Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I'm trying to sort out the mess some tosser made of my credit card. Finally, after over a month, the bank sent me out the relevant form to confirm that I didn't actually spend over six thousand pounds on jewellery. Form signed and returned, by fax and post, that particularly nasty surprise should be removed from my account sometime this decade. Or century.

But the incident which alerted me to the whole fiasco has still not been resolved. I cannot log into my online account for the card. I've tried a couple of times without success, tried resetting the details - again no joy, even tried re-registering. Rudely bumped out for twenty-four hours that time.

So I've spent quite a few hours on the phone to my credit card company these past weeks, and I can safely say the experience has not been a good one.

First off, this company does more than just credit cards. So when the phone picks up you are asked by a female android just which service you're interested in, followed by a long list of options. Each has a number you can press, and of course the number for the credit card comes last. I'm wise to that now. I know what number to press before she even gets the first word out. Take that, unconvincingly spoken woman.

But she gets her revenge. Having finally made it through to the credit card side of things, I have to listen to a security schpiel, informing me that the call may be recorded and suchlike. This goes on for about a half hour before I am once more asked to press buttons. Then another android asks me to key in my card number, followed by my date of birth. Her under-developed sister tells me what my account details are next - incorrectly as it turns out, since £6115 of that total is not my responsibility. You can beg before I'll pay that, suckers. You're the ones who sent a new card out to a different address without checking first. You're the ones who authorised a massive payment without requiring any kind of phone back.

Next I have to wade through another set of options, and as always it is the final one of a quite bewildering array that is the one I want. Again, experience is on my side here. I know what to press, even though, unlike the other single digit options, this one requires the star key as well. Think you can force me to listen to your prattle over and over again, monkey boy? Ha. I laugh at your 'review all your recent transactions' option.

But it's not over. Oh no. Now we have the hold music.

Never have the classics been so badly abused. I think it was a bit of Handel's Messiah - a strange choice, really. But quite frankly once it's been digitally compressed to take up less memory than a goldfish and played down a tinny old phone line, it could be anything. And it's interrupted every fifteen seconds or so. A well-spoken, if rather distant lady informs me that due to overwhelming demand, all customer services operatives are busy and my call is in a queue. It should be answered in approximately five minutes. No shit Sherlock. No wonder they're all busy if you're so damned incompetent.

But I'm a captive audience, and they know it. So they try to sell me things. I particularly like the one that begins:

'Why not speak to one of our customer services advisors about our low cost payment protection plan...'

Well, duh! I want to speak to a customer service advisor. That's why I'm wasting my time listening to this crap music and trying to stop myself from breaking the things on my desk. Your customer service advisors don't want to talk to me.

I think it's a sign of my maturity and self-restraint that when Gareth, as he tells me his name is, finally comes on the phone, I am polite and don't call him a fuckwad. Bitter experience has told me that being rude to these people, whilst satisfying for a fleeting moment, is ultimately self-defeating. They have computers that tell them who the awkward customers are. And they're allowed to hang up if you use bad language. Then you're back at the start of the whole process again.

Gareth explains to me how to re-register my card online, treating me like some kind of infant primate. Or maybe an eager puppy. Again with the self-restraint, I explain to him that I'm not, actually, retarded. That in fact I design online secure systems in my spare time. I understand what's required of me. The computer doesn't. Still, he has his script and he takes me through it with painstaking detail, then assures me that if I do just what I'm told I'll be fine. I want to suggest that he stay on the line whilst I try that, but he's on a promise.

Of course, it doesn't work. It still won't accept my security details, and after three strikes I'm once more out. For another twenty-four hours. Oh joy.

My telephone is fifteen years old, but robust. It can cope as I mash the keys through the now-familiar sequence until I am once more in the queue. It also has a hands-free facility, so I can put it down and let the annoying music tinkle away in the background whilst I vent my spleen here on my blog. Eventually I get through to Maria, one smart cookie in a jar full of warm, sticky dough. She identifies the problem immediately. When my card was blocked, as an extra security measure they asked me to give them a second password. The poor little computer can't cope - it only has room on the registration form for one. I was doomed to failure from the start.

Nothing can be done tonight. Indeed nothing can be done until ten o'clock tomorrow night, when my enforced twenty-four hour sin-binning comes to an end. When that time comes around, I have to phone once more, so Maria tells me. They will temporarily delete one of my passwords, allowing me to re-register. Then they'll reinstate the second password again. So simple, so obvious, so why the hell couldn't they have told me to do that in the first place?

I'm not looking forward to making that bastard phone call again tomorrow. If I have to listen to that hold music for much longer I'll go mad. And I'll tell you this for free, credit card people: no-one stuck in a telephone queue is going to buy anything you try to sell them whilst they're there. A captive audience is not likely to be well-disposed towards its jailer.

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