I recently had a lovely experience with NatWest that I would like to share with you. Instead of following the usual format of my blog, however, this time I will just let the e-mail I sent them speak for itself. The reasons I'm being so public about this are two: (a) because some friends have asked me to read the e-mail I sent, so this is for them, and (b) because I think it's important to just speak up sometimes, when a company (or, in this case, a bank -- that is also obviously a company) treats you with such complete disregard. So, here it is, what I sent to NatWest:
"Dear Sir or Madam,
My name is Noel, and I have been a customer of NatWest since September 2010. Before I begin, I would like to apologise in advance for the length of this letter -- even though I have not yet typed anything, the nature of the complaints I need to do is such that this cannot possibly end up short. I promise to keep it as succinct and calm as possible, although I really want you to understand the level of service NatWest has provided me with in the past year and a half.
The first issue with my account arose in the beginning of last summer, when I visited the branch in Canterbury to inquire about my statements. You see, ever since May 2011, I had stopped receiving my statements at home, even though I had ensured in my online banking account that my preference was "statements via mail" numerous times. The employee was quite understanding, and assured me that I would be receiving statements at home by next month.
One month later, having received no statements, I returned to the bank -- only to be told the same thing as the previous time. "Don't worry, you'll get your statements," they said, and I foolishly believed it.
In September 2010, I moved from Canterbury to London, so I informed NatWest in Canterbury of my change of address, and -- once again -- asked to make sure that I receive my statements from now on. Promises were made, then promptly broken.
Fast-forward through the winter, the same ordeal was repeated on a monthly rota in various branches (Plaistow, Stratford Westfield, etc.) like a rerun of a funny (but utterly ridiculous) TV series episode. Then this month, I decided to try my luck with Liverpool Street. Jackpot -- they found what was wrong instantly: apparently, I had been sent a statement at my house in Canterbury in May 2011, which was then returned, so the bank marked my account as "changed address -- no statements", and every single employee I communicated with after that failed to notice. How this is possible, considering that I even changed address between May 2011 and January 2012... well, your guess is as good as mine. One would have thought that the change of address would have removed the "no statements" mark, or that at least one person would have noticed that this was the problem in the eight months of repeated queries, but then one would be assuming that NatWest actually cares about customer service.
Point #2: When I opened my account, I was offered the option to pay a monthly fee of about £7 in exchange for a list of benefits, including but not limited to a 16-25 railcard, mobile phone insurance and emergency cash. I opted for the benefits, but then in September 2011 I graduated from university, moved into a new house, jumped into the role of a bill-paying adult and decided that having access to a website with a surprisingly limited supply of films was not the highest of my priorities, so I visited NatWest Plaistow to cancel the benefits. "No worries," the lady at the counter told me. "It shows me here on the computer that you have a basic account already." Now I do not know what kind of virus the computer had that day, but two weeks later I received an e-mail informing me that my account would automatically be upgraded to Silver, the new version of what I had, apparently. So I went to a different bank, in Stratford Westfield, and the guy I talked to told me that, "yeah, it wouldn't show up on the cashier's computer because that type of account does not exist anymore." And he switched me to basic, just as I had asked two weeks before. I repeat: "It wouldn't show up on the cashier's computer because that type of account does not exist anymore." And I ask: so what?! The type of account does not exist anymore so the system automatically misinforms the cashier, and then the cashier misinforms the customer?
Anyway, that was solved as well, so I reckoned it was just another glitch. Now where my parents come from, people say: "one issue is a coincidence, two issues is a pattern." But I do not need to teach you sayings from foreign countries, because English has a nice expression as well: "third time's the charm." And behold, the charm:
Three days ago I was at a pub, and I tried to pay my drinks with my card. Unfortunately, the card machine said: "Not applicable." Figuring it was just a problem with the card machine, I paid with cash. Then the next day, I tried again at a different pub; the same problem arose. Having run out of cash, I ran to the nearest cashpoint -- only to discover that apparently, my card had been cancelled. Now that happened yesterday which, as you know (assuming people at NatWest know the days of the week, which might actually be asking too much), was a Friday. Since I was working this morning, I had to go to the bank in Stratford Westfield when they opened to sort it out.
The lady who talked to me was very kind. Only slightly apologetic, but then again it was not her fault. As she informed me, there was "no just reason" for cancelling my card. "These things happen sometimes," she said. "This is just NatWest's latest attempt at getting me to switch banks," I said. She ignored the comment; I guess I made her feel uncomfortable. I had this whole speech prepared for the person I would see; I would say: "Look, I know it's not your fault, and the last thing you need is to start your Saturday morning with a crazy twenty-something-year-old yelling at you, but you need to understand what your bank has put me through in the last year. If this is the type of service NatWest provides, if this is the best you can do, I need to know now so I can switch to a different bank that will take me and my needs more seriously." I did not say it, after all. All I did was ask: "Why?" It is a perfectly good question, I think. And you need to answer it to me. Why should it take eight months for someone to notice the reason I was not receiving my statements? Why should the cashier not be able to see that I had the old type of account? Why should my card get cancelled out of the blue for no just reason? Why should NatWest's customer service be so shoddy, poor and dysfunctional?
Before I hit "send", I would like to clarify that every single person I ever spoke to was kind, smiling and compliant. Some --like the lady who finally noticed the "no statements" mark, or the guy who switched my account from silver to current-- were even helpful. But even though nobody has ever disrespected me actively in any branch or not tried to assist me, I cannot help but feel utterly disrespected by the bank as a customer. I will repeat what I was going to say to the lady this morning but did not because she does not need to hear it, but whoever reads these complaints does: is this the best NatWest can do? If so, I need to know so I can cease being a customer.
Again, I apologise for the length of this letter. I understand that I have taken up much of your precious time, but I really needed to explain how terribly I have been treated by NatWest so far. I look forward to your answer.
I will update when I receive a response to this. Till then, tata. (Unless I get to writing that post I had in mind about love stories that don't suck before that.)