COLUMN: Westwell of Ely asks ‘are we customers or slaves?’

Rosemary Westwell

Rosemary Westwell - Credit: Archant

Are we customers or slaves? In the good old days, we went into shops, asked for something and the shop assistant would get what we wanted and sell it to us or would order it if they did not have it in stock. Nothing was too much trouble.

These days, we have to do everything ourselves, often using soulless machines that go wrong.

Then we have to wait to be assisted. Many of us have been driven to using the internet to get what we want.

Most times we have to pay in advance. If all goes well, the goods arrive quite quickly and we are happy.

However, more often than not there are problems. They, meaning the goods providers, tell us if we can or cannot have the goods we want and if the wrong ones arrive, we are left empty-handed as we struggle to get our money back.

Some of the worst culprits that treat us like slaves are the banks. In the good old days, we were the customers; banks took care of our money and gave us interest as a way of thanking us.

Nowadays, we mostly have to pay for the ‘privilege’ of letting banks keep our money and whenever setting up a new account or when a problem arises, banks insist on using the phone.

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They seem to think the phone is the best and safest way of communication. Pardon? Have they never misheard a name, address or a number?

One bank actually misspelt one of the new passwords I was trying to set up, so I have to remember to misspell that particular word each time I use it.

Recently I was phoned while in the quiet zone on a train. Obeying the sign that said ‘no phones’, I said softly that it was not a good time for me to talk.

I was told they would write. They wrote, but the letter told me to phone them. What was wrong with giving me the details in the letter? I duly dialled the number and held on and on. I rang the number again and again over a whole hour and no-one responded.

I tried a different phone number for the bank, someone answered and then I had to go through so many hoops before they would even speak sensibly to me, I gave up. To this day I do not know what the problem was.

The latest maltreatment came from a well-known phone company. ‘You are signed up to our scheme that protects you from cold callers.

Are you still receiving unwanted calls? ‘Yes’, I replied and realising a sales pitch was coming any moment, I continued: ‘and you’re one of them!’