Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A sure cure for what ails us...

...would be severe restrictions on what computers are allowed to do.

I'm not talking about home computers, but the ones that increasingly dominate business and government affairs.

This morning, I received an email (computer-generated) from my bank, informing me that a computer had decided to put a "hold" on money I deposited last Saturday.

As you might expect, this did not fill me with joy, particularly considering that I had already written checks on a good chunk of said deposit.

So I first b*gg*r*d around with the bank's online "service." When that got me nowhere, I went the "24-hour helpline" route. Equally frustrating, from the moment I had to declare my interest in getting instructions in English -- as opposed to Jorge Bush's favored language -- to the point when I simply slammed down the receiver in disgust.

In desperation, I went to the bank's nearest physical location which, thanks to the creeping spread of "automated banking" and a mad desire to maximize executive bonuses by canning employees, is some distance away. I passed two former locations while driving there; one is being converted to "loft" apartments, while the other is home to a rival bank.

I was not in a lovely mood when I got there. However, a nice lady listened to my story, checked things out (using her computer, of course) and released the money on the spot, explaining that a computer -- of course -- makes such decisions based on a flimsy set of assumptions.

She also discovered that I have been overcharged fee-wise since, well, forever. Which is to say since my current bank bought out my former bank back in 1990 and conned me into signing up for a deluxe service I didn't really want or need. She remedied that swiftly, determined that she could refund some of the charges, and popped them into a brand-new savings account for me.

She didn't know how angry I was -- at times of great stress, I become very polite, which only a few people have ever seen -- but the anger faded swiftly anyway. Dealing with a human who can (and is willing to) make decisions rather than a computer saw to that.

I still don't like my bank though, sadly, it is probably no worse than any other.

But I like her. At least I know where to go when, inevitably, the computers try to take a bite out of me again.

We had a pleasant chat while she was straightening things out; once she determined what I do for a living, she asked the kind of questions most people pay $4.95* to get answered; it was well worth it for me to answer. I didn't even feel, as I did after trying the "modern" methods of problem-solving, that I had just seen an hour of my life poured into the sewer.

* -- the cover price of most magazines I write for.


lowandslow said...

I started to suggest you write a letter to her boss commending her for her friendliness and professionalism. The more I think about it though, the more I think that might get her fired. I mean, what bank today wants a friendly, competant employee? Haha!

So, do I owe you $4.95? :)

MrScribbler said...

l&s -- I thought the same, and decided not to for the same reasons. Plus, who knows if she bent a rule or two in my favor?

Nope. You've "paid" in so many good ways for my small amount of advice.

betty said...

Isn't it wonderful when you find a real, live human to talk to? We had a run around with McAfee. I had cancelled it but they still charged it. I went to all the online help, nothing. I finally called and talked to a lady and it was taken care of. I hate computer transactions! Glad you got that all straightened out. :)

joan said...

Isn't it the truth? Our hospital was famous for friendly telephone operators - exactly what you want when you call a hospital. They'd even throw in a "hon" or "darlin'" but last year they changed to the "press one, press two message. Grrrr.

Birdie said...

well, how about that, you got a competent, living person to help you.... maybe there's hope after all? ;-)

DAL said...

I had to talk to "Emily" to register my payment info with Bell. But she's very polite and natural sounding as far as computerized assistants go.

Anonymous said...

I love good customer service.

emd said...

Those lofts are taking away Pedro's funkiness. Even 1st Thursday ain't what it used to be.