I’ve been at the fag end of a £2000 overdraft since my student days, many, many moons past. A few years ago, one day, the skies turned black and all turned to dust. My account mutated from a graduate account into a regular current account, meaning £50 SURCHARGE EVERY MONTH!!
Here I am, a hapless, yet somewhat charming young prole, just trying pay for my ale and taxes in nasty, unforgiving West Bridgford, and come the end of the month, every month without fail, I’ve got the tyrannical boot of Santander crushing all that’s left of me. I’ve been hatching a cunning plan for a few weeks now, to answer my woes once and for all.
Phone up the bank and tell them you’re struggling. If you can, use words like ‘trauma’ and ‘helplessness’, come on like you’re really trying but any hope you have is getting continually sucked out of you by ‘factors beyond my control’. Last week, I summoned the courage within me to phone up the ‘money problems’ department. They told me they empathised with my situation, and they had two options for me.
Option one was to reduce interest by 5%. I worked out this would save me up to £6 per month, which I could put into my overdraft. Naturally I didn’t quite see this one as being my salvation. £6. If you found £6 in the street you probably wouldn’t even tell anyone about it.
“Now the second option is a bit more… severe…”
“We can effectively dissolve your account, meaning you will pay NO interest.”
“Yes! No interest! Go on!”
“We’ll make you another account, so you can put your direct debits on there… and you’ll be paying us monthly installments.”
And then she got me to look at my account, income, monthly bills, outgoings etc. and work out my excess spend. I entered in all the details and found that it somehow it left me with £400 excess spend a month. And where does it go? I suppose the bank wants that money for themselves. But in a Western, educated, industrialised and democratic society like Old Blighty, one must be able to spend one’s hard-earned in one’s own way. I’ve got drinks to buy at the snooker club, unexpected electrical repairs to make, urbane jackets to buy from the local Cancer Research UK store, matchday bets to place, great works of literature to add to my bookshelf, I’ve got to see Recondite play. I might even, albeit aspirationally, be planning to go on a day trip next month to the luscious vistas of Stoke-On-Trent. I’ve got life that needs paying for.
The lady put me through to a man to further discuss the dissolving of my account.
“Yes Mr Reeve, I can see that the monthly interest is what’s getting you… I’ve made you another account and you should receive a letter to confirm the changes… your first payment will be £200 on the 16th November….”
I wasn’t overly pleased with how things went, I’d hoped I would go full Laurence Olivier and get the waterworks on, and they’d say. ‘Oh James. I can see that we’re traumatising you, don’t throw yourself off the Trent Bridge over something as trivial as 39.64% APR, I’ll tell you what I’ll do sir, because I like you, I’ll refund all interest payments from the last three years, how’s that for you?”
But at least I was making positive steps toward being overdraft-free, and I kept telling myself- 0 interest! Party.
One month later. In messy flat, lying in bed in my brother’s old tartan Primark pajama bottoms with radiator on, listening to Life For Rent by Dido and unemployed. With nothing better to do I checked my bank balance, and there it was, on the long list of dubious transactions, traumatising my very soul, the horrors of the past rearing its horrible hairy head once again
£50 UNARRANGED OVERDRAFT FEES.
Immediately I phoned up Santander bloke and it was a woman now and said I was unpleasantly surprised by what I had seen on my statement, in light of the arrangement previously made… and she said something like yes, I can see an arrangement of sorts was made, but this was done in error… It turns out I wasn’t in fact eligible for such a thing, due to my income being too high relative to my expenses. Well, last I heard of it, said arrangement was taking place, and I told her about the letter I had in my hand notifying me that it had commenced. She said, “sorry, we should have let you know. Is that everything James or would you like to proceed to the complaints department?”
Now, of course, nobody likes to think of themselves as the guy who would like to proceed to the complaints department…
“Oh I will be proceeding to the complaints department,” I said.
I went on hold for a few minutes, hours, days, and then a Scottish lady, June, picked up.
“Hi Mr Reeve, can I call yas Jeems? … I’m sorry Jeems that yar not eligible for the measures we propuzzed, our preevyass adviser should noh-uv mid this offer available to ye, seeing as y’uv an excess of £400 a month, so are perfectly eeble to pay yer overdraft.”
“Yes but June,” I implored, “life is full of unexpected costs, and inflation, inflation! I cannot simply cease to exist for months at a time or what is really the point of getting out of bed in the morning at all? But that is another debate…”
“Oh I understand Jeems, but yus, that is another debate… so we’d like to truly apologise for the error we med, and now I can see that you were unpleasantly surprised,” why didn’t I just say traumatised? “to receive a surcharge, and we agreed not to dee this, so I will be revoking that charge tadee, okay?”
I told her I didn’t want the apology, I was just ‘gearing’ for the surcharge to be returned, and thanked her.
“Excellent Jeems, and we’ve decided to further ameliorate the sichueeshun, we will be crediting yarr accoont with an additional £30, is this a satisfactory outcome for ye ?”
I told June I was delightadd, and encouraged her to go forth and have a truly lovely day.
And I was delighted, £80 free money! Of course, I’m still at financial rock bottom and confined to be there for all eternity. Yet, just as there is water to be found in the most barren of deserts –see the green spiky things everywhere– there are little triumphs to be seized for the hapless prole. So I thanked the Lord for the Junes of the world and celebrated the moment, like a good cactus.