Barclays going at it again. Account on credit, and returned cheques

I don’t normally insult or use swear words, but I think Barclays deserve to be called Bastayrds out loud.

The reason is no other than the fact that the Bastayrds did it again. A while ago I had a go for their twisted ways of playing the hours in a day and poor product knowledge at a branch level (On Barclays profiteering…)

Back then they told me that a pound paid in on a day at 0:01AM didn’t count towards paying direct debits that arrived that same day, as they said the money should’ve been in the account the day before. They direct me to their account’s T&Cs and somehow unsuccessfully tried to tell me that there was nothing they could do as the direct debits were run from a different company.

Fast forward 10 months later. Lesson learnt, we paid a supplier with two cheques, one for £500 and another one for £1,219.50. To make sure there were funds in the account on September 2 we transferred into the business account £1,719.50 from the Bastayrds savings account. If you want to follow the story, you can check the bank statement below:

BarclaysStatement

So by the end of September, there were £2,300.85 in the account. The bank statement above shows so, but for some strange reason, the cheques that on September 4, appeared as paid, today appear as unpaid even though there were funds in the account.

Now, again I haven’t got the slightiest idea why this happened. The supplier hasn’t contacted me yet (it’s currently Saturday night) but I know we are at it again.

As you can see, today is September 5 and there is a standing order for £90.02 due on Monday. Guess whose standing order this is? A Barclayloan.

Am I allowed to think that since we don’t have an overdraft facility, they cancelled the returned the cheques to make sure that THEY were getting paid?

I am mad, very mad. Again.

Again I have to waste emotional energy in trying not to shout, not to get angry, not to swear at a Barclays brainless staff member because, after all, they ARE brainless. Someone told me once that they train their branch staff “not to make decisions.” Urban legend? I don’t know, but it surely fits my picture of reality. How long am I going to waste on this? Any second is too long. And I still haven’t seen their returned cheque charges.

.calvin

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On Spain looking down the tunnel, is that the exit or just a train coming?

I am sorry, I know I am a voluntary expat, but Spain is just the land of the joke. Yesterday three things happened that made me corroborate as a right idea leaving the Peninsula.

1. The financial health
The FT informs us that “Spain acts to help lenders”. Is this the same Spain that a few weeks ago was still bragging about the soundness of her financial system? The same Spain that was so proud that the rest of Europe was turning towards the “Spanish way” of dealing with bank reserves? (all coming from the Banesto/Mario Conde disaster of the early 90s). And I am still watching Banco Santander with a pinch of salt…

2. The moral and legal health
On a different note, again the FT tell us of how to do business in Spain. As a Dubai friend told me once, if you are not from Dubai [Spain], don’t try to do business without a local in Dubai [Spain]. And if you do, you will probably get ripped off and the court will not rule in your favour.

Anyway, the story is that of César Alierta, the chairman of Telefónica, the telecom monopoly (let’s call things what they are) that skins Spaniards alive with the most expensive mobile, landline and internet prices of any Western country (claim denied by the Spanish government, though). This fella, just set up a company to oversee his insider trader deals. In the best interest of the few, the court just cleared him of accusations of insider trading because “too much time had elapsed between the alleged offence and the start of judicial proceedings”.

3. The job market health
We heard drums of record unemployment in Spain (near 20% doubling the rate 12 months ago and near my own prediction of 22-25%). Also that the heat wave has brought American cockroaches to Barcelona. Inspired by G.W. Bush, I decided to launch a preventive attack on the little fellas and spent this morning ringing insect exterminators for my flat in El Born.

Conclusions:

a) Unemployment in Spain is partly out of laziness or deeply stupid laws and regulations. I only found two companies who worked on weekends but none did on Sunday. With unemployment over the roof, one would think that the government would relax the law and that people would be willing to work whenever.

b) The country is a rip-off. For a Roach Killer Gel I can get in a drugstore in USA for $6, they wanted €80-180 including spraying (and a 6-month guarantee when the gel producers promise 12 months).

c) All the companies I contacted quoted me the cost of the roach-raid with and without VAT, for my convenience. “In any case”, one lady told me without even thinking I might be a tax inspector, “you will get your 6 month guarantee”.

Sunlight might be the best of disinfectants, but surely rottens your spirit.

.calvin

On the lottery, the infamous tax on the poor, a £49m jackpot

I saw a TV commercial for the next Euromillion lottery draw. There is a £49,000,000 estimated jackpot. That would come handy, wouldn’t it? You could even buy a couple of banks these days.

It is commonly said that lottery is a tax on the poor. Let’s see why:

The theory:
A k-combination is a subset with k elements. The number of k-combinations (each of size k) from a set S with n elements (size n) is the binomial coefficient (also known as the “choose function”):

Where n is the number of objects from which you can choose and k is the number to be chosen, and n! denotes the factorial (the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n). Ein?

For the layman:

Winning selections (Odds)
Jackpot – Match 6 main numbers (1 in 13,983,816)
Match 5 main numbers plus the bonus number (1 in 2,330,636)
Match 5 main numbers (1 in 55,492)

Match 4 main numbers (1 in 1,033)

Match 3 main numbers (1 in 57)

If you look at lottery as a means of getting rich, forget about it, an odd player playing a lucky dip has statistically the same chances of winning the jackpot than someone who plays the same numbers week in, week out for a year. 1 in 13,983,816 chance or 0.0000000715 per cent for the one-off player and 52 in 13,983,816 or 0.00000371 per cent for the lotto junkie.

According to several sociological studies, the wealthiest and the poorest people are least likely to take a chance on the lottery. I thought that having a mortgage, a car and a terraced home was a sign of middle class, but since I use to play Euromillion online every week, I must have been one of the struggling masses. I stopped doing it in March, so I guess that I crawled out of poverty!

Of course, someone will get rich, but don’t forget it, it is just a game. Becoming addict to the weekly draw, playing always the same numbers or playing more than one combination at a time, is a waste of money. A tax on middle and poor classes. Governments should be ashamed of fooling their own customers, sorry their own citizens.

As the old Russian proverb goes, pray to God, but keep rowing to shore. Don’t expect government bailouts of any kind, you are your own bailout.

.calvin

On pooh, Lord Vernment and the lessons to be learnt from Credit-upon-Sink. A medieval story

Once upon a time, there was a small hamlet named Credit-upon-Sink where the Lord Vernment ensured safety and security from strangers. Live was kind, and the banks of the river Sink, fertile.

Lord Govvy, as he was known in the valley, would collect taxes from villagers based on the number of seeds planted every season by the hamlet’s farmers. They were years of mild and gentle weather so it was easy, even for a bourgeois ex-city dweller to work the land and make a profit even after paying the seed-tax.

The newcomers

People from all around the county heard of the opportunity that Credit-upon-Sink’s microclimate represented, so ever greater numbers of blacksmiths, goldsmiths, barristers, architects and glassblowers left the cities for the promise of golden plough.

They brought their savings and started to purchase lots off the hamlet’s farmers who, having discovered that using animal dung for their fields, they could get up to 20 crops per year more than before, so leasing or selling part of their family land would allow them to purchase more cows’ pooh as fertiliser, now renamed manure.

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On the age of media overstatement and living in fear of everything

Today it’s the turn of swine flu (a strain of Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, whatever that means). From 2004 to 2007, it was avian influenza (H5N1, for those who worry enough to care). 2003 brought us the Michael Jackson look thanks to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, a nasty type of pneumonia). Post-9/11 anthrax scare anyone? And we have to go back to 1999, for the Y2K problem.

Of course, I am not talking of pandemics, which is an epidemic of infectious diseases that spreads through populations across a large, region, country, continent… or planet. Nope. What I refer to is the exaggeration and overstatement by public bodies like the World Health Organisation and governments about potential global catastrophes.

Of course, they’ll tell you that they’d rather be safe than sorry. FT reports that Margaret Chan, the head of the WHO is trying to “hit back at critics who have accused [WHO] of over-reaction” (FT.com).

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On saying NO to paperless banking, don’t fall in the guilt trap

As a principle, I refuse to change to paper-free statements, not only because the banks themselves don’t accept online statement print-outs as proof of address (ironic!) but because again, I don’t get anything out of it other than feeling less guilty for saving a piece of a tree. But let’s remember, it is the banks who want me to feel guilty about not saving paper and then they turn and mail me unsolicited advertising printed in non-recyclable paper.

I never felt guilty for getting paper statements, as a matter of fact, since I am a geek and keep my accounts to the minute using MS Money software, I never even looked at them. But then, I started having problem after problem after problem with banks and it became clear that keeping the paper statements was a sensible thing to do.

A good old marketer trick, is to create a need that didn’t exist before, and then harvest the profits. The immorality of using fear, guilt or customer stupidity as a means to higher corporate profit lead me to get my BA in Market Research and move out of the industry (not without the knowledge learnt and a permanent interest in the matter though).

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On Barclays customer services trying to mend bridges? There are no bridges to be mended, just apologise and refund your fees

A few weeks ago I wrote what was then the latest of my bank problems (On Barclays profiteering…)

That very day, I tried to send them my complaint using their disastrous online form. For some reason I couldn’t work out (probably the length of my letter?) I couldn’t send it, so I just wrote that, that I had a complaint but couldn’t send it.

Lucky enough, I received an acknowledgement reply from them (customer.relations@barclays.co.uk) and I sent them my too-long-for-your-complaint-form complaint.

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