The Automated Service

My credit card was cloned a month and a half ago. Yesterday my debit card was cloned.

‘Losing the money,’ ‘having your trust violated,’ ‘feeling financially vulnerable’ people sympathised as I sobbed with anger. ‘I understand,’ they say.

They didn’t.

It wasn’t losing money, or having my trust violated or feeling financially vulnerable that made me lose it. Sure, they played their parts. But really, what made me collapse to the floor and wail was because I knew that I was going have to deal with ‘the automated service.’

I have lost precious hours of my life to these ‘ real human substitutes.’ A phone call to O2 last month took me 57 minutes, this was bad, nay horrific but still it doesn’t come close to the Hades of automated services…Natwest.

Ringing Natwest is like walking through a minefield – one wrong foot step and that’s the end. One wrong detail and it is ‘literally’ the end of the conversation. A conversation, which isn’t even real in the first place.

“Hello” the husky woman’s voice says.

“Hi.” (What the point in that was I don’t know.)

“Is this Alice Audley?”


“This phone call is meant for Alice Audley, are you Alice Audley?”


“Am I speaking with Alice Audley.”

“Yes. It’s Alice Audley.”

“If you are not Alice Audley please hang up to phone now.”


“Thank you. If this Alice Audley, please can you enter the first and third digit of your pin” (I did)

Thank you”

“Please can you enter your date of birth” (I did)

Thank you.

Now I am going to read a list of transactions. Do you recognise these transactions, if you do recognise these transactions please press 1, if you do not recognise these transactions please press 2.”

(I press 1)

“Thank you Alice Audley. If you wish to speak to a member of our team please hold.”

(I hold – I’m heading out to Hammersmith and need to make sure that my card is working. My Oyster card has 40p on it.)

“Hello is this Alice?”

(Are you fucking kidding me!)

“Yes this is Alice Audley.”

“Hello Alice, now we’ve detected fraudulent activity on your account, so we have cancelled your card.”

“NOOOOOO. I just said that I’d made those transactions, I just told your automated service that I made them. Just now.”

“I’m afraid we have been informed that the long card number has been taken and could be used in fraudulent activity.

Were these transactions you?” (she reads)


“I’m sorry but I can’t go into specifics but the long card number has been taken and the card has been cancelled, it will be with you within five working days.”

“So what, pray tell me, what was the point in the automated service?”

“I’m sorry but the long card number..”

“I know, I know. I heard that. Fine, thanks.”

“If you hold I can put you through to…”

“No. Thank you. Good bye.”

Why – if the automated service is going to ignore you – can they not give you real people straight away? Why in modern-day society, in a recession where we need all the hours in the day to try to make money, must we be subjected to an infuriating, fake voice over telling us that we’ve actually just lost it?

Ban the automated service. It’s bad for Britain’s mental health. Homosapiens are meant to communicate with other homosapiens.

PS: Today I went into Natwest. The St Paul’s Churchyard branch and they were both positively delightful and extremely helpful. I achieved more in ten minutes than in the two hours I’ve spent on the phone to them over the last week. Real people know real people.


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