Are banks that won’t speak to you dumb?

We spend so much time criticising bankers for being greedy at the highest level that we forget the incompetence lower down.

I have just spent many hours over several days trying to get a very straightforward current account usable on the internet. This would undoubtedly be easy if it was my personal account, but it happens to be the account of a small charity – to be precise, a church.

First, of course, I tried the bank that already had the account. Could I speak to someone in the branch? No, they didn’t deal with internet banking. But they could give me a number to call.

I spent close to two hours on the phone. It took them much of that time to work out why they couldn’t do it. They were embarrassed. They arranged to refund the cost of the phone call (which they never did).

They then discovered that this particular account was very old and had been opened “wrongly”. No, they couldn’t make it available on the internet. I would have to open a new account.

Could they transfer all the standing orders and direct debits to the new account? No, they couldn’t. I would have to do all that myself.

This seemed nonsense to me. Perhaps if I switched the account to a new bank, they would do it (this service is advertised widely nowadays).

I tried a new bank. They couldn’t speak to me in the branch about it. They had a feeling another bank might do it. I tried the other bank. They didn’t.

I went back to the main branch of the previous bank. They couldn’t talk about it in the branch either, but they could supply a phone so that I could speak to Rotherham.

I spoke to Rotherham, which is slightly better than speaking to India. Oh yes, they said. We can do that. They would send me forms.

They sent me forms. They sent me so many forms that it would clearly need several hours to complete them, especially as many of the questions were irrelevant and therefore unanswerable. They also required a meeting of the church council to pass a resolution, and credit ratings from three different people.

They gave me a phone number that I could call for assistance. I could actually feel my blood pressure rising.

In the end, I resigned as treasurer. Life is too short – or it soon would be. A sympathetic colleague responded by offering to contact the first bank…

Meanwhile I decided to put in a Gift Aid claim form. The Revenue people, who apparently are former bankers, have a new system, which I had sweated blood to register for some months ago. The system got confused (or maybe it was me) because I was already registered for self-assessment. I needed a new log-in number and password. Don’t talk to me about passwords.

Anyway, I accessed the system and downloaded the claim form. I couldn’t open it. Apparently the Revenue are unaware that many people use Mac computers and have decided to use a file that Macs can’t open. Brilliant.

I downloaded some software that should have opened the file. My Mac wouldn’t accept the new software because it suspected it contained malware. So I took several deep breaths, downloaded some other software, and it did open it.

Eventually, after several false starts, I filled it in. It was not straightforward. It could have been. But it wasn’t.

I am reasonably computer literate. Goodness knows how the average church treasurer manages. Perhaps they have to employ accountants.

Of course all this is not confined to bankers. I tried to take out some travel insurance recently and got so frustrated by the obscurity of the medical conditions element in online forms that I went to a broker.

Yes, they did speak to people personally about travel insurance. But not people who were over 64. Of course.

However, they had a number I could ring…

I do hope bankers don’t take these criticisms personally – especially those nice cashiers who smile at me and take my money on a regular basis.

But if they (or their superiors) do take offence, I’m afraid I can’t speak to them about it. However, I do have a number they could ring.