That Micawber feeling


Well, yes - I wanted to try the Alexander Technique but can't afford to do it.

But the main effect the credit crunch has had on me so far is that more people are now having to live like I have done for years - welcome to my world. We are in more debt than the average third-world country and it takes very little to tip us over. I am hoping there will be less peer pressure on my teenage daughter if it means that fewer of her friends go on fancy holidays (or any holiday come to that), but so far no change there.

I found myself in the interesting position of having a. HSBC bank employee apologise to me recently - she rang up "to find out how I was doing" (like they can't tell) and I got so upset when I heard where she was calling from that I didn't give her the chance to say more than how sorry she was for upsetting me! I explained that the last time someone had called from the bank they had browbeaten me into agreeing to take on yet another loan that I didn't want anyway, to pay off the latest lot of full-up credit card and overdraft and then told me that I'd been declined but they would forward it to "a human being" who would be in touch within 72 hours. Two weeks later a letter came, I don't need to tell you what it said but the key words would be "bargepole" and "lower than whale sh*t".

Then the withdrawal of my AOL monthly fee on my credit card took it £5 over the limit and they rang me to point this out, asking why I thought it had happened in the same sort of tone a teacher would adopt with a naughty schoolkid. My offering to write out 50 times "I must not use my credit card" didn't cut it (which is what I really should do with the card) and I had to pay them something over the phone there and then.

All of which made them treat me like some kind of criminal mastermind when my debit card was stolen from me at a cash machine and used, no I didn't leave it in the machine, no it wasn't picked up by someone who by a sheer fluke managed to work out my PIN first time.

This is how it was, when I rang to report the theft...

In the HSBC Operations Room, the Fraud Investion Team are busily plotting the movements of a major crime syndicate operating in the Mill Hill Area. Staff are pushing model S-spined figures round on a large map of Mill Hill with the cashpoint outside Waitrose in the centre.
One operator talks into a headset to another mug.

"We sent the card to the wrong branch? Please hold while I investigate that...". Music plays, a voice tells the caller how valued they are. The voice begs them to hold. Begs them to hold. Begs them to hold. Tells them how valued they are.

The operator returns with a cup of coffee, bought at the Starbucks down the road.

"We told you we would have the cards transferred?"

"Yes, I went into my local branch 3 times and they said they would arrange to have the cards transferred. This was important, because you have to have a card number to access telephone banking and to be able to access telephone banking to start up internet banking. Finally someone at the local branch told me that I'd have to talk to the nice telephone banking people in India to get the card transferred. But when I phoned..you can't access telephone banking unless you have a card number!

It took a lot of talking before someone would agree to get the card transferred and it hasn't come..."

Eventually, though, they must have got fed up teasing this other caller because they ended up paying me all but £50 of what was stolen, because it took me to my overdraft limit so it was their money stolen not mine. What irony! Could have done with the £50, though. But luckily I have just had some freelance editing work come in which has at least paid for this week's food shopping and a prescription for antidepressants, or will when they pay me...


It's all a matter of Micawber maths:


"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

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