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The true horrors of bank bureaucracy

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Every now and again, a newspaper produces a piece that is amusing, interesting and enlightening about banking. The Daily Telegraph did just this the other day and I liked it so much that I’ve stolen it to reproduce here. Enjoy …

The true horrors of British bank bureaucracy

Telegraph readers showcase the true horrors of how bank bureaucracy has led to a 'Broken Britain’

By Candela Orobitg-Baena ; Ellen Murphy and Telegraph Readers

Tim Stanley described his “holiday from Hell” on Monday, despairing how he experienced the true horrors of British bureaucracy, after returning to the UK from Greece where his phone and wallet were stolen.

As it turns out, he is not the only one who has realised “Britain is broken”. Telegraph readers resonated with Mr Stanley’s experience, and shared their own tales of fruitless bank visits with poor customer service, woes of mindless phone calls and chatbot conversations to no end.

Read on for a selection of their discussion:

‘The staff at the branch kept telling me it can only be done online and to talk to the robot if I have a problem’

Reader Mary Aldred shares how her handbag was stolen whilst on holiday in the UK, with her phone and bank cards inside.

“In my bank, a very bewildered employee said I had to report the loss by phone. After I explained that the phone had also been stolen, she consulted various levels of management and eventually escorted me to an office where I used their phone.

“It took three weeks for replacement cards to be issued,” Mary adds.

Ms Aldred is not the only one to complain about the level – or lack – of customer service that we now have to endure from banks. Reader Atticus tou Vorra narrates the long-winded process of trying to open an account: “I chose a specific bank because they have a local branch near me. Since then, I have been back and forth to said branch three times.”

Atticus explains how the staff at the branch kept telling him “it can only be done online and to talk to ‘the robot’ if I have a problem”. After “multiple chats with ‘the robot’ that have lasted hours and then contacting the call centre in India” the issue was still not resolved.

“No-one helped, so I complained and in response was told it was all largely my own fault. So I gave up and am now progressing with a competitor,” he adds.

Telegraph reader Richard Cooper states that his “bank’s chatbot is a wonderful example of bureaucracy that keeps you running in circles”, as he argues that the argument of artificial intelligence being a threat is misplaced: “The real threat is ‘artificial stupidity’, which we already have in abundance.”

‘The computer saying ‘no’ will be the end of the matter and there will be nothing one can do’

The theme of technology continued in the comments sections, as many Telegraph readers shared their concerns over our dependence on it – which they labelled as not only inconvenient but catastrophic.

Michael Crofts begins, “I actually enjoyed reading Tim’s well-written article despite the misery it describes. It’s a bit like slapstick comedy, watching someone walking towards a banana skin.”

However, he takes on a more serious tone to describe the “truly frightening dependence on fragile technologies and dogmatic systems”. Mr Crofts argues it will not be long before “the computer saying ‘no’ will be the end of the matter and there will be nothing one can do.”

Similarly, reader Patricia Roberts despairs: “I’ve been saying this cashless society and reliance on cards and mobile phones is catastrophic for years.”

Ms Roberts has an analogue landline phone “stashed on a shelf”. Why? “Because I use it at least twice a year when my electricity fails.” She lives in an area “where a mobile barely works – and yes, there are still huge areas of the UK that have little to no mobile signal and, horror of horrors, snail pace internet,” that without her analogue phone she would be unable to contact anyone in case of an emergency when they lose electricity.

“We are far too reliant on tech,” Ms Roberts concludes.

‘I tell the banks that I won’t get a smartphone because I want them to do their job’

Some of our readers have decided to take a stand against technology. Richard Morgon states that the “phone business is totally ridiculous” as he describes how he does not have a smartphone because he simply “refuses’’ to get one: “I tell the banks that I won’t get one because I want them to do their job,”

“My wife is sight-impaired, plus needs hearing aids, so she couldn’t have a smartphone in any case. I won’t give in, and I pay cash wherever I can,” he explains.

C Lawrence has also “cut back as much as possible” and says their smartphone stays in a drawer while “the iPad is used only for an hour a day, but getting by without any of it is next to impossible.”

While reader Ray Bentos sympathises with Mr Stanley’s experience, he comments: “I am inclined to say ‘welcome to my world’. I am profoundly deaf and cannot use the telephone. Banks simply are not set up to deal with that.”

Following the article are many comments. Here are some that I’ve cherry-picked as they are interesting:

In a bank last week using an automated machine, when a well-dressed man enquired about opening an account. The response from the assistant was to point the man towards a computer station and told it’s all done online nowadays. He walked out. [Jerome Fellows]

The recent history of dumbing skill levels down have come home to roost. It really is a case of the blind leading the blind now. The only people not having problems getting into our bank accounts are the hackers and scammers it would seem. [Michael Hyde]

Computer says no is not a joke anymore , its gonna be the castration of society. [Christian Thompson]

Talk to the robot ? Just wait for ai to take over, maybe ai would be better than zero intelligence. [Andrew Ashton]

Join a building society they are polite with branches and old fashioned customer service. [Jamie Smith]

Oh I don’t know Lloyds have been pretty efficient at putting the Telegraph into administration? [Clive Read]

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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