Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too Much Excitement In Italy

My friend is in Italy and his debit card is broken. Thee is a problem with its magnetic strip.

He doesn't have a credit card or any other means of getting money out.

He has plenty of money in his account - - he just can't get at it.

He rang me to tell me this interesting problem.

So I rang the NatWest and explained. A perfectly pleasant girl said that what they can do is - - well - - nothing at all. I explained that he is in Italy for another week and is the proud possessor of twenty euros. Oh dear, that's a real shame, was the reply.

You would think that they might have a reciprocal arrangement with an Italian bank, but no such luck - - we must never forget that banks are there to help banks, not customers.

So I tried to send him some money via Western Union. This is a service where - - for a fat fee - - you can transfer money to any Western Union branch and the person can collect it by quoting a code number and showing their passport.

I tried to use my Co-operative Bank credit card and it was declined. I knew that all was in order with it and that there was nothing at all owing on it, so I couldn't understand this. I used my Halifax card and it was accepted.

The Western Union is entirely staffed by jolly Irish ladies and I spoke to three of them. They gave me two Western Union branches situated only ten or eleven miles from The Middle Of Nowhere, Northern Italy, where my friend is currently marooned.

Then the Co-operative Bank rang me, wanting to speak to my husband, because banks think it's still about the year 1903.

"Aha! Good," I said, "actually I want to speak to YOU! Why did you decline my card on the one occasion that I was trying to use it for something really important? Explain this to me, please!"

"I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that," said Co-op Woman. "Computer says no".

Actually she explained that she couldn't tell me why because the card is in my husband's name, even though I have a card on the account, and I shouldn't worry my little head about such things and should go back to the hoovering.

Well, not exactly that. But could he ring her, please?

He did. Apparently there has been a lot of fraud going on with Western Union today in particular, and hence the Co-op Bank had blocked all payments to them. Sorry for the inconvenience, and all that. Shame it was the one day in your whole life that you'd ever tried to use Western Union.

My friend, who, don't forget, has very little money, travelled the ten miles to the first Western Union branch that they had suggested. I had looked it up on the very handy Google Maps and given him directions, as fast as I could because of course phone calls cost a fortune - - and also the electricity is not working in the cottage where he's staying, so there isn't much charge left on his phone.

When he got to the Western Union branch, it was closed. Not closed as in closed for lunch, but closed as in closed down.

Someone gave him directions to the other branch. They told him it wasn't far - - but assumed he was in a car. He wasn't. He doesn't drive.

So he arrived triumphantly at the other branch two minutes after it had closed for the day, and then had to travel the ten miles back to the electricity-free cottage.

He will try again tomorrow.

It's easy to travel abroad these days, with all the modern technology. Until it goes wrong. Then you're stuffed.


Anonymous Milo said...

Oh what an awful story. It's like a worst nightmare being stuck overseas without any money.

Hope things are sorted for him ASAP and well done for at least trying.

Agreed the banks are self-serving and bloody awful for the most part.

10:48 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

Does it help at all to know that the Co-op are the same about the primary cardholder for me and Rob, though the sexes are reversed? So's the John Lewis Partnership Card.

11:39 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

He could always sell his body to make a few euros....
Actually I shouldn't jest because when we were in Hong Kong, we could not get money from ATM's with our debit cards. I was bemused and not a little anxious. I ended up phoning the UK to find out what was going on. "Oh," they said, "the transactions were declined because there's a lot of credit card fraud in the far east but now you have contacted us we can unblock your cards." THANK YOU EVER SO BLOODY MUCH!
If it had gone on any longer I know I would have reluctantly had to sell my body. Mind you I probably wouldn't have got much for it!

1:04 am  
Anonymous Mike Deakin said...

I despise, strong word I know, how banks tend to block first and ask questions ony when they have someone screaming blue murder down the phone at them.

I also hate their "Oh Dear, what a shame" attitude when they're confronted with someone who has had difficulties in dealing with their organisation. It's the whole, "It's not my job to worry or deal with that kind of problem." set up that very large organisations like banks have.

11:08 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I swear, your last three posts all read like pilots for new situation comedies on the telly! Successful ones, I might add. Fawlty Towers could do them up proud.

2:48 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

And a belated "huzzah" to your writing prowess.

2:49 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Milo - well my friend finally got the money this morning. It was a REAL hassle! Phew.
Ailbhe - I suspect all cards are like that. I just think that if you have a credit card with your name on it, then they should be able to discuss things with you, not your partner, whatever the genders involved.
YP and Mike - yes, that's the kind of thing that's really infuriating!
Bob - thank you for the praise. Actually I think my life would never be made into a sitcom - it's too strange to be believable sometimes!

7:02 pm  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

You can, if you get a *joint* credit card account, rather than one with a primary cardholder and other named cardholders. It depends which kind of account you go for to begin with.

8:37 pm  

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