Sometimes I fear that this blog is just turning into a whole load of middle-aged, middle-England, middle-class whines at the state of the nation. So the next time I sit down with my laptop and rattle off a few choice thoughts, they will be either about a lifetime experience of pub-rock shenanigans, or possibly why the internet is set to fail us, by virtue of the idiots that seem to have claimed it for themselves. I would very happily take a vote on this, and choose the subject accordingly; just write to me at the usual address.
And speaking of voting, what a huge surprise that the country should have vented its spleen, in the first referendum for years, on what appears to have been a direct vendetta against Nick Clegg. Personally, I’m not ashamed to say that I voted No, which is the first time I’ve ever sided with a Tory policy in an election. Well, I say I voted No. Actually what happened was that my first choice was No, and my second one was Yes, tee hee.
I don’t think I have the energy to go into the missed opportunity that the AV referendum presented for some sort of democratic change in this country. But while I’m here, a couple of thoughts…
I don’t understand why we don’t have some sort of proper proportional representation in England (we manage to do so in Scotland, after all); although I do think we could manage a bit of fun into the bargain. My suggestion would be simply that the number of MP’s be cross checked after each election against the number of votes. For parties not adequately represented by constituency MP’s, a number of reserve MP’s without constituency would be added to parliament. If, on the other hand, a party was over-represented, those MP’s with the smallest majority would be publicly shot. I really think this would make people consider their commitment to politics. Incidentally, I wonder whether we could spice up our more boring athletic races in the same way. The 10,000 metres on the track, for example, is a tedious 25 laps around the track, with usually only the last couple raced at pace. Think how much more fun it would be if the last runner on each lap knew that he or she would be physically damaged for being last. I’m only thinking about an air rifle, although I’m aware that our enthusiasm for extreme sports would cause a bit more of a demand for something more dramatic eventually.
I digress, so on to this week’s blog. For one reason or another, a couple of weeks ago I had to withdraw a reasonably large amount of cash from my bank. So I called them in advance on the morning I needed the money. Three times. Each time the phone rang for several minutes, wasn’t answered, and I hung up. I was phoning largely to check to see if I needed any extra ID to take out five grand in cash, and, of course, to see if the branch was open. I decided to chance it anyway, and cycled down to the bank. To my surprise and pleasure, it was indeed open. So I went inside, where I was delighted to see three tellers, uniformly staring into space, and two other staff, presumably engaged in some sort of meet & greet (or possibly meet, greet and inappropriately sell) role. There were no other customers to be seen.
“Good morning”, I said to the first teller, because largely it was.
“I’d like to withdraw five thousand pounds please. Should I make the cheque out to cash?”
“Good morning”, the teller parried (and at this stage the morning was at its shiny best)
“You don’t need a chequebook for that…I can sort that out on your debit card.” She smiled, and I could hear small birds chirruping outside.
“But you can’t withdraw that amount of money without calling us first.” The small birds stopped their chirruping.
“But I did call you. No-one answered.”
“Well, we’ve been really busy this morning.” I looked around for signs of busy-ness, and saw none.
To my delight, just at that point the phone rang. And rang, and rang. And the four other members of staff in the branch ignored it. The phone, incidentally, was in the middle of the branch, on a table, under a poster extolling the virtue of the bank’s customer charter.
After a certain amount of backward and forwardness, we established that I could withdraw £4,995 without telling them in advance, but not £5,000. So I did. I was tempted to go outside and call the branch number to get the full amount, but was worried that my call wouldn’t be answered.
“Are you doing anything exciting with that money then?”, the Teller asked.
“Not really, just paying off my dealer”, I replied. Which was a joke, and not terribly well received.
And this week, I found myself at an event to discuss the future of digital banking. One of the key messages was around the maturity ‘tipping point’ for successful customer interfaces through internet and mobile devices. And one of the contentions was that this maturity could never be reached until digital transactions could have the same level of personal interaction as that delivered in branches. Well, for all the wrong reasons, it seems to me that the future is already here.