Laughing all the way to the Bank

by Mothership on April 17, 2009

Recently the financial sector has gotten some bad press.

There have been some people who took a few gazillions more than they should and scuppered a few retirement plans, it’s true, but I’m sure that they felt bad while they were doing it.  At least they probably did when they weren’t busy shopping for designer suits or having sex with beautiful Russian teenagers.  They probably didn’t have time to feel too terrible when they were working out the clever rationalising algorithms that enabled us to borrow the noose to hang the stability of our children’s futures, but now that we’ve sent them off to retire to the Bahamas on their government sponsored golden handshakes they’ll have plenty of time to reflect and feel remorseful, I’m certain of it.

But they’re not all greedy, thieving bastards, you know! Try to remember that for the most part they are an honest group of charming people who are only trying to prevent the constant wear and tear on our mattresses that keeping our salaries under them would surely cause. They charge us astronomical sums for seemingly nonsensical administrative matters for our own good.
We all need to learn a little responsibility with our money (B. Madoff excluded, naturally).

Some people consider the financial sector to be a dry and dull group of people.

I contest this.
Banks have an enormous sense of good, old fashioned fun and love nothing more than the jolly jape of a practial joke! We all love a wheeze of this nature, and if you can’t take it, well, you’re just an old stick in the mud!

I’m going to tell you a little story that is sure to have you rolling in the aisles (and goodness knows we all need a chuckle in these uncertain times)

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bank..

The Client has been customer of a certain High Street bank for twenty years (since infancy, you understand).

Whilst there have been times in the distant past that she was perhaps not quite the darling of Rushey Green, we must acknowledge that these early years were due to the folly of youth and the unavoidable period that a fledgling artist must spend slaving in a garret, partaking of the frugal, yet nourishing, cuisine du DHSS.

Menu du Jour

Pan-continental noodles boiled in their own plastic pot
cooled with organic Thames Valley water

followed by

Smoked infusion of Morrocan Black & Marlborough Light in a handmade paper casing



 However, for well over a decade now, there has been a steady stream of respectable income interspersed with a few spectacular spikes into the business account, the latter causing The Client to be telephoned personally by her branch manager with thanks for her continued patronage. Shocking but true.

In the mid 2000’s The Client moved for an unspecified period of time to another country and time zone. Prior to leaving she informed the bank and enquired as to how she would be able to move Sterling to her new US bank account. Irritatingly, the new-fangled internet banking would obstinately not allow international transfers as it does not believe that anywhere beyond the boundaries of Great Britain should exist (fair point, but still..)

The bank manager assured her she could access her funds almost instantly by faxing a request, they would keep an authorisation on file,  or by telephoning the branch, they were very happy to help, thank you for not taking your money away from us and out of the country etc.

This was where the fun began! 

Once the client was safely out of the country, the bank immediately changed all of its phone numbers to 0800 or 0845 numbers so that nobody outside of the UK could telephone them. In addition they elected to assign “Business Managers” or BM‘s to anyone who held a business account with them. These BM‘s would then exclusively be in charge of all financial transactions between their assigned clients and the bank and would, theoretically, make themselves available via mobile telephone during normal office hours of 11am – 2pm GMT (minus lunch hour, of course). In order to qualify for this position within the bank they would have to be a maximum of 12 years old, have an IQ of 87 or below and it would be mandatory to skip the customer service training workshop or know how to dial international numbers.

To make sure things don’t get too dull and predictable, the bank also enjoys switching BM‘s on clients every six months or so without actually informing them of the change in personnel, so when a client tries to call or fax about their account they are met with a disconnected line. Boy, we’d love to see their faces when that happens in this economy!


From here, we invite you to take your seat at the Theatre of the Absurd.
Don’t be shy, we could all do with an evening out.

Shh! The curtain is rising!

Enter The Client

Deciding that it is time, once again, to transfer some money to the USA, she searches through her files and uncovers details for the last BM that she has details for and pens a letter requesting a sum be sent to her US bank.
Dusting off the antiquated fax machine and plugging it in she feeds the paper in, which is digested rather poorly and with not a few grumbles. Eventually, after half an hour and considerable swearing, it goes through. Several days pass. No money appears.
The Client phones the mobile number for her BM only to find it, alarmingly, disconnected. Hunting through the website of NutFest Bank, she finds the one telephone number that is accessible from overseas for lost or stolen cards.. In desperation she rings. After being on hold for 20 minutes listening to the soundtrack from Hell’s waiting room and some arguing back and forth, she is put through to Customer Service (CS)  in a call center in Birmingham

Client:  Hello, I am calling from California and I am trying to find out who my Business Manager is and why my request for fund transfer has not been responded to.  Can you help?

CS: Who is your Business Manager? 

Client: That is MY question for YOU. I do not know as the last one has had their phone disconnected and I cannot call my branch. 0800 and 0845 numbers do not work from the USA.

CS: Call your branch, they can help. Here is the number 0845..

Client: Um, I think I just said that I can’t call 0845 numbers from overseas. Do you have another number for them?

CS: No. But you can ring them on 0845…

Client: Ok, let me explain. I CANNOT ring them on that, it is not physically possible. Can you tell me who my business manager is?

CS: Let me look…Yes. Her name is Idiot Mc Idiot and her mobile is 0785 ….. and her fax number is 0208 …

Client then rings the BM who, of course,does not answer and leaves three messages on three consecutive days explaining that she has resent the fax to the correct number, please telephone and confirm that the fax has arrived and the funds have been sent. 
No money arrives. No call comes. Nada.
Once again, phone call center in Hades:

Client: Hello, I am calling from California. 0800 and 0845 numbers do not work from the USA. Can you please put me through to the supervisor of Idiot McIdiot, my Business Manager? I would like to make a complaint.

CS: Yes, the number is 0845..

Client: No, as I said I cannot dial that number. Can you put me through or give me a mobile number?

CS: We don’t have a mobile number for that person. I can’t put you through either as it’s in the business center which is in Richmond (???)

Client: Can you tell me who it is?

CS: It’s JR Hartley and he’s on holiday, fly fishing.

Client: Is there anyone in the entire bank who can actually be spoken to about sending me my own money? I am now fairly annoyed that you are assigning incompetents to ‘look after’ me who seem to specialise in avoiding phone calls and not doing their job.

CS: Why don’t you telephone your branch and speak to your branch manager? The phone number is 0845…

Client: I. Can’t. Dial. 0845. or.0800. Numbers. From. Here.

CS: I completely understand your frustration, Madam, and I totally comprehend your problem. Why don’t you speak to our Customer Complaints line? I’ll give you their number

Client: Oh, can you wait a second? I just need to get a pen… Ok, ready:

CS: Ok, it’s 0845… Hello? Is there a problem, Madam? Madam? Hello? It’s 0845 0800 0845 0800..

Curtain closes on Client stabbing self to death with blue biro. Audience claps and cheers wildly and compares playwright to Ionesco/Sartre in bar afterwards. NutFest Bank sponsors transfer of production to NYC.

{ 1 trackback }

Weekly Links - 4/17 | Fatherhood: The Final Frontier
April 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm


1 Caroline April 17, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Oh dear. What a saga. Had problems with my own UK bank (Royal Bunk of Scornedland) and finally just ended up using my debit card in an orgy of reckless spending to empty it out. A trip to the actual bank the last time I was in England to change my address and add my mother to the account (so she could pay in funds for me rather than mailing me cash (naughty) on birthdays and holidays) came to naught. Now I wouldn’t want them to get it right anyhow since even if they did the stupid debit card has expired and it would be, to say the least, a trial to get another one.

You were probably talking to call center in India anyway.

Death to all banks!

2 Red Shoes April 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm

“AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!! @#$! imbeciles!!!”, she says on your behalf.

Red Shoes’s last blog post..24 Days of Grace

3 Maternal Tales April 17, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Oh deary me. Hilarious to read. Not so for you unfortunately. Transfer your money (when you finally have access to it) and then they’ll give you the name, number and vital statistics of your BM, I’m sure.

Maternal Tales’s last blog post..Childbirth and Sheep Farms

4 The Mother April 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm

It’s not just you. Really. Hubs family moved from Canada in the 70s due to National Health Insurance (family of docs, you see). They STILL have money in Canada they can’t get to. When they visit, they live in luxury.

I envision that you will be arising very early on Monday morning, US time, and taking a few banks apart across a great sea.

Wish you luck.

The Mother’s last blog post..She Blinded Me with “Science”

5 Jessica K April 17, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I had Nut Fest Bank when I lived there and discovered the joys of the automatic student over draft (300 pounds at that time).
I think they have spent your money on Fortnum and Mason hampers and Agent Provocateur underwear. I think “fly fishing” is code for “bought a villa in Teneriffe with embezzled funds”.
I think I left England still owing my overdraft, so maybe they are trying to balance it out?

6 nappyvalleygirl April 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Oh God. I suspect we have all this to look forward to. I have a credit card with NutFest and they have already proved completely incompetent when I was trying to change my address….

nappyvalleygirl’s last blog post..T minus five and counting

7 Coding Mamma (Tasha) April 18, 2009 at 12:59 am

Very hilarious moan – though obviously must be extremely frustrating for you. I’m sure there’s a website somewhere that will tell you the normal numbers to call for 0845 numbers and 0800 numbers and so on; there is always an alternative. I had to find one once to deal with a bizarre letter I got from a debt-collector claiming that my late father owed £3000 for gas supply to a pub where he never drank, let alone lived or had responsibility for the bills. Actually ended up writing a letter to the Guardian Money section ranting about it all, in particular the the fact that the only numbers they provided on the letter were high-charging numbers.

Coding Mamma (Tasha)’s last blog post..Splish splash

8 Mothership April 18, 2009 at 8:13 am

Caroline: I believe NutFest now belongs to the Royal Bunk of Scornedland. This could explain a lot. If I was talking to India I am most impressed by the West Country accents they have learned!
Red Shoes. Thank you for your solidarity!
Maternal Tales: They are happily sitting on a very large sum of my money and clearly do not want to give any of it back to me. I HATE them even more than when I was poor.
The Mother: I have already spent several early mornings being caustic and outraged at various persons but to little avail. I am now reduced to “Furious in Stepford” types of letters fired off to as many people as I can think of. GRRRR. Yes, staying here. The shine has worn off the fantasy.
Jessica: I have known many people skip off and leave overdrafts in the UK. Perhaps they are trying to make me pay for this and obscurely I can sort of understand this as I don’t feel any kind of animosity towards those people, try as I might. Still, I WANT MY CASH! And my BM’s head on a platter, apple in mouth.
NappyValleyGirl: My advice to you is DON’T have a business account, DO set up telephone banking, DO set up a Fax Authorisation and make sure you have internationally accessible phone numbers for all relevant people BEFORE YOU GO. If you have friends nad family in the UK then they can also ring up for you which will alleviate some of the pain.
Coding Mama: Your faith in the internet is touching. You are right, there is a page full of numbers that are accessible outside the UK. None of them, however, will connect you to a BRANCH, and due to the peculiar nature of being a ‘preferred customer’ and being given a BUSINESS MANAGER, none of the ordinary customer service people are authorised to help you. Plus whenever you ring up from California all the relevant departments are CLOSED. AGHHH!
I hope you managed to settle that crazy bill – I had someone call me here for a debt of $50K (yes, fifty thousand dollars) that someone else with my name had run up before I ever set foot in this country. Took some sorting out, but did it in the end. Whew!

9 Caroline April 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

You might want to try one trick I did when I bought a car over here. I wrote out a check drawn on my UK bank account, and my local bank (Key) negotiated it through their international department and deposited the funds in $ into my checking account. That WAS 9 years ago, but surely things can’t have changed that much. Try asking your local bank if they’ll negotiate an international check for you.

10 A Modern Mother April 18, 2009 at 11:52 pm

I can relate to this.

Just wait until you have to contact BT!

A Modern Mother’s last blog post..What time is it?

11 Iota April 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

And to add insult to injury, when you finally manage to transfer the money, the exchange rate is so low that your hard-won pounds will be worth hardly any dollars in any case – so you’ll spend most of them on the cost of the transaction. And by the way, why do international transactions cost so much? I mean, they only have to press a few buttons on a computer somewhere. It’s not as if they’re bundling up the money in brown paper, or putting it in sacks, and then transferring it to you via a sailing ship and pony express rider.

Iota’s last blog post..Easter Monday movie titles game

12 Catharine April 20, 2009 at 12:48 am

Oh, what a nightmare! I’m with Iota about the exchange rates too – we always had to jiggle where the actual translation from sterling to kwacha was done: once we lost about 5% of the value because the UK bank took a rate so significantly lower than the going rate in Zambia … and also charged us for the privilege of transferring the money!

Catharine’s last blog post..50 not out

13 BritinBosnia April 20, 2009 at 1:58 am

International Banking. How can it cost so much money? How is it possible? It cannot be that expensive to transfer our money to us.

Internet Banking is the way forward. Can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve had no problems with the lovely Smiling people at the Very Cooperative Bank. My husband on the other hand, working with the dark forces of the black horse is having a nightmare.

BTW – can we use this post for the expat mums blogging carnival on Tues?
“On Tuesday 21st April we’re hosting an expat mums carnival over at

We hope to collect a good group of posts about the unique experiences and challenges of being an expat mum. Please send over a link to any posts on related topics to

BritinBosnia’s last blog post..Getting my cultural references

14 katherine April 20, 2009 at 3:18 am

Ahh c’mon now, you’re not being fair; doesn’t that money deserve to stay in the UK? Fred Goodwin et al deserve a little windfall after all the hard work they’ve put in? Wrecking the economy is, after all, no mean feat. I know just how you feel though, I am involved in a little tete a tete with a plasterer the moment. I’ve talked him into contradicting himself several times (well…it’s fun)but that won’t finish my fireplace off…plus he’s screening his calls now. BAH! Very frustrating, BUT I’m in the mood so (and I hate the following turn of phrase) bring it on! Off to some soothing garden centres now…a bit of calm before the storm breaks!

katherine’s last blog post..It’s Top of the Pops! aka Yikes! Not another retro post: part 1

15 brenda April 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

I know it is so frustrating, we have managed to get them to transfer the money, but nearly everytime, something goes wrong, either it is the wrong amount, they lose it!!! I mean how can two banks lose your money??? The list is endless, I think they take delight in frustrating us expats, because we actually had the gall to leave old blighty.

brenda’s last blog post..Offers at The Gift Experience

16 The unreliable historian April 20, 2009 at 2:52 pm

My trick when approaching the impossible to obtain number for either banks or cell phone services, or utilities or any other version of “No Exit” updated for the modern world is to pretend that I want to actually buy something from the company or add to my current plan, whatever it might be. This quickly gets me a live person who has numbers of other live people. Then I suddenly remember that I want to remove services or take money out and I try to say this very fast before they put me back on hold. I can not say that this removes the need to be on hold in hell- but it gives me a small amount of pleasure to say “Did I say I wanted to put a million dollars in my account? I mean I want you to wire me $200…easy mistake, my bad, send it now please, bye. ” or “Did I say I wanted to add cable and wireless? I meant I wanted to reduce my number of text messages, ooopsy. ”

The unreliable historian’s last blog post..Running with Brooms- College Quidditch comes of age.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: