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Donna Gee - Spain's Grumpy Old Gran


Why you can't bank on your bank to bank your bankings
19 December 2010 @ 14:05



Whilst life sometimes seems to go into slow motion in Spanish banks, one does usually get the job done – whether it’s paying in money, sorting out bills or trying to prove you’ve been ripped off over service charges. Only in the latter situation you never win.

In the UK, service is invariably a lot quicker. So how on earth did I spend half an hour in my local Halifax branch last week making a vain attempt to pay two small cheques into my account – and leave with the money still in my handbag?

Never mind the snow and ice, the whole episode was a frozen waste, which ended with me making a protest walkout after all my efforts to achieve some credit proved futile.

So how did I manage to spend 30 minutes standing on the spot and achieving precisely nothing?

Well, let’s take it chronologically. Since this particular Halifax branch has a designated automatic paying-in machine, I could avoid the inevitable long queue at the cash desk. Or so I thought. (I don’t do queues or traffic jams, as anyone who know this particular Mrs Stresshead will vouch).

The problem was that the paying-in machine decided it had a fault and could neither process my cheques nor return them. However, it did manage to gobble both drafts up before informing me.

‘’Your cheques have not been credited and we cannot return them,’’ read the subsequent message on the screen, or words to that effect. ‘’Consult a staff member.’’ Which I did.

Cue bank-raid security drill. A staff member built like Rambo said he would need to open up the machine – but for security reasons, a colleague had to lock the entire office full of customers inside the building while he did it.

This obligatory anti-robbery procedure took several minutes as Rambo made a one-man foray into the machinations of the state-of-the-art paying-in device, unlocking various boxes and eventually pulling out a metal tray which contained a couple of cheques.

As if that wasn’t delay enough, the whole procedure then had to be repeated as his first attempt produced only one of my two cheques – plus a rogue draft I had never seen before.

Bank Raid Precaution, exercise two duly achieved deliverance of my second cheque to Rambo-man. But only after several more minutes of customer lock-in.

By now I had been in the branch for 20 minutes just to pay in two cheques worth a total of £71. And they  were no nearer reaching my account than they had been when I arrived.

The only way to get the money credited now was via the pay-in counter. Cue the problem for which the cheque machine had presumably been installed – a frustratingly long queue at the counter.

Have you ever seen all the tills in your bank or building society manned (or more often than not womanned) at the same time? I certainly haven’t. And isn’t it remarkable that at the times cashiers are most needed, at least one suddenly takes a coffee/ lunch/tea/cigarette break?

Equation – four tills and 20 people waiting. Chance of all four tills being manned – nil. Chances of one of the two cashiers actually working taking a break – even money.

On this occasion, I found myself adrift of six queuing customers, plus two who were already at the desk. The obligatory two out of four tills were unwomanned.

After  five more minutes, the same two customers were still prevaricating with the two unflappable cashiers. That’s one thing I will give those girls – I’ve never seen one get angry or ‘hurry-up’ a customer. Maybe that’s why there are always queues, who knows?

I was becoming more and more frustrated, my two cheques still in my hand…and those six customers plus two prevaricators still ahead of me.

Enough is enough, I thought. I bundled my cheques back in my purse, turned on my heel, muttered a suppressed ‘’I’ll come back later’’ to the still-hovering Rambo-man, and went home.

Half an hour completely wasted – for precisely nothing. Well, I did get this Grumpy column out of it, I suppose.  And another chance to demonstrate why 21st-century Britain is not for me.

Having said that, I could tell you some horror stories about Spanish banks, so watch this space.

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Simon said:
20 December 2010 @ 13:55

Spanish banks have to be most frustrating in the world. I agree, why aren't more tills "womanned"? I have to mentally prepare myself for a few hours before even contemplating walking into my bank.

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