Natural Disasters: A Tale of Two Banks

25 July 2009 2:19 am



Build bank

While we have not been as badly hit as many flooded communities in Queensland and New South Wales in recent weeks, things have been messy here.


Roof iron blew off the shed roof, the python got in, as well as rats and mice. And many things were damaged.


Paper did particularly poorly.






Up a ladder and too tired to pay the account


So imagine me on the day that a credit card account was due for payment trying to convince Karl – up a ladder for hours mending the roof – to pay it online as only he knows how.


Understandably, he chose bed after an exhausting day and the account was late.


In the morning – at 9 am – he paid it. I then rang the bank to ask for a remission of the late fee.


I proudly answered all the identification questions: my childhood pet, great aunt’s maiden name, Karl’s favourite brand of German sauerkraut… Anne, from Tasmania, seemed sensible enough.


Then came the question I could not answer: what recent charges have you made on this card?


The earlier statements were with my bookkeeper, who lives in a local community whose road access was flooded out by what the locals came to call “the chasm”.


Airlifted tofu


(As a side note, it was humorous to hear that all the tofu in Lismore was bought up by the emergency services and airlifted by helicopter to the cut-off alternative community members!)


Anyway, I could not remember my purchases. It never occurred to me that they would be, of course, on the statement I was ringing about.


Anne didn’t think of that either.


The upshot was that I was deemed not to be me and therefore had my credit card access cancelled.


“I AM me! Truly, I am. Ask me anything else? Ring me back on any of the numbers you have on file,” I cried, then remembering that the floods had cut the home line.


“Ring me back. Email me! Anything! I’m in a tiny village. Don’t make me go into that terrible bank again with those appalling people who send me away, telling me I have to make an appointment to collect my credit card. I have sworn never to go into that bank. Never.”


On my desk is the morning paper with their latest advertisement: “We’re for… [all good, sensible, community and local things].”


I’m encouraged to believe that they are the bank I can bank on.


They are for me. Hah!


Deep carpet sobbing


I am crying now. Deep carpet sobbing.


I ask to speak to her supervisor.


The supervisor, also from Tasmania, takes the same hard line. She does not say my name because, of course, I am not me.


I am not me


I am not me. I have to drive 75 kms. round trip to Lismore. I have been cut off.


I explained again, sobbing, that I was me, that the account was paid, that all I wanted was a little compassion (the neighbouring community got helicopter loads of tofu, for God’s sake!).


I closed the account and moved things to another bank .


Which bank?


(Which bank? That bank!)


There a compassionate and generous officer sorted out my affairs and made me and Karl cups of tea.


Complaint addressed


In the end, someone from “complaints” rang from the first bank and apologised.


But when I asked here whether State Government policies on natural disasters had any impact on how banks operate, the woman said she did not know. She thought probably yes.


Disasters come in many forms.


For us, blessedly spared, this one just brought us a lot of mess and the loss of some treasured mementoes.


And a new bank. With real people.