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Helpdesk the First
14 September 2018 22:13


I‘ve dealt with three different help desks in the last few weeks. The experiences have been interesting. I’ll tell you about the energy company and the oven installer later, but I’ll start with the mortgage company.

When I moved back to Eastleigh, Mrs. Barefoot and I combined our separate mortgages into one. But the following month Mrs Barefoot’s mortgage payment was taken out again.

She phoned the mortgage company who told her that the loan had not been repaid. I checked with the conveyancing solicitor who confirmed that the money had been paid, and cleared from their account. This raised a bit of a problem, as not only had a few tens of thousands of pounds gone missing, but also we now had two mortgages on the property which was against the terms and conditions of both loans.

So, we (by which I mean Mrs Barefoot, with me in the background) phone the mortgage company again. After a few minutes of conversation she said “it’s probably better if you talk to my husband” and passed the phone over. It turned out to be one of the most fun telephone conversations I’ve had for a long time.

It started with “I can’t talk to you without your wife’s permission”.
“well, doesn’t the fact that she’s just passed the phone to me count as implicit consent?”
“No, I need verbal consent”

I pass the phone back.
“What’s your husband’s full name?”
“Ruby Androcles Barefoot”

The phone comes back to me:
“Can you confirm your full name?”
“Ruby Androcles Barefoot, like my wife just told you”.

We start off by establishing that the loan has not been paid back. I explained that my solicitor has confirmed that the money was sent. They asked me how much was sent, when, and from which account. I pointed out several times that I didn’t know the answers as I’d not executed the transaction and suggested that they phoned my solicitor direct.
“We can’t do that”
“What do you mean, ‘you can’t do that’?”
“We can’t make outgoing calls”
So that was a good start.

They then explained that mortgage repayments have to be sent to a central account, and the details would have been on the redemption statement. I replied that, despite several times of asking, my solicitor had never received a redemption statement and was relying on a telephone conversation to know the balance to repay.
“But we’ve sent it several times; we sent it four times on Friday”
“How did you send it?”
“By fax”
“You do know that just about no one uses fax anymore. Why not move into the twenty-first century and email it?”
“We can’t do that; we can only send it by fax or mail”
“OK, so what you’re saying is that the computer system you produce these documents on can print out a paper copy that you can mail”
“Yes”
“Have you got a scanner in your office?”
“No”
“Oh, come on. Pretty much every office and house in the country has a scanner”
“Our procedures don’t allow us to send the document by email. We can fax or mail only”

I asked what fax number they were using and confirmed that it was the one on the letterhead that I had.
“But has it ever occurred to you that the number might be wrong?”
“It’s the number we’ve been given”
“I’m not disputing that it’s the number you’ve been given. What I asked is whether you’ve checked that it is the correct one. Surely after four unsuccessful attempts this might have crossed your mind?”
“No, it hasn’t.”
“So maybe you could mail it?”
“We can’t do that without the solicitor’s panel number”
“Could you mail to me (or Mrs Barefoot)?”
“Yes, we can do that”
“Fantastic. We’ve finally got somewhere. How about you mail to to us, then I will scan it and email it to my solicitor”.

The call took 15-20 minutes, and, like I said, was extremely entertaining. I was polite throughout. OK, I might have called them “a bunch of cretins pretending to be a bank” at one point, but I was polite for most of the time.

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