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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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This is a slight departure from my usual more high-minded posts simply to have a rant about the entities with whom I have the most frustrating interactions in my consumer life: banks. Sure, they crashed the economy. Sure, they're trading on fiction and debt. This isn't about that. It's instead simply about how poorly they treat their customers. I have to interact with banks. I wish I didn't. As it stands, though, they are appalling.

Case 1: Lloyds

Earlier this year I wanted to setup an account for our Open Library of Humanities project. So we approached Lloyds. After filling out their online form, I waited. And waited. Eventually the postal forms came through. We signed. And waited. And waited. After a month and a half, I took to phoning them every day. It was 30 mins of holding every time. Every time I got through, they couldn't find the account. I was promised callbacks that never happened. 3 months into the process, I told them to cancel it - which took an hour on the phone. I filed a formal complaint. They keep sending me letters telling me they can't get hold of me to follow this up. Why not send me a letter with a number I can call? I eventually went to Handelsbanken, who were great. The account was ready within 2 weeks and I have a very helpful person with whom I can speak instantly.

2. Barclays

A long time ago I registered for Barclays PingIt. I then uninstalled the app and forgot about it until a friend sent me some money using it the other day. I went to reinstall the app and was told my phone was rooted - it isn't - and so I couldn't use the app. I can see the funds online. I can't transfer them anywhere or use them.

I phoned Barclays. I waited for 30 mins on hold. They tried to transfer before telling me that I would need to go into a branch. So, to clarify: I have cleared security. They can see the money. But I "need" to go into a branch. Whenever they speak of these things, they are always in terms of "I'm sorry I can't so that" or "you need to", as though their procedures were inviolable laws of the universe. Heaven forbid that these imaginary laws be violated in the service of helping customers. Nope, that's just the way it is.

Anyway, I was annoyed at this. All I wanted was for the funds to be transferred. I phoned Barclays' complaint line. I got transferred back to PingIt. They did exactly the same thing, including another 30 mins on hold. Then told me to visit a branch. I told them I wanted to formally complain. I was transferred to a manager who wouldn't hear my complaint. She just kept saying that those were the terms and conditions. I said I wanted to complain about not only the terms and conditions but also the fact that her staff didn't seem to know these and were content to make me wait for half an hour, each time, for what, I am told, was actually an irresolvable situation. But she wouldn't help.

So, that's the end of my cathartic rant. Not deep but it did feel good.