God. Banks. I got a call from my business bank yesterday. Could I come to the branch and sign a really urgent document? Ah. No, not really, I was 120 miles south, working. Could they send it to me ? No. Could my wife come up, pick up the document, drive down and have me sign it here ? No. In a bank branch in Edinburgh ? No. It would take another "working day" (Bankerese for another week).

No, it had to be signed on their premises. So thankfully, the Brewery boss let me skip out at 1pm, and I spent two hours on a train, and another three hours in the car to sign this document. A document, I hasten to add, that cost ME £250 - about $500 - to get prepared. Oh - and that took four working days to get POSTED from some clerical center in Sheffield. Because of course they couldnt think of just eMailing a word document or PDF file internally within the bank, so I could have attended to this last week whilst I was working from home.

And what was this document ? A three page boilerplate legal agreement. Something akin to an IBM NDA agreement (and who has NOT signed one of those.. Whilst drunk, at 3am at a party..). Something that could have been faxed to me (remember faxes?) anywhere on the fricking planet.

Honestly. And this is a bank that claims to be the best business bank in the UK.. Can you imagine the worst ? I'm guessing its only marginally worse that this.

By the way, I started my business 14 years ago. At that point, I was based near Aberdeen, and so opened a business account at the "local" branch. Which is no longer "local". But if you've ever tried to transfer a "normal" bank account between branches of the same bank, or god forbid, between banks themselves, believe me you DONT want to do that. It causes something like three months of pain, as the various direct debits (that they claim to transfer for you but never do) bounce around, not to mention the direct credits from suppliers, etc, that NEVER get paid into the new accounts, etc. So a three hour car journey just to get to the branch - whilst as pleasant as having your genitals waxed with a chainsaw - is still less painful than the alternative.. Oh and after having the LOCAL muppets of this bank completely screw up something as simple as paying in cheques to our account, I trust them about as much as I trust an emu on acid.

Douglas Adams wrote about folks like this a lot. He called them Vogons. But I thnk Vogons would be at least able NOT to lose random bits of paper. Like cheques.

The kicker at the end of this 3-minute signing fest (aside from never having met this person before, nor being asked for any form of ID - I could have sent my dad in to sign it!), was the conversation about our on-line banking service.

  • "We were told to stop using the modem-based dialup package, sent some paperwork, but also told to complete this on-line. We did this over six months ago. We've not heard anything back - whats the status" (And I didnt mention - I called and asked about this a few times which you've also ignored)

  • "You did ? We have no record."... (on the computer.. [Another aside. This is a SIX YEAR old PC, and she's using a 3270 terminal connection to a zSeries. Its a real "Computer History" class!] on the phone..). "Nope. Nothing. Nada. Even if you filled it online, you should have been told to print the forms and post them to us here at this branch".

  • "We werent told to do that" (said through gritted teeth)... "Well can we fill in the forms here?" (scrabbling for forms, scribbling on two 8 page forms, four signatures, etc. I derived childish pleasure from answering the question "How did you hear about this service" with the answer "By repeatedly applying for it". I did miss out "you bunch of muppets" from that, so I was being nice. And SWMBO kept kicking me under the desk so I behaved.

  • "So your still using the previous internet-based service".

  • "Noo. We're still using the really bad, fixed to a single PC based dialup service. It only work sporadicaly, takes a week to switch to a new PC, only works between 10am and 4pm, and you've been charging us £10 a month to use this for the last 9 years.."

  • "Oh,. I thought we'd switched *that* off ages ago..."

You see, dear reader, the reason that this particular bank made over £8b PROFIT last year, is that they empoy minimum wage staff in cube farms to actually do stuff badly, whilst ripping off their customers as much as they can humanly bear. (At least this bank has most of its wage-slave cube farms based here in the UK, so at least you have a chance of suing their arse off, or that your details dont end up on some "swap credit details" troll site..) God forbid if you try and do something outside the envelope, such as pay in international cheques,. ask for your IBAN number, try and access your account at the weekend, move accounts around. Because they will punish you for being creative by invariably screwing it up in such a way as to always make it painful. And they'll charge you for it too. "Overdrawn? That'll be £30!". "But it was your fault!". "Tough. We're a bank. Screw you"