You may recall that in the beginning of the year I tried to open an account with Barclay's, but had some trouble because of their overworked staff making a mistake with the copy of my license. I reapplied with them, and because I was in a hurry to be able to access my money, I applied at Santander, too, figuring that whoever got back to me first would win my business. Santander told me to come back in a week to pick up my card and account information, so I assumed their application process was just faster (Barclay's takes 3 weeks!), but what I was misunderstanding was that I had actually opened the account the day I went in, not just applied for it, and it was open while I was waiting for the card to come. I went in 7 days later and was told by a very young help desk representative at the door that they did not receive cards there, and I would get mine by mail. Confused, I left, and checked my pidge every day for a notice. Two weeks later I got the card from Barclays and began using that as my bank account, and assumed that Santander had forgotten about me...till I got back from Christmas break and found an invoice in my pidge saying that I owed Santander £10 for having the account open for two months (they charge £5/mo.) plus 10 pence as an overdraft fee, as that £10 had been taken from an account with no money in it!
Obviously annoyed by this, I went down there today to explain my situation and tell them I wanted to close the account and that I didn't think I should have to pay for it, as I never even knew it had been opened. The more mature man at the front desk explained to me that I had opened it the day I came in and signed the papers (though I was not given an account number or any other information that day with which to prove that I had an account), and that if I wanted to close it I had to go over to University Accounts. The University Accounts manager (who hardly looks older than University age, himself) asked me a few questions about when I had opened the account and where I now had my money (he didn't believe that Barclay's had an account that didn't charge international students), and then he apologised for the misinformation from the original help desk kid, but told me that he was not able to remove the charge from the account. He said that I could try calling Customer Service HQ, but as it wasn't technically a mistake or overcharge on their part, they probably would make me pay it before they could close the account. Having been on the phone with customer service people before, I weighed the hassle of that against the ten pounds and decided to fork it over and get this over with. Of course, he couldn't accept my cash himself, and he referred me to the nice girl at the window to do that. I paid the the £10.10 and got a receipt, and then waited as she fought with the computer, trying to close my account. She said that because the 10p charge wouldn't actually show up on the account till 28 January, she couldn't show it as paid, and thus could not close the account.
She sent me over to the Customer Service phones by the ATM machines, where I pressed 1 to speak to the headquarters. An Irish-accented boy answered, though he must have been in training because I could hear his female supervisor telling him what to say. I explained the problem, and asked him either to take off the 10p or to put it through onto the account so that I could pay it and close the account. He said he was unable to do either, and that I would have to wait until the 28th. I asked if they could at least put on record that I had already paid it, so that the account would automatically close on the 28th. He said no, I would have to come in and close it. But what if I were leaving the country tomorrow? I would have to call to close the account. Really?? There is *nothing* you can do for me? Why call yourselves Customer Service if you cannot actually provide a service to me, the customer, in any capacity? He said he was sorry, but he hoped I had a nice day. I didn't want to rant at him, as obviously it wasn't his fault--but that's how they get you, isn't it? You have to go through so many people who didn't actually cause the stupidity you are dealing with, so you can't direct your anger at them (well, you could, but it wouldn't be fair, and it wouldn't get you anywhere), and eventually your anger just peters out and you let them have their way.
Extremely frustrated, I went back to the girl at the window and told her that they had been useless, and that I guessed I would see her in 3 weeks. I came back here, feeling like the guy at the end of the Stewart Lee sketch about the Apple Shop (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yQP3frvrA0). I felt also a vague, vengeful determination to warn people away from Santander, whom I didn't really like to begin with and only went to out of urgency at the start of term. Santander is a big, impersonal bank, quite full of itself, overpriced, and comprising an excessively complex internal system of deferred responsibility, the sole purpose of which appears to be to inconvenience the customer in whatever way it can.
Consider yourself warned.