I wanted to increase my overdraft between now and the end of August to cover the additional costs of putting our house in a state to sell and various other costs associated with the move. On August 18th a couple of relocation grants will arrive to remove the overdraft. Remove. It will exterminate it. We are not talking big bucks here.
I negotiated the first automated menu at Lloyds TSB call centre and, after a short pause, got through to an operative.
She asked me if I had a temporary secret number. Which I did. I thought I had been so clever keeping this since the last time I had phoned Lloyds TSB in December 2005 and I proudly read it to her.
'Unfortunately Mr Tilley that hasn't worked,' she said disappointedly. 'Could you confirm it to me again.' I did and it still didn't work so she had to transfer me to a new operative who registered me for a new secret number by asking me my mother's inside leg measurement and my date of birth. She then transferred me to a machine into which I inputted my new number myself using the phone key pad and saying 'yes' when asked by a machine to confirm it was correct and repeating 'yes' because the machine told me I didn't say it loud enough and then back to the registry woman who said it had gone through and she transferred me back not to the original woman but to another woman who asked me where I lived (second time), my date of birth (second time) and the second and fourth digits of my new secret number.
'Can you be overheard or overlooked Mr Tilley?'
'It sounds like you're in an office.'
'I am. But I am alone. '
'Is someone typing?'
'Yes.' (A guy's gotta blog or he'll go mad)
Anyway she was in a position to transfer me to a personal banker having first ascertained that there wasn't any other service I wanted. I listened in while she briefed this personal banker and then he asked me all the questions she had just given him the answer to. He also gave me the challenge of switching quickly from understanding Glaswegian English to Indian English whilst recalling my address, home phone number, mother's bra size and date of birth.
Friend Richard says the trick is never to answer in the same way twice even if the answer is always affirmative. Try this:
It's great fun.
So he listens having first checked he has understood my request and then says it has been turned down. I try to stay calm and simply exude frustration rather than anger and he offers to check with his supervisor before I ask anything. There is a glorious wait with no hold music although no other noise either so you have no idea if you've been cut off, forgotten or hurled into call-centre limbo from which there is no escape unless you have a phone stapled to your ear and a long lead in case you want a pooh.
Apparently I have a credit card bill (it's within the limit) and a loan (paid regularly on time) and this is bad although having a quarter of a million pound house for sale with a mortgage of less than half that and a thumping big relocation grant cheque on the way is not good to balance.
Then he comes back and says yes. So there is a God after all. I'd vanished him over the last ten minutes. He (TSB Indian, not God) tells me he has to read out a long list of stuff but if I am happy he will summarise the stuff and write to me with the rest so I'm going to get two letters on Monday (probably in separate envelopes) one setting out the terms and conditions of Lloyds TSB's internet banking alleged service and the other the terms and conditions of my new overdraft limit.
He asks if there is anything else I need and I resist asking if there is more he would like to know about my mother, a fine upstanding Christian woman with an excellent maiden name of no you don't catch me out like that, but gone a bit doolally in the last few decades. So I say no and he says have a nice evening and I feel a sense of achievement that you shouldn't really have to feel simply asking for a four week overdraft extension. And getting it.