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Money and the monkeys... - By Rebecca Wicks

I got an early wake-up call from the bank this morning, demanding I pay the 900 AED from a credit card I told them very clearly to cancel almost a year ago. I cleared it before I cancelled it, and I cancelled it because of this bank’s total inability to offer a service that didn’t feel like it was based on an island full of monkeys. So why the 900 AED I hear you ask? Well, a TV provider we will leave unnamed, whose managing team are also clearly hanging from a branch somewhere, slapping their chests like big baboons, has been charging me 138 AED every month since I moved out of my flat last summer, in spite of me calling to cancel that, too.

So here we have a double case incompetency, coupled with my tragic, longstanding difficulties with financial situations. Not a good mix.

Money and I have never been the best of friends. I never really used to have any and now that I do, I’m still rubbish with it. Back in London I never used to check my statements for fear of what I might find. Like most of the world I would buy what I wanted on credit, blissfully ignoring my actual poverty-stricken status and skipping joyously through my lavish, daily existence like Julie Andrews with armfuls of shopping bags. Like everyone else I thought “I’ll worry about it later”. And of course, when “later” came around, I’d just get another credit card.

If an ATM threatened to burst my bubble by showing my balance on-screen, I’d avert my eyes, awaiting my cash gift hopefully like a pensioner at a slot machine, never quite sure if it would arrive. If I accidentally saw my balance, or opened a statement by mistake, I would tell myself that a minus sign before a number may have meant I was withdrawing money I didn’t have, but they were letting me do it, so it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t theft, it was an act of beautiful generosity.

So back to the issue at hand. I’m all grown up now � hence the initial cancellation of a credit card I was no longer using. But alas, alack, the banks have turned their evil on the slightly more established me. I offered to pay the outstanding balance on the understanding that they would then, finally, cancel my credit card. The bank informed me delightedly that this was excellent news (although they were sad I wouldn’t be banking with them anymore) and could I give them my new credit card number.

Well of course, I said “No, I have the cash right here, I’ll give you my debit card number. How’s that?”

“That won’t work”, the lady said. “We only accept credit card payments, and there’s a handling fee, too.”

I was outraged. “Do you mean to say that you don’t accept real money?”

“Only Mastercard or Visa, ma’am”

“But I have real money, in my account, now, real money that I shouldn’t even owe you in the first place but am giving you anyway, and you want me to put it on a credit card, therefore forcing me into more debt?”

“Only Mastercard or Visa, ma’am”

“What if I don’t have a credit card? What if I learned from my past mistakes and cancelled all my credit cards when you should have cancelled this one?”

“Do you have a credit card ma’am?”

“Yes of course I do, but�”

“Only Mastercard or Visa, ma’am”

Demented by fury (it was only 8am) I paid up, before she called the cops.

Perhaps if I had read my bank statements, I hear you cry, I would have noticed this error before and saved myself 900 AED and a whole morning of misery. It’s just that, usually, if you ask a bank to close your credit card after dutifully paying it all off, they do it. If you ask a TV service to cancel your direct debits because you’re moving out of your house and are no longer even receiving their channels, they do it.

Perhaps I’m asking too much? Am I acting a little spoilt, expecting more than what should be standard? It’s a quandary, that’s for sure. And at a time when the world is now drowning in debt, why oh why is my bank encouraging me into more?

I called the TV people who were very nice. They admitted their mistake, filed it somewhere in a tree within their monkey-network for a chimp to screw up and said a technician would call me back about my 900 AED refund. Something tells me I could be waiting a very long time.

Posted: 19 February 2009

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