Sorry, UK company, but I’m a senior citizen, not an idiot

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Do you remember when you stood in line at the bank, knowing with certainty that you would be talking to a human being, at a real teller? OK, you might have had to wait a few minutes while someone tipped a thousand pounds in front of the cashier, but you’d be sure that sooner or later your problems would be dealt with kindly and efficiently. Sometimes you would be invited to a small side office, with a comfortable chair, for more discretion and privacy. Maybe even offered a cup of tea.

Looks like it was back when AA men used to salute. The advent of online banking has led to a sharp decline in brick-and-mortar banking, as it is now nearly impossible to tell a human about your money. There are no more walk-in banks in my nearest town, and it’s the same all over Europe.

This lack of personal customer service so infuriated Spanish retiree Carlos San Juan, 78, a retired doctor from Valencia, that he delivered a petition to Spanish government employees demanding an alternative to online banking, claiming that he felt “excluded”. . His rallying cry “Soy Mayor NO idiota” – “I’m an old person, not an idiot!” – brought a wave of support to his cause: the petition attracted 610,000 signatures in Spain and many more support beyond.

Regardless of your age, your relationship with your bank is often a lifelong relationship, and as such it should be personal and accessible. Deep down, the banks know this: their hazy, “benevolent” advertisements claim they are “by your side” and “here, for the journey”. Yet with little or no visible presence on the main street, this claim may seem hollow.

San Juan spoke specifically for Spain’s estimated 10 million pensioners, but you don’t have to be an elderly person to feel that the term ‘customer service’ is often an oxymoron these days.

In fact, despite the common assumption that old people (I prefer to call us senior train passholders) have no idea how to use the internet and crumble when faced with a website, most of us are extremely online savvy.

But that’s not the point. Many people of all ages, especially those who live alone, were eager to jump into their bank. They knew the staff, met friends in the queue, exchanged news and enjoyed the social interaction.

By pushing us to go online, our banks have denied us the human desire for a friendly exchange with someone who can make things right. We don’t want a maze of algorithm-based “options”, which seem designed to raise our hedgehogs and our blood pressure (and that’s before we’re asked to “rate your experience”). Have you ever found a useful answer in the list of FAQs? I certainly didn’t.

Banks – like so many UK businesses – act like Hollywood A-lists: creating a defensive wall to keep us from getting close enough to talk to them. But just like those celebrities who depend on their fans for their fame, our banks would be nowhere without their customers.

So I’m telling my bank: despite your lazy assumptions, I’m not some decrepit old fool who can be fooled with a robot cat. Unless you up your game, you’ll lose me the moment a savvy rival recognizes that online banking just isn’t for everyone.

The Gray Revolutionaries arrive. And we demand a cup of tea.

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