Wednesday, 16 January 2008


The following staggering tale of bureaucratic bonkerness comes from our friend ANDY STOKES who traded life on the Isle of Wight for that on the Greek island of Kalymnos...

I recently had cause to write a letter of complaint to Barclays Bank. I ended the letter by telling them to close my account and transfer the balance to my Nationwide account.

Yesterday I received a telephone call from Customer Services dept at Barclays. I was asked a number of questions for security reasons, one of which was "What was the content of your letter to us?"

Having answered the security questions to his satisfaction the conversation continued like this:

"You have asked us to transfer your balance to Nationwide; unfortunately we are unable to do that as we do not have a copy of your signature to compare with the letter."

"So what happens now?"

"What we need is a certified copy of your passport faxed to us."

"So who do I get to certify it?"

"Your bank manager in Greece."

"Do you know my bank manager in Greece?"


"Do you know who my bank manager in Greece is?"


"Do you have a copy of his signature?"


"Do you know which of the Greek banks I use?"


"So, let’s get this right. You have a letter which you accept was sent by me and I have answered your security questions so you are quite happy that you are talking to the person who sent you the letter?"


"And at the end of the letter I ask you to transfer my funds to another bank and you accept that is what I want done?"


"But you cannot transfer my money because you cannot compare my signature with the one on the letter?"

"That’s right."

"But you will do it once you have a copy of my passport signed by a person you don’t know, have never met and whose signature you have never seen before?"

"Yes. It’s security."

"So, if I were to just photocopy my passport and send it to you with a signature that I made up you would be none the wiser?"

"Ah yes, but it has to be certified."


"With a rubber stamp from the bank."

"Do you know what the rubber stamp from my bank looks like?"


"So, if I had a rubber stamp made up you would not be in a position to check whether it was genuine or not?"


"And when you receive this faxed certified copy of my passport, what checks will you be able to make to ensure that it is genuine?"

"Well, none, really."

"So, why don’t you just transfer the money?"

"We can’t. It’s security."

Thanks, Andy, and if you ever manage to get your money out of Barclays, good luck in your negotiations with Nationwide!


Suzanne said...

Poor Andy! How I do sympathise... I had a similar experience when my daughter's saivings account in England had to be transferred to her account in Belgium when she turned 18. Before she actually turned 18 - before her signature became legal in fact - she had to sign a series of papers to get the money... I'll spare you the rest, it's too ridiculous.
Do these people listen to themselves sometimes?

LisaH said...

I remember the Scottish Association of Writers having terrible trouble transferring money from one account to another within one of the Scottish banks because the bank had lost a copy of signatures given to them.
The situation dragged on for more than a year and the Ombudsman had to be called in. If it's any consolation, they did get the money transferred in the end plus a very small amount of compensation.
I believe that most financial institutions are frighteningly incompetent and often can't see beyond rigid guidelines.
Mind you, there are plenty of companies like that generally.
I remember once ordering a couple of print cartridges online. I got an EMail confirming they were on their way. Then a couple of days later I received a phone call.
"I'm sorry, but we don't have the cartidges in stock."
"But you told me you had them and were sending them out."
"Yes, that's right - there were plenty on the computer but when we checked the shelves we didn't have any."
"So when will you be getting more in?"
"We won't be."
"Why not?"
"Because the computer says that we have plenty in stock."

Elliot Cowan said...

When I first moved to the UK I got myself a bank account with Barclays.
To get my ATM card, they had to send it via special courier to be delivered right into my hands.
The problem with this was that our flat doesn't have a street address.
It's a building behind a shop, off a laneway with (it would seem) no real address.
The mail all goes to the shop in front and the owner shoves it through the letterbox each morning.
It is impossible to know if there was someone wanting to get into our building because there's no buzzer.
So then.
The bank told me they needed to send my card to me by special courier, and I told them of the situation with the address and told them that all the courier would have to do is call me and I'd come down and find him and get the card.
"Not a problem!" they said.
So I sat around doing nothing all day long until about 5 when I realised the courier wasn't coming.
So I called the bank and told them the situation with the address and they said "Oh yes, the courier will call you and you can come and get your card from him".
And the next day I sat around unable to head out because I was waiting for my card and of course nobody turned up.
This went on for two weeks, I kid you not.
Eventually I went to my local branch and explained the situation.
"Could you please have the card forwarded to this branch and I'll come get it from here".
"It is the policy of Barclay's Bank to not have cards forwarded to branches".
In the end they agreed to send the card by normal mail but I had to sign a disclaimer saying that if it went missing then it was too bad for me if someone stole it and pinched all my money.
And so began a love affair with London that made me long for a life covered in shit and living in the gutter.

Qenny said...

It's good to see that the spirit of Monty Python is alive and well, and living in many of our largest institutions.

Rob Cox said...

Mandy & I have adopted a strategy when phoned by banks or credit card companies who open by asking for security details.

"Who are you?" we ask. They say they are from Halifax or M & S Finance or whatever.

"Well, we have no proof of that", we reply, "Can we take you through some security questions please? What is your date of birth and mother's maiden name?" etc etc.

After all - they phoned us! We really don't have any proof that they are who they say they are and we are not going to give out personal information to what could be a hoax call.

Boll Weavil said...

I'd have stayed on theIsle of Wight myself.Its unbeatable.