Used, annoyed and left hanging by my bank

I am in a co-dependent relationship that I just cannot escape.

Co-dependent: an emotional and behavioural condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction”, because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

It has been one-sided for a long time and I definitely feel abused.

This is the kind of thing that happens: Leah’s line was busy. I had been told she was the person to talk to. Having called three different numbers up to that point, I was keen not to spend any more time waiting on the end of a phone.

Me: “Can you please ask Leah to call me back? I’ve been on hold with various people for nearly 40 minutes. You’re the fifth person I’ve been put through to this morning”.

Bank person who’d just asked me to call back in five: “We’ll see”.

Is this a lost in translation mom­ent? Or are we entering passive aggressive phase? Her English seems competent enough …

I was standing with my lawyer at the time. He asked which bank I was in a relationship with and nodded knowingly when I shared, saying that it’s known for being arrogant. I didn’t ask him how he knew – my experience certainly backed this up.

The thing is, I’ve been with my bank for 16 years, so when I ask for paperwork relating to my own money, I believe it should be there for me. Timing was an issue. In fact, my lawyer needed to sign it, and to be effi­cient I thought it a good idea to call ahead, have everything prepared, give the name of the person picking it up, and ask exactly what was needed in the way of permission or supporting documents from me.

Sigh. Unrealised expectations – the death knell of many a relationship.

Now for reality: after being passed from one department to another and having to repeat the information to five different people, I thought it best to go straight to the top, with the idea that surely someone higher up would step up and communicate openly.

Well, first I’d need to find someone who would actually take the call. I asked to talk to said bank’s chief executive. He’s travelling. His assistant? She’s off today. “So there’s no one running the bank?” Another assistant’s name came up – Leah – but her line was busy.

After a pointed exchange in response to “we’ll see”, whereupon I had requested to be put through to PR, media relations, any manager, my call was shunted across to Shirley from HR. Hmmm … perhaps she could go through job descriptions and enlighten me as to who to talk to?

Nope. She was as flummoxed as I was. Why was I put through to her? What’s the issue?

So I went through it all again, asked to be put through to any­one – anyone at all who could help. “I will get someone to call you back.” The line went dead. That was a week ago Thursday. Not a peep from them since.

It turns out the bank would not have been able to process my request anyway – they would have had to “on board” the person picking up my papers, a process that takes five working days. This is not entirely their fault. And no, I didn’t find this out from them. Regulations dictate that banking information is handed over to persons known to the bank. The number of days it takes to verify someone is not stipulated – that is an internal banking issue – and five working days smacks of a lot of waste or avoidance issues.

All this is such an energy sap. The hoops that we have to jump through. The invented pro­cesses that are not infallible, but certainly time-consuming if not maddening.

But over and above, the amount of time spent on hold is unforgivable. Did you know that if you were to spend 10 to 20 minutes on hold per week, that would add up to 13 hours a year on hold, and 43 days lost over an average lifetime? That’s how much the average American surveyed in 2013 spent on the phone waiting. Now think of how much time you actually spend on hold. Especially with banks. In the name of all things holy, surely there’s a way to have more people to answer – no, let me qualify that: to provide factually correct answers to questions being asked – it’s not good enough to just answer the phone.

I suppose one thing we should be grateful for is that we don’t pay the criminally high pre­mium rates people in other countries do for the privilege of having “uplifting” and on the whole entirely inappropriate music playing in your ear.

Customers in the UK spent an average of £385 (Dh2,048) on hold to call centres in 2014, or Dh30,780 over their lifetime. Granted it’s not a problem unique to banks, they came in as the third worst offenders there in terms of waiting time on hold – but something tells me that here in the UAE the banks would top the list.

Dear bank: I don’t feel you care about me any more. You take but don’t give. I know I need you – but I don’t like you or want you any more. But I’m scared I won’t find another better than you … so what the heck … shall we give it one more try?

Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on You can reach her at and on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh


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