Musings Rant

The NatWest Card Reader, part deux (I didn’t change banks)

My last post on the subject (a fraction over 10 years ago!) garnered a lot of comments for what was essentially just a rant, and it turned out to be somewhat unfounded and sensationalistic.

I’m still with NatWest, their online banking is still very good and their app is the best, and I’ve rarely had to use the card reader and not been able to find one.

What has surprised me is that NatWest still haven’t improved the crazy wastefulness of the packaging.
There are still many layers of unnecessary cardboard and plastic, though the bubble wrap is gone.
Interestingly, the new card reader isn’t branded.


I lost my old card reader a while ago, and have been using a Barclays one instead, since they’re functionally the same. I prefer the weight and layout of the Barclays one, but it recently decided that its battery was low and stopped me from using it, making itself useless, instead of warning me.

So, I’m still with NatWest as my primary bank, and will probably stay with them for at least another 10 years.

Unless my tiny BitCoin investment rockets beyond its current £60 value that is…

Musings Rant Tech

You get what you pay for…

PC World, TechGuys (PC Service Call), Parceline – One of them screwed up.

The fianceé’s laptop died on a Thursday. It would POST, but it would simply restart itself before Windows started loading.

It’s a Vista machine so I tried to use its self-repair options, but to no avail.
I took it to work to see if my colleague the IT support guy had any further ideas but alas.

It was less than a year old so I was able to take it to PC World (where it was bought originally).

So I take it to the shop after work.
The guy at the desk clearly can’t be bothered trying to help and insists that I have to call a support number to get a code before they’ll take it from me.
Can I use their phone? “No, that only makes internal calls.” (*cough*bollocks*cough*).

I give in, take it home and call from there. I’m taken through the same repair process that I’d already attempted multiple times by a friendly but non-technical call centre employee. At the end of the call I explain that I’d like to complain that I couldn’t make the call in the shop. He’s surprised I’ve been told this since he has himself taken calls from PC World employees.

I arrange a collection and am given a code.
Monday morning it’s collected by Parceline, and am told that they usually don’t take very long to return.
Next morning I get a call from the post room saying that they’ve got a laptop for me. That was quick.
Talking to the courier we agree that it’s probably a mistake. Unfortunately, he can’t take it back since he doesn’t have the correct paperwork. Fair enough, insurance etc.

I call the TechGuys and explain the situation, that I’m irked and that I’d like some kind of express service to compensate.
The call centre kid appears to take it personally and puts me on hold for about five minutes before the call gets disconnected.
I call again and am told that I will have to wait for more than 24 hours before it gets picked up. I have no choice so I agree.

It’s collected on the Wednesday morning as arranged, and returned fixed on the following Monday (10 days after I first reported the problem).

‘Fixed’ I called it. Actually, all they did was replace the hard-drive, something I could easily have done myself.
Fortunately they installed the correct version of Windows.
What of the files? All gone.
What of the broken hard-drive itself? Not returned to me. (I may have wanted to send it to a hard-drive recovery centre.)

Communication from any of the parties involved? None, apart from the ripped proforma which accompanied the fixed laptop, with 5 ticks and the scribble regarding the replaced hard-drive.

I’m glad I’m not having to try and get any money back.

Musings Tech Web

NatWest Anti-Fraud Team: Impressive

Despite my reservations regarding NatWest’s Card Reader, I wish to voice how impressed I was with their Anti-Fraud Team.

DreamHost’s incredible billing blunder resulted in some peculiar charges to my card.
So when I was trying to pay what I actually owed, it was denied by the issuer.

I tried a few times (just in case), but then my mobile rings. It’s NatWest asking if it’s me attempting to make these payments.

That’s joined-up thinking. Some automated system has obviously spotted the unusual activity and gets a human to check it out. They have my number, call me, I explain. They then inform me that I should wait a short while and try again.

Bit of a pointless post I guess, but I thought they should get some credit.

Code Musings Opinion Personal Tech Web

BBC Homepage Beta Using jQuery

The BBC Beta Homepage is using jQuery, but unfortunately it’s ugly.

I should qualify that – I think it’s a good move to make the homepage more personalisable, but does it have to look so Web2.0?
Big text was a fad a year ago, but it’s too informal for an internationally recognised and respected news source, and it makes it look so childish – I dread to think what the new CBBC sites would look like!

I realise this is only a beta, and may well change considerably, but without a bit of a shrink I won’t be likely to use it as a homepage tab.

Rant Web

BT (‘British’ Tele-extortion) Woes

BT have me in a head-lock.

I get my phone and broadband service from them, and am charged, on average, £30 per month.
This is not overly excessive, but I wanted to reduce it somehow, since I’ve been made better offers by Virgin Media.

After digging through the website after looking at my online (paperfree) bill, I eventually find a number. (The usual 0800 800 150).
On calling this number I’m asked by the automated system whether I’m calling from the phone[line] I wish to talk about.
I am, and press ‘1’ to indicate as such. (The alternative is to enter the phone number.)
So why am I asked for that number every bleeding time I actually talk to a real human being?

I’m then asked for my account number for ID verification (though they are loathe to admit that’s why), oh, and my name and my address and postcode. (All of which are on the bill, so anyone who can intercept my bill can claim to be me.)

So, who do I speak with? Various people in India, that well-known British territory.
Is that why they can’t see my phone number, because they’re on some crappy-quality network 5000 miles away?

After explaining the reason for my call I’m told all the things I already know, the total cost of my last bill etc., and I have to suggest that we look into changing my broadband package. Oh no, that means I have to be put through to another department! Okay, fine, just get on with it.
“Welcome to BT. Your call may be recorded…” … “If you’re calling from the phone you wish to talk about…” Argh!

I give all my details again, and am eventually told that I might be better of upgrading my broadband package to avoid a repeat of “your recent email” notifying me that I went over my 8GB limit. That was about 6 months ago.

Can I just cancel my account? “Yes, but you’ll be charged the cancellation fee.”
Not actually a fee, just the whole bill (minus call charges) for the remainder of the contract, which is until August ’08.

Oh bugger.