Lost in a maze of twisty-turny passages all alike…

Moving home involves updating a lot of information with a lot of different companies. Some make things easy. Some make things as complicated as possible. Some are just astonishingly inept.

At least one is clearly downright evil.

So my Changing Your Information WIth Different Companies Awards are as follows….

Most Complicated Phone Tree:

BT. Without a doubt.

Press 1 if you want to do a thing, unless you also want to do another thing, in which case, press x, where x = y + z – the number you first thought of + the number of minutes you suspect you’re going to end up listening to recorded messages telling you how much easier all of this would be to do on the website.


You’ve been cut off. Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Get a Telephone Line, Do Not Collect £200, Go Directly to Starting the Entire Painful Progress From the Beginnning Again.

Least Complicated Phone Tree:

One Account Mortgage Company


“Hello? How can we help you?”


Astonishingly refreshing – no phone tree, no waiting in a queue, just someone answering the phone directly when you ring the number. I was so shocked to be speaking to a human being so quickly I nearly spilled my gin & tonic.

Special Commendation for Avoiding the Problem:

Glasgow City Council – Council Tax phone line

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Constantly engaged. No idea how complex the phone tree is once you get through. Gave up.

Whole Other Level of Awkwardness & Incompetence Award

A certain credit card company I phoned up to change my address; I was told that I would have to send original copies of a utility bill *and* a bank statement featuring the new address.

Asked why it was this complicated; was told they couldn’t change my address over the phone, apparently because I’d not used the card for a while.
Explained I’d not used the card for a while because every time I tried to use it, the transaction was declined.

‘Oh yes sir, that’s because there’s a block on the card.’

Right. So why is that? My balance is zero. There’s nothing outstanding. And you didn’t think to mention this earlier in the conversation ?

‘Because of a security breach.’

What kind of security breach?

‘Some statements were returned as undeliverable from your old address.’

Right. I had wondered why I hadn’t had a statement in the last 6 months or so. In fact, I phoned you up some months ago to ask why I hadn’t had a statement for a while, and you claimed that they must have got lost in the post.
Did you not think to get in touch with me – you have my email address, you have my phone number – to tell me there was a problem?

‘Oh no, it’s not our policy to get in touch with our customers to tell them of problems with the account.’


So how was I supposed to know? I’ve logged into the website on a number of occaisons, and there’s been nothing there to say there is a problem with the card or the account.

“We’ve blocked the card, but there’s nothing blocking you logging into the website.”

Yes, I know – but perhaps that would be a good mechanism through which to tell me you think there is a security breach on the account ?

“Oh no, we don’t tell you when there’s a problem, we wait until you phone us to tell us the card isn’t working.”


“if you’d like to send your documents to [this address], we’ll update our records.”

Hmm. Perhaps I’ll just cancel the card, since you’re a bunch of incompetent useless idiots.

Just Plain Evil

Entirely unrelated to the current house-moving situation, but worth repeating.


My Dad died a few years ago.

Most of the companies we dealt with in the immediate aftermath of that made things as easy and straightforward as possible to help us deal with the many complicated logistics at that difficult time.

The Banks were, to my surprise, the most helpful, making the process really quite smooth. Most companies handled things quite well, to be honest. BT made me phone up pretending to be my Dad, to let me transfer the account into my Mum’s name, because every other option was just too complicated, but that’s another story.

A certain credit card company – CAPITAL ONE – made things as awkward – and painful – as they possibly could. No-one in my family will ever give them our custom again, and I urge anyone else that reads this to do the same.

My father had a Capital One credit card. After he died, my mother and I wrote to them, sending back his credit card cut up into pieces, and INCLUDING A COPY OF THE DEATH CERTIFICATE, asking them to close the account.

They then wrote back, not to us, but in a letter addressed directly to my late father, including AN ENTIRELY NEW CREDIT CARD in his name, and letting him know that they’d received a request to close the account, but that to do that, they would require him to phone up their customer services – in person – to make any alterations to his account.
Meanwhile, his new credit card was enclosed, and he could start using that immediately.

We wrote to them again, including another copy of the death certificate, explaining why this would not be possible, what with him being somewhat dead. Plus including the replacement card, cut up again.

We eventually received another letter from them, saying they would be prepared to consider closing the account, if we sent them details of all of his financial affairs and bank accounts.

We wrote back saying, no, we will not. The credit card account he had with you is fully paid up, so there is no need for you to have any details about other financial information, please just close the account. Oh, and if you could please return the copy of the death certificate by recorded delivery, as they are quite expensive, we would be very grateful.

Eventually, several weeks later, a letter turned up, stating that the account had been closed, and ignoring our other comments. We wrote back, asking what had happened to the death certificate, and asking again for some comments from their customer service departments on whether or not this is how they generally treated the familes of customers that were deceased. Eventually, the death certificate arrived in the ordinary post, with no covering letter, apology, or anything else.

We wrote, again, to Capital One’s Customer Services address; we wrote to their corporate address, with letters addressed to the Chief Executive. No one ever bothered to get back to us responding to our concerns about the way we were treated.

Which is why, whenever anyone I know, or indeed randomly overhear, mentions getting a credit card, I immediately warn them off getting any sort of Capital One card.

About Gordon Barr

Old buildings fan, ex-scientist, software dev, old cinemas buff, occasional boffin & cow-wrangler. Too many books, too few bookshelves.
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1 Response to Lost in a maze of twisty-turny passages all alike…

  1. Gemma W says:

    I was recently unlucky enough to have my purse stolen on holiday. I have a frankly ridiculous number of debit and credit cards, so got on with cancelling them, while on a day trip to Monaco. Most banks were very helpful; understood the situation, had a dedicated line for lost/stolen cards and didn’t keep me on the phone long to incur expensive roaming charges.

    ASDA Mastercard however, had a very complicated phone tree, which asks you to enter your account or credit card number just to get through. IF I HAD THAT I WOULDN’T BE CALLING! Finally, after calling my mum and getting her to find out my account number for me, I managed to get through to a bloke in India, who insisted on taking me through his whole script. This included waiting for an actual answer to the question ‘Can I ask you some security questions?’. While I paid 40p/min for the privilege.

    Useless. Cancelled it when I got home.

    Gem 🙂

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