Archive for June, 2010

An Open Letter to NatWest

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Dear Natwest, the ‘Helpful Banking’ establishment,

Please allow me to explain why your motto is criminally misleading, and why you annoy me to the degree that I have taken 30 minutes of time out of my life to write this whingey yet psychologically soothing open letter regarding how much you suck.

A few minutes ago I attempted to pay the outstanding balance on my credit card with you, only to be told that my browser isn’t ‘supported’ by you.  I am using Safari 5, the most recent, most secure version of the default browser for Mac OS 10.6.  What you mean by ‘supported’ I have no idea, as your site is perfectly capable of being rendered in Safari 5, and it certainly isn’t less secure than Safari 4.  If this is just a bug of a system designed to stop me using old, insecure browsers, or scary browsers that you haven’t heard of, then that’s your problem.  Actually, wait, no, it’s my problem isn’t it, because I’m the one that has to download a separate browser just to pay off my card.

At least I can’t complain that this is out of character of the ‘helpful banking’ corporation, who helpfully declines to print account numbers on their debit cards in doubtlessly well-meaning but, utterly counter-productive security measure.  I want to buy things online and sometimes I want to set up direct debits for bills.  At work I need those details to set up payment plans for my customers.  I am never, ever going to forage around for a statement and search for my account number when all the other banks print them on their cards, which I’m actually likely to have with me.  I can only hope that – if you ever decide to let me on your site with my browser of choice so I can transfer money around – any criminal who decides to steal my card finds it as hard and impractical to use as I do.

That isn’t to say that I’d use your cards offline, either, or feel inclined to carry them around with me.  I opened up an account purely for the railcard perk that appeared to be worth something like £120 a year (although in reality is worth that only if you bought a railcard annually for half a decade), and opened a credit account at the same time to use as another source of credit-rating-friendly mainly un-utilized credit. In reality I use neither – the debit card because it is such an arse to move money into, and the ‘student’ credit card because frankly I’m embarrassed to even look at it.  Whose idea was it to adorn it with huge paint splodges?  I find the suggestion that people of legal age to be offered credit will find this ‘cool’ pretty offensive.  What do you think I am, a preschooler?  Fingerpainting ceased to be in vogue when I turned 4.

I think your pledge to become Britain’s most helpful bank through 14 commitments needs some revising, too.  You plan to have ‘600 branches open on Saturdays by the end of 2010’?  How many branches do you have that don’t open on Saturdays?  Admittedly I’ve only ever lived  in urban areas, but to suggest that your branches close on the two days that most people are off work (and therefore able to go to the bank to sort things out if your website decides to lock them out) is a pretty shitty commitment to current customer service levels if you ask me.  You’ll promise to ‘stay open for business if we are the last bank in town’?  That you’ll happily run a monopoly on local services isn’t much of a draw for me considering that no-one is ever more than 10 minutes from a free cashpoint and I personally haven’t stepped foot in one of your branches since I opened my account.

I think ‘Our call centres are UK Based’ is the funniest, though – like I care where your call centres are, they could be on the moon and it would make no difference to me as long as you dealt with my issues quickly.  Come to think of it, I’ve had much better service from the cheerful Indians at Adobe and Orange than the pervertedly unhelpful and condescending Scots at the Student Finance England, and I wouldn’t say that either accent is any easier to understand.