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computer says “no”

The Barclay card saga.”computer says No”

I rarely blog text but here’s a follow-up from my ‘tweet’ about my anger with Barclays bank for ‘retaining’ my debit card.

Several years ago I opened up a ‘savings’ account with Barclays, I thought it was a useful way of having some cash in the U.K. for the frequent trips I make to these isles. Like any account I can put money in whenever I wish but there’s no cheque book so when I need to make a withdrawal I use the debit card they kindly provided so that I can serve myself and they can employ less staff.

On this trip I’d brought a couple of sterling cheques I’d acquired, so I popped down to the local Barclays branch to put them in my account. The cashier took my card to note my details, tapped it all in to the computer, rubber stamped the cheques and gave back the card along with a receipt. Having just alighted from the Eurostar my pockets were still full of euros so on leaving the bank I went to the hole in the wall to get some great british pounds. Put the card in the machine which asked for a pin number, gave the pin number and next question ‘how much do you want?’ I tapped in the required amount, “would you like a receipt?” I pressed the Yes button. I stood waiting for the notes to appear when suddenly for a full five seconds, and you had to be quick to see it in the blazing sunlight, a message came up saying <your card has been retained> “It’s retained my card” I said in disbelief to the man behind me in the orderly queue that had now formed. “Get in there quick mate” he said pointing to the bank door “before they close!”

I returned to the same cashier who had served me just five minutes ago and explained the situation. “What’s your card number?” she said, “ I don’t know” I replied, “but it’s on the card in your machine.” “Oh we can’t open that” she said, “you’ll have to go home and find your details.”

”But you’ve already got them” I replied “I made a deposit just a few minutes ago. Go into the computer history and check them!” She made a face and then turned to her keyboard, punched a few keys and then turned back nonchalantly and said, “Oh it’s normal, your card has been cancelled.”

”Why’s that?” I screamed “it’s valid until November.” She turned  back to her screen and tapped away again, after a short lapse she turned back and said “computer says <Insufficient use>.”

“INSUFFICIENT USE” I screamed, doing my best Fawlty Towers number, “there’s nothing in my contract that says I have to use it every day, week, month. It’s valid until November when it should be renewed automatically.” “I’m sorry” said the cashier while beckoning forward the next customer, “you will have to contact customer services.”

Back home I contact customer services. A man replies, I give him all the details and he says “before I can process your case I need to ask you some security questions.” “Go ahead!” I say. “Whats your date of birth?” I give him that, “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” I give him that. There’s a silence so I launch into the “why has my card been retained” schpiel, “I’m sorry sir” he interrupts, “you’ve answered the questions wrong I cant continue this conversation”

“No I have not” I shrill, “I know my date of birth, I know my mother’s maiden name for god’s sake.”

“Well, those are not the answers I have here, you will have to go see your bank manager, prove your identity and continue from there. Good night sir.”

So the next day I have to make a half-day trip to town where I opened the account.

As I get to the top of the escalator I see a lady waiting to greet me, she’s like a traffic cop directing you to different lanes, I explain my case, she writes down my name, tells me to sit over there and someone will call me.

I just have time to read all the various leaflets scattered about on the different accounts, life insurance etc. you can have when a young girl come to usher me into her tiny open space. We sit facing each other with only the computer between us and I explain again my story. She taps on the computer… “Yes” she says, “Computer cancelled your card because you haven’t used it for several months”

“Why?” I patiently ask.

“Well, if you don’t use your card for a certain time computer assumes that you’ve lost it and so cancels it. It’s for your own safety” she adds with one of those smiles.

“Why didn’t computer send me a self generated letter to ask if I had indeed lost my card?” I ask.

“Oh we have to be cost conscience” came back the reply.

“So you’re not going to reimburse my loss of time and train fare then I gather?”

She ignored that, apologized for any inconvenience and said “You will receive a new card within the next five days, and this time you must use it more” she adds “spend more!”

“But it’s a savings account” I point out.

“and you could have contacted our customer service, that would have saved you the trip.” she continues ignoring my previous point.

I explain the bit about the security questions, she taps on the computer keyboard, “What’s your date of birth?”

I give her that.

“Place of birth?”


“That’s right” she replies “and your mother’s maiden name?”

I give her that.

“No” she says, “computer says No”…….


One response

  1. blackwatertown

    I left that bank after years as a customer when I changed branches, due to a move of cities, and they all of a sudden questioned my nationality. Bizarre and annoying.
    Worked out for the best though, moved to a better bank.

    August 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

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