I have been with Natwest bank for about 20 years, in which time there have been many incidents of crass incompetence. A couple of times the incompetence was so great I received a complimentary bottle of wine and a credit of £100 to my account. Before you say it, I could change banks, but from talking to others, it seems they are all much of a muchness. There isn’t space to detail all the incidents – I’ve just picked a couple.

The branch in London that I used to frequent some years ago had queues of immensely depressing length and density (this was before the paying-in machines). Whole civilisations have risen and fallen in the time that it took to get to the front of that queue. The staff were clearly uncomfortable at dealing with the level of ire manifest in customers who had entered the building several years younger, so would conduct the whole exchange of monies in a defiant mumble. Then a whole lot of money was wasted on market research trying to find out why their customers were so cross. Their conclusion was because the staff hadn’t talked to them. For the next few weeks, the staff would chirrup nervously: ‘How are you today?’ ‘Well, I just ate my own foot while I was waiting.’ ‘Ok, do you want to pay that cheque in…?’ This was eventually dropped in favour of, ‘Sorry to have kept you waiting’, which was a significant improvement.

I was a signatory for a company for a while. One day two of us from the company went into our branch to change some details relating to the account. The staff member said, ‘But we need to see X because she’s a signatory.’
We explained that X had left the company, was no longer a signatory and we had told them this, in writing, at the time.
As if we had not spoken: ‘Yes, but we’ve got X as being a signatory.’
‘Well, that’s wrong. Y and Z are now the signatories and have been signing cheques for the last two years.’
‘No, that wouldn’t have been allowed, because X is the signatory.’
‘It WAS allowed. It happened. Cheques were signed by Y and Z. The money left the account.’
‘No, but….’
You get the picture. It ended with raised voices and storming out.

There was the time they sent a letter saying we were required to set up internet/telephone banking for our new company. We dutifully filled out the torturous, incomprehensible garbage that passed as a form. A few weeks later another letter arrived stating we wouldn’t be able to use internet/telephone banking because we had more than one signatory on the account. Forgive me if this sounds naïve, but don’t a great number of businesses require more than one signatory for cheques?

Lastly, I noticed a few months ago I had stopped receiving bank statements. I phoned them to report this and asked did they have the address correct? (they have on at least 3 occasions in the past changed the address they sent mail to, to an old address of mine for no reason at all)
‘I’ll have to take you through security’, she said, ‘can you give me your address…?’
I pointed out that this was the nub of the problem.
After I’d told her the address, predictably. ‘That’s not what we’ve got on the system.’
I said, ‘Can you tell me the address you’ve got?’
‘No, we’re not allowed to for security reasons.’
Deep breath. I suddenly had a flash of inspiration from a dimly recollected incident some years back. ‘Would the address you have be 218 Upper St, Islington, London?’
‘That’, I said gravely, ‘is the address of one of your branches, where my account is held.’
‘Oh, I don’t know how that happened.’
‘You’re saying that my personal statements are being sent to one of your own branches and no-one has noticed.’