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Poor connection

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Brought to the brink of despair by a computerised banking system that refuses to transfer funds, Peter Sherwood gets on the phone and lost in cyberspace

Here’s a recent example of ‘asinine’ in action, while dealing with a faceless overseas bureaucracy that has brought the art of social distancing to a new level. But this is not just a whining Troglodyte recalling halcyon days when an international bank transaction took two minutes – with a phone call and email. It’s a universally heartfelt ode to stupidity.

‘To save my time and better serve me’ my bank has introduced a computerised model that refuses, after a week of trying, to acknowledge my existence. And I’ve been with the
same outfit in Australia since 1984. Frustrated? If there were an app for hara-kiri, I’d try it.

Input into the void failed so I phoned for help. I am eventually put through to a generic ‘John,’ but not before being warned that my call might be used for training purposes. Translation: If you curse the staff, we’ll make ignoring you our life’s work. As if they haven’t already. Then 20 minutes of appalling Seventies music, and bingo! “We’re connecting you to a customer service agent.” ‘Eric’ appears reading a script: “Good morning, Peter. Is it OK if I call you Peter?” Faux friendliness to soften me up so I’ll accept any old idiocy. Beginning with interrogation – my great grandmother’s maiden name, please, and the date of my last online purchase of laxatives. Forty minutes has passed and at my expense.

A transfer of funds was a bridge too far; too complex for these moronic humanoids to achieve. What used to be easy is now ridiculously complicated – and by the way get used to it because they don’t care.

But hold! Here comes ‘Janet:’ “Certainly, Peter. Is it OK if I call you Peter? Please wait a moment while I enter you into The System.” Click.

She disappears for about a week while I’m left to calculate how much this phone call is going to cost me. I picture her having wandered into some dank corporate cave where
ancient computers whirr and grind, while she awaits a response from Big Brother. A torturous time later she’s back with the news that there is something wrong with The System, that amorphous black hole in cyberspace that absorbs blame for every 21st century act of irresponsibility.

A real human with his or her own name you seek? Ha, ha and ha! Try this for a giggle: Hang up, call back and ask for the Eric you were just speaking to. Good luck.

Complain? Janet and John are not the complaints department. You have to email.

I did, and got an automated reply referring me back to the computer page that has not worked since Bill Gates was a boy. Apparently this interminable hanging on the phone is for my own good, and all in the name of efficiency. I’m not a vengeful man, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate the billions spent providing me with endless hours of convenience.
But I would not be terribly upset if Janet, John and Eric were to spontaneously combust.

Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for over 20 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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