For reasons that aren’t particularly relevant to this rant, I had £500 in cash that needed paying into the bank. So I walked into the local branch of a bank where I have a current account. Let’s call it, ooh, the Nationwide. As I walked in, I realised I’d left my debit card at home, from paying bills online last night. Never mind, I thought. They know me in here, I’ve been using the place for twenty years, and I was in paying the mortgage only last week.
Nope. Doesn’t count.
When I announced my business, and explained that I didn’t have my card, the creature behind the counter asked if I’d got my account number. When I said no, she said, sorry, can’t do it. Data Protection.
If there’s one thing that really gets me going, it’s people telling me their company can’t be arsed to do what I, the customer, want them to do, because of “Data Protection”.
So I explained, politely if not particularly calmly, that I wanted to pay money IN, not take it out.
“Well, yes, but you’re asking me to tell you the account number.”
“No, I’m not. I’m very well aware that you’re not going to tell a mere customer their own account number. I just want to pay some money IN.”
“Well, I can’t do that. Data Protection. I can’t pay money into an account when you can’t even tell me the account number.”
Right, so now I’m not “the customer”, I’m the useless inadequate who can’t “even” tell her the account number.
So I tell her I don’t begin to understand how this falls under the Data Protection Act, when I am explicitly NOT asking her to tell me anything at all about MY account. I just want to pay MY money into MY account for fuck’s sake. Only I didn’t actually swear. I kept it polite, just. So she says she can’t help me, but I could talk to the Manager if I want to.
Luckily, I’m not in a rush to get back to work, or rescue my car from a parking nazi, nor do I have a screaming child with me, so I say yes, I do want to talk to the manager, thank you.
The manager comes over and says all the same stuff again, ending with the words “...when you can’t tell us anything about the account.”
“Excuse me, your ... colleague ... hasn’t asked me any questions about my account. She just said she couldn’t take MY money to pay it into MY account because I haven’t got the card with me.”
“Well, have you got any other accounts with us? Any ID?”
Yes, I do. I have three other accounts with them, two of which I DO have the books/cards for. So with an air of great martyrdom she takes the other cards and looks up the accounts, then goes to my current account and starts asking questions. First I have to state my full name and post code, which I do, but when she asks me my date of birth I complain.
“How is it Data Protection to make me state my date of birth in front of the whole branch when you’re going to use that as a security item?”
“You could write it down if you want.”
So I do. Along with my middle name. Then she starts asking me about Direct Debits on the account. I fail that because I don’t think I’ve got any and apparently I have. I have three current accounts ffs and two credit cards. I can’t remember which accounts the stupid game website DDs go out of, but apparently one of them is this one.
So I stand there and reel off details about transactions going out in the past month or so. I tell her that 90% of them are to Waitrose just round the corner, that there are also payments out to Findmypast and the National Archives, but she’s still looking sceptical. Then she asks me to write down the balance. I can’t remember exactly, but I write down a figure +/- £50.
I get it wrong. Then I remember I paid the Council Tax out of this account yesterday, so I tell her a new estimate and this time I get it right. By this time I’ve been in the branch for twenty minutes, and she’s still given me no good reason at all why they couldn’t have taken MY money into MY account in the first place. So I ask again. And the explanation, finally:
“Well, if we take this money and pay it into the wrong account, you will complain.”
Blimey, I never thought of that approach.
“But we can’t take the money back out of the other account without the account-holder’s permission.”
Now that, I am going to remember. They pay money into your account wrongly and want it back? Just say no.
“...and if they say no, then we’ve lost money.”
Well, yes. Deservedly so in my honest opinion.
“So we can’t do it.”
Right. So, as was completely obvious all along, this has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Data Protection.
This is about protecting THEMSELVES from losing money as a result of THEIR MISTAKES.
Have I ever mentioned before, I hate fucking banks?