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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Just had the most maddening conversation ever with Alliance & Leicester's internet banking helpdesk. Notes here mostly for my own benefit because I'll write them up into a proper complaint before moving to a different bank.

While trying to make a one-off payment online, I got the following error:
Microsoft VBScript runtime error '800a000d'

Type mismatch: 'CInt'

E:\INETPUB\WWWROOT\IBREBUILD\MOVE_MONEY\../includes/validation.asp, line 191
So I phoned the internet banking helpdesk and told them that I had tried to make a payment online but halfway through the process had had "a VBScript runtime error". The man I spoke to immediately said "that's your software, that's nothing to do with us". I said (trying to be polite) that I didn't think it was my software, that I was using Safari; he just repeated insistently and dismissively that it was the way my software was set up. Suspecting that this might be a default we-don't-support-Macs position, I said "Are you saying that I can't use Safari for internet banking?" and he said no, it was a software problem. (I don't think he had a clue what 'Safari' was, to be honest.) I insisted that the problem was with their site, not with my software.

He then asked me to go through the steps I'd gone through before to get to the error, so that he could watch what was happening; I started to do this, telling him what I was doing at each stage (though at every step he interrupted what I was saying to tell me what to do). When I got to the point of selecting an account, I realised that what I'd done the previous time was to select the Premier Direct Account (the default in the drop-down menu -- it's some kind of useless savings account that I can't make payments out of) instead of the Current Account. I said that I'd realised that I'd done the wrong thing before, but offered to retrace my steps so that he could debug the error. He said no, and said that so long as I could do what I wanted now, that was the main thing. I said that that was one of the main things, but that surely it would be useful to see why such a bad error was coming up, and pointed out that my confidence in their internet banking was not helped by such an appalling failure mode. At this point he started being extremely patronising and tried to explain to me that "if it doesn't like the things you put in, then you get an error, that's how it works". I pointed out that I'm a professional web developer and I understand about bad user input, but I also understand about sensible validation of user input, proper error handling, and user-friendly error messages. He did reluctantly conceded that the error message could be "a bit more user friendly" but otherwise insisted that my computer and my software were the problem; he also rarely let me finish anything I tried to say, at one point interrupting me with "We use computers here, Mrs Knight" (he got my name wrong several times during the conversation).

Trying to end the conversation before I got any more angry, I asked if there was a way that I could submit a full bug report; he said that the email address was on the website, and gave me directions to where to find it. (Following those directions in fact leads not to an email address, nor even a link to a form, but to a brief instruction on how to send a secure message when you're logged in to internet banking.)

Perhaps a new New Year's Resolution (no, I haven't forgotten, but I haven't done them yet either) should be to find a bank whose internet banking isn't shit. :-/ Any recommendations?

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timscience From: timscience Date: January 25th, 2010 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've used Lloyds for years, they seem OK.

Then again, they have a Bond villain for a CEO and seem to be responsible for about half the national debt, so who knows?
fivemack From: fivemack Date: January 25th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have used Lloyds for years and their internet banking seems to work well; they haven't yet imposed either Mastercard Annoying Security Popup or anything requiring putting your credit card in a small plastic box.

They do have a robot phone you up whenever you set up a standing order and ask you to type in a number, but this isn't a great inconvenience.

Edited at 2010-01-25 09:03 pm (UTC)
khalinche From: khalinche Date: January 25th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agh, burninate him like Trogdor!

He did reluctantly conceded that the error message could be "a bit more user friendly"

Yeah, so you could understand it with your simple lady mind, and not be bothering the important helpdesk people who use computers

What an absolute cvnt.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 25th, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

my mind my mind my simple lady mind

The hilarious thing is that I've probably been using computers for longer than he's been alive.

I've probably had more girlfriends than him too. :-D
From: mooism Date: January 25th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Supplemental question: are there any banks that let you test drive their internet banking before you get an account with them? (I had a quick look round before I changed banks and didn't find anything, but that was nearly a decade ago.)

But good grief, A+L need to get a clue.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 25th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
are there any banks that let you test drive their internet banking before you get an account with them?

Now that would be excellent! The tragic thing is that I bet none of them would even consider it, even though by doing that they could a) get more customers and b) get tons of free testing done for them.

I suspect the objection would be "security", ie stopping teh evil phishers finding out what their website looks like (because phishers can't get bank accounts, and don't know people who can get bank accounts).
From: hsenag Date: January 25th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lloyds internet banking generally just works for me, though I haven't tried to report any bugs.

Nationwide also generally just works, however I have once reported a bug by email and not had a particularly positive experience, though not as bad as the one you describe. [The bug was that they messed up the quoting of commas in their CSV downloads.]
uitlander From: uitlander Date: January 25th, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, first I feel your pain having just closed the accounts I had with A&L now that the house purchase is over. They were, TBH, without a doubt the worst internet banking site I have ever used. I am now with First Direct who have been absolutely fine for the year I have used their banking.

Their banking site opens in a popup window once you login, which I find annoying, and response rates from the server can be a little slow. But the UI is fine, it does what it says on the tin, I can use any HSBC branch to pay stuff in, and the telephone banking staff are extremely helpful.

I think they will give both of us a small bung if you decide to take up a recommendation.
j4 From: j4 Date: January 25th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to have a credit card with First Direct, but that was when I was still on dialup and not really doing e-banking. I seem to recall I closed it when they brought in some evil charges that I objected to and because I never used the credit card anyway but I can't remember. I'll have a look again, & drop you a line if I do go for them, if that's okay?

OTOH, they are part of HSBC ... I had a current account with HSBC for years (starting with their student a/c) and they were awful. Their internet banking helpline was useless too, and when I switched from them to A&L it took me over six months to get HSBC to close my account, during which time they dicked about and lied to me and were generally a big steaming bucket of fail. :-{ I think, actually, A&L still haven't messed me about as much as HSBC did!
From: taimatsu Date: January 25th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Natwest's internet banking thinks it can't cope with iceweasel, but when I tell it that I'm using IE6 (honest guv) it works fine.
tigerfort From: tigerfort Date: January 25th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've not had any problems using Natwest with Opera (10) or Firefox (2/3/3.5). Since nothing has gone wrong, I can't guarantee that their customer service people are any better, but on the plus side, nothing has [yet] gone wrong.

I've also found their branch network and phone-people to be generally more clued and helpful than other banks I've dealt with, too, although that might be a purely luck-with-individual-branches matter.

I (and stripey_cat) also have an A-and-L rant that we should possibly post at some point.
(Deleted comment)
j4 From: j4 Date: January 25th, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Mm, see my comment above re HSBC... After they finally let me close my account I vowed that I wouldn't go near them again, but more and more I suspect that the banks are all just as bad as each other. Keeping my money in a shoebox under the mattress is starting to look quite appealing. :-}
ewx From: ewx Date: January 25th, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't recall having had any problems with Lloyds, nor with Nationwide.
djw From: djw Date: January 25th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
So long as you are not a business customer, then I think The Co-op is fine. Better than shAbbey were anyway.

However, if you wish to run a company with a Co-op account, then you may be better with your money heading to Lost Wages.
jiggery_pokery From: jiggery_pokery Date: January 25th, 2010 10:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
As a data point, the worst things I can say about Barclays' online banking are that it gets very pernickety about use of the "Back" key, that it is pretty proactive about logging people out and that it is noticeably heavy on (mostly announced) downtime. This relates to experiences with Firefox 3 on both Mac and Windows, and we've also not delved into the world of their code-generating (one-time pad-generating?) dongles, which are available as an extra level of verification.

In conclusion: not fun, but not so unacceptable as to make us change.
sbp From: sbp Date: January 26th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)
+1 for Barclays. I use the card-in-plastic-box thingum which is actually OK - ask for a spare one to keep elsewhere. I've used them since they started their online banking, and have used many different browsers and OSes in that time.

Currently to log in you need the internet account id number, your surname, the last four digits of your card, and the 8-digit number generated from the box you stick your card in, which is different every time. Previous to that it was a select-letters-from-your-secret-word thing, a bit like verified-by-visa. At least they're *trying* to make it more secure.

I feel that Barclays may be bastards, but at least they're my bastards. I don't feel inclined to change - Smile or Coop, I guess, but Smile gets a thumbs down elsewhere in this thread.
emperor From: emperor Date: January 25th, 2010 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've found both Nationwide and HSBC's online bankings to Generally Just Work.
lnr From: lnr Date: January 25th, 2010 10:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me too, and Nationwide have the advantages of being:

- still a building society
- somewhat ethical supposedly
- not HSBC :)
- no charges on foreign currency if/when abroad

They have a widget though. I like the fact I don't need a widget with HSBC.
covertmusic From: covertmusic Date: January 25th, 2010 10:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Halifax's is OK. Everything else about them sucks, though.
claerwen From: claerwen Date: January 25th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're writing it up anyway, I'd be tempted to copy the complaint to Radio 4's Moneybox, which occasionally deals entertainingly with this kind of thing. I guess they only cover stuff when a number of people complain about similar issues, but, y'know, who knows? They have no email address that I can find, unfortunately, but have forms for contacting them at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/moneybox/891726.stm.
sebastienne From: sebastienne Date: January 25th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
I picked Smile (the internet-only arm of the Co-op bank) as an irritatingly ethical teenager. It turns out that, as well as not investing your money in anything dodgy, they also give brilliant customer service - at least, I've never once had a problem with them that couldn't be solved immediately by giving them a call. And things that you need a branch for, like paying in cheques or getting emergency cash out when you lose your card, can be done through any branch of the Co-op.
metame From: metame Date: January 26th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Agreed. Have used Smile as online bank for a good long time without any issues (well I curse every time I stupidly hit "back" and it politely informs me that that isn't a very secure thing to do so could I log in again?) and their ethical policy is pretty solid.
From: pndc Date: January 25th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you want a bank that repeatedly breaches their contract with you and does their damnedest to avoid giving out information in response to a Subject Access Request, try Smile. Or if you'd prefer one that ignores attempts to change address or close the account, try Abbey^W Satan^W Name-of-the-week. Halifax is one to avoid too.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's a bank I could actually *recommend*. My business account with HSBC works fine, but I've not tried their personal banking.
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