- I am married to my best friend.
- I can afford food, clothing, and shelter.
- I have marketable skills and an education.
- I live in London, a place where many people may never even have the chance to visit.
- This week there is evidence that more Americans feel hopeful.
Although it isn’t always the most fun to live through emotionally taxing moments, they really can turn into the funniest stories. I hope that you get some enjoyment out of it when I rant and rave about a day’s crazy events because somehow Drew and I manage to laugh ourselves off the couch about it. And… I would like to think I grow a little bit each time my eyes well up with tears (yes, we all know that’s not the rarity it should be) or some idiot troublesome, but lovely, individual makes my heart race.
So, what’s with the list? On days that present challenges, making a Top Five list becomes a lifeline.
Yesterday started nicely enough. While making a trip to the office supply store (or heaven, as I like to call it) and the grocery, I found a small street market that I had never seen before, right around the corner from our flat. This market on Whitecross Street boasted several ethnic food booths–and others with random wares for sale. I also found a vegetarian restaurant of a more permanent variety, called Carnevale, that has vegan cuisine on the menu daily. The restaurant appears to have pretty limited hours, so I might just have to try it alone.
After my spirits had been lifted by this new experience, I happily returned to my flat for lunch. While I was submitting an online application my computer screen went black. I was nervous. Then I noticed I was sitting in the dark; I looked up to see if the people across the street were still working. The whole office building across the street was in darkness and workers had left their desks, like I had, to look out the windows at the city employees tearing up the water lines below us. I am sure we were all thinking that someone down there must have accidentally cut the power on our street. As I was watching the people in the building across the street, those people started to notice me as well. One at a time–from different floors and different sections of windows–people started to wave excitedly and smile. For some strange reason it thrilled me to be so warmly greeted. And I smiled and waved back. Before I could get the camera to capture the warm waving workers, the lights had come back on and they began returning to their desks with cups of tea. And just like that the magic moment passed.
Over my own cup of hot tea, I took a moment to peruse our Barclays online bank statement. A very fishy charge in the amount of £74.99 appeared on the account. I don’t know where to begin telling this bit of the story. I’ve already filled you in on the ordeal of starting our account. Then, I am sure I mentioned the trouble regarding the debit card I requested. It seems that I remember also filling you in on the debit card I requested three more times. Did I also tell you about the the time I found out I wasn’t eligible for a debit card like Drew’s?
Short back story on this new edition of “bank error”:
On a Friday in November Drew made a purchase.
Immediately after purchase Drew did some research and realized he had been lied to. He called to request a refund but the phone number is invalid.
Drew immediately went to Barclays to dispute the charge and cancel his debit card.
Barclays refunded the money ($74.99) immediately, pending investigation.
Barclays sent Drew paperwork to fill out; he got through most it. However, signing the document signifies that the cardholder did not provide banking information to the company presenting the item for payment. I took the form to a Barclays branch to ask a member of staff how to properly complete the form. The rep recommended that Drew leave the rest of the form blank (don’t sign it) as it does not apply to him; send it in without a signature. Although this sounds like complete crap to me, what information do I have to argue? I mailed the form as we were heading to airport for our Christmas holiday. The form said that if we didn’t mail it back within 14 days, the bank would assume the money should be debited from our account.
Yesterday I see that the charge reappeared on our account. (That’s grocery money.)
Drew requested that I investigate the situation. The problems with this were that 1) Drew made the purchase, 2) Most Barclays advisors don’t listen very carefully to what customers are saying, 3) Most Barclays advisors I have dealt with say whatever they need to say to get you out of their own hair and into that of some other department outside the building, 4) Barclays Card Services, Branch Staff, and Online Banking department do not communicate well with one another, 5) There are fundamental flaws in the electronically generated communication with the customer and between departments, 6) Gaps in time make diagnosing a problem difficult, 7) Bank staff in all departments are trained to expect fraud and suspicious activity, 8 ) I have witnessed that many customers requesting help can be rude, emotionally charged, ill-prepared, uninformed (like me, not always our fault), disorganized, and talking on a mobile phone in the bank–so, the advisors are harried before I get to them, 9) It’s London; London is busy. They don’t have time to deal with me, 10) I just might be that suspicious person they have been trained to catch in action.
Although I felt strongly that our dispute paperwork had been filled out incorrectly (or not to Barclays’ satisfaction), resulting in the charge reappearing on our account, I headed to the branch with the nicest advisors I had yet found in this fair city to find out what I could do to rectify the situation. I am not sure what I expected them to say. However, I was prepared with the printed statement, my account numbers, a well thought out explanation, and my passport.
After briefly explaining the situation to the young bank advisor she asked for my account information. Then, she spit out a bunch of gibberish. It went kind of like this:
Me: We’ve disputed a charge on our account, but it has shown back up again. I am afraid we may have incorrectly filled out the dispute paperwork or missed some step in the process to clearing it all up. I’d like to find out why this charge has been assessed to my account at this time and how I go about clearing it up for good.
Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Sort code?
Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Account Number?
Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Hmmm… Blue. Blue seven.
Me: That doesn’t make any sense. Are you sure you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?
Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Blue seven. (This is where a smile should have come into play. Blank stare.)
Me: Seriously, after all of the misinformation I have received I can barely stand here and accept that “blue seven” is the answer.
Idiot Lovely, but troublesome, bank advisor: Since it was Andrew Huddleston that made the purchase in question, and not yourself, you are not authorised in the first place to investigate this charge on your account. You have no power here. Be gone, before someone drops a house on you, too!
If you are an ex-pat who has stumbled across this blog entry in your research on which bank to choose, I hope our misadventures, at least, are helpful to you. As for me, I feel like I might be a few centimeters taller. There is also a creepy warm feeling in my chest and throat (like heartburn) seeming to suggest that if someone mentions Barclays within the next few weeks I might catch fire.