Thursday, 10 May 2012
The trouble is that more and more of life's institutions are becoming less and less safe. Trusty old Tesco's, we discover, care bugger all for its customers; although we should have realised that once they'd installed their self service tills. That refuge from High Street stress, Starbucks, insists on having a "relationship" with you, when all you want is a convenient shot of caffeine. Then there's Boots, the Chemists, dependable old Boots. I think not, their customer service and "value proposition" is about as healthy as a dose of herpes.
Worst of all is the Post Office. Once a shelter for the old and decrepit; a place to spend an hour or so in the warmth, in the queue chatting to your neighbour as you shuffled slowly towards the one opened counter to cash your weekly pension. Now, illuminated signs and numbers accompany a disembodied voice directing you promptly to the next free counter.
Having paid over an arm and a leg to send Aunt Janice's birthday pressie safely on its way, you turn to leave only to be asked in rapid succession about the state of your mobile phone top up, your car, home and pet insurance and have you thought about taking out one of their ISAs.
"It's all part of the service, ..." turns into a wild scream as you attempt to grab the Post Office employee through the security glass, shouting " You can stuff your **** ISA where the postman can't reach!".
No, life has got increasingly more dangerous. Going to the High Street is rather like being a contestant in "Running Man", and you're not Arnie. Or stepping out of the mother ship onto planet LV-426 and stumbling across a monster. And boy is it a monster. It's a hydra, many headed,voracious having no idea of compassion, beauty, love or a sense of fairness.
Marks and Spencer used to be a bit like my mother's bosom, welcoming, warm and within out the slightest hint of anything untoward. Not any more. One could, in the good old days, quietly rummage through the men's pants or knee high socks without any fear of being tapped up. The dear old assistant would quite happily watch you mix and mismatch a whole counter of goodies, without a murmur and watch you saunter out of the shop, your one guinea still unspent.Not now, two minutes staring at a pair of summer shorts, or an "Italian designed" pair of shoes and they're onto you like a troop of piranha. Mind you the food store is relatively safe, except for the leer of the shelf stacker or one of those sad sales persons desperate to off load a few kilowatts of M&S energy.
But it's banks that are the velociraptors of the High Street. Devious, surprisingly intelligent with a mouthful of teeth, they'd rip the wallet out of your arse pocket as soon as look at you. Go into a bank and you are entering Jurassic Park with the security fence down. The chances of you coming out with more money in your account than before you went in is vanishingly small.
You may have intended to have made a small deposit, and as you stand in the queue one of the "helpful" employees asks "Can I help with your business with us today sir?" You are tempted to suggest that the little pipsqueak would be better employed behind the counter doing something useful like serving customers rather than asking damn fool questions.
Alternatively, you may be one of those unfortunates who find themselves in the queue at the "Welcoming" desk. That's the prominent desk in the middle of the entrance to the bank which is usually staffed by a trainee or, more often, unattended. This is the bank's equivalent to triage in the your local hospital's "Accident and Emergencies" - it's hopeless.
People in this queue have two expressions: Focused concentration as, for the umpteenth time that day, they try manfully to understand the gobbledygook in the letter from the bank that arrived unannounced and unwelcomed through the letter box that morning. Or, they stare blankly in front desperately trying to remember whether they, indeed, have the ten pieces of proof of identity required to open a piggy bank.
"Financial Review". That's when the bank want to see you to stop you spending yours or anyone else's money, or want to take what ever money you've managed to keep out of the hands of the taxman and spend it on bank bonuses and toxic housing assets in Kabul.
I wouldn't mind if they they were honest and up front about these "Financial Reviews". They're nothing of the sort. The "adviser" you privileged to be interviewed by knows about as much about financial management as Gordon Brown and has the interpersonal skills of brick wall. His job is to sell you something you most certainly do not want, and if you did your bank would be the last people you'd do business with.
My " Financial Review" consisted of me telling my adviser how much I had and he telling me how much they'd like to get their hand on it!
Bring back the Gold Standard!