The nickel and diming, it burns!

It’s amazing how companies in the UK find ways to pad their bottom line, nickel and diming customers or potential customers. I may be spoilt having grown up Toronto, but no bank I ever dealt with had a phone number which charged me money to speak to a customer service person. The general attitude in Canada appears to be that banks want to be seen as customer friendly, so it behooves them to not have a phone number that charges you $0.05 to $0.10 per minute. Oddly enough such is not the case with the handful of banks I’ve dealt with in the UK.

Yesterday I rang Natwest with a query. My company has several bank accounts with them and I had a question with regards to BACS approvals. I asked if I could have a phone number which doesn’t require me to pay for the privilege to speak to a banking representative at a bank that is profiting off the bank account – by charging us exorbitant monthly fees. “I’m sorry madam, but unfortunately you do need to ring the billable number”. Do UK banks want to do business with their customers?

One person had gotten fed up with cold callers (telemarketers to those of you in Canuckistan) disturbing his Coronation Street time, so he setup a telephone number which earns him £0.06 to £0.10 per minute – and only utilities and businesses have this phone number. The result has been that the number of calls has dropped significantly for him.

I had this issue during the winter when trying to get through to Customer Service at Stage Coach Buslines, with regards to a bus that was constantly late which severely affected my ability to get home from the Portsmouth area. And each time I had to pay for the privilege to ring them.

For a sizeable segment of the British business community the monies they make off these phone numbers makes a good portion of their bottom line.

Not only do we have to pay for the privilege to speaking to our bank, we also have to pay for water bills. Now I don’t mind paying for water, I did at in Toronto as well. But I have never heard of a country which has privatized the water supply – never ever heard of this before. Even in third world countries the government has not privatized water. Why the hell would the British government allow this? Water is a basic necessity and shouldn’t be in the hands of private companies who have shareholders to answer to. What happens when water is privatized? Huge water bills. Water bills in Toronto are significantly cheaper, and why is that? Because the water filtration and distribution is handled by the local municipality – and not outsourced. When a private company is involved in water distribution there is a very good chance of them cutting corners to meet quarterly and yearly projections. Those of you in Ontario who are old enough may remember Walkerton – one of the issues was the privatization of water testing.  Something which as fundamental as the right to clean water, it should not be up to the good faith of private for-profit companies.

And then there is the usual stuff – charging extortionate parking fees in shopping malls’ carparks. From my perspective a shopping complex wants people to shop, so you give them the perk of free parking in the hopes that they shop and spend money. Oddly enough, because so many councils charge for parking, if the malls did offer free parking people would park there and then go on with their everyday business.

So there are aspects of my British adventures which I find odd and rather irritating – mostly the money-grubbing done by both private concerns and local government councils.