hasn’t arrived by tomorrow then Satan will be laughing all the way to a second trip to that kettle.