I am…despite the accusation of a leading Manchester City fan and LetsGetAlongerist…a very even-tempered man. Indeed, apart from a few Victor Meldrew years, in my early fifties, it takes a lot for me to get into “wee pointy head” mode. As I have always said we all get to outlive our fears (Dr Phil said this on the Oprah Show) and at my advanced age, there is little that can work me up into a frenzy.
But a visit to the Bank has convinced me that I can STILL get a wee pointy head.
In Norn Iron we have four High Street Banks. And all of them (like Scottish banks) have a concession from THE Bank of England to print their own STERLING notes. Id guess that most of the bank notes in circulation in Norn Iron are actually produced by Northern Bank, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and First Trust. Certainly most of the notes coming out of ATMs are locally produced. This is obviously confusing for “tourists”….they are STERLING legal tender. But those of us who travel to England find that our locally produced banknotes are not accepted. We always get Bank of England banknotes BEFORE we travel. Its just one of those quirky aspects of life here.
Yet I am left with a wee pointy head because of an incident in a local bank. I have never changed by bank since the year I started working. In 1979 I moved my account to another branch near to me. And in 1982, shortly before getting married …it was updated to a joint account. So in its current form, we have been banking with the same branch and bank….even though we are now nearer to a different town.
So in our nearest town, I went INSIDE the branch of OUR bank to use the ATM facility. I took out £100….five nice twenty pound notes issued in the name of the Bank. No big deal…except that the only thing left to do in town was to get into a taxi to go home (fare £4.50) …so I thought Id get one of these notes changed to four five pound notes.
This would normally be a matter of routine. But the cashier asked me if I was a customer of the bank. She would have to CHARGE me otherwise. So I handed over my bank card…and I saw her use a keyboard. What on earth was she up to? So as she handed me over four rather dirty looking five pound notes, I referred her to the statement her boss…the Chief Executive of the Bank on their own banknotes. ” I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of twenty pounds”.
Not quite satisfied with her explanation, I approached the Customer Services desk. I explained the situation. I have four more twenty pound notes And they all say that the bearer will be paid TWENTY POUNDSS sterling “on demand”. There is no reference to the Bearer having to be a customer of the Bank. Ah its a tracking system…the cashiers need to know who is getting the money given to them that morning. And they need to know who is handing over money to them.
Not exactly happy with Customer Services, I spoke to the Assistant Manager. she could not see the problem. To her …the fact that I merely owned the banknote was in itself evidence that the bank had honoured its committment to pay me twenty pounds. But hold on….they will only pay bearers who are bank customers. That seems a bit unfair if I pass their banknote to my son, who is not a customer.
Inevitably they gave me the Complaints phone number…direct line…and no satisfaction. Their banknotes are after all, IOUs….but strangely only in a qualified way. I also spoke unsatisfactorily to the Banks Press Office. And noT much satisfaction from my own BRanch. The best I could extract was that there is an “over-ride” …you can actually get up to £50 without problem.
But the overall question is…what exactly is the value of a IOU which clearly doesnt “do what it says on the tin”.
The information I have been getting so far….and it aint over because I have a wee pointy head about it…..is confusing and contradictory.