The bank that likes to say...er, sorry

28th August 1998 at 01:00
Unlike normal human beings, teachers make their resolutions for the year in August. So this week the paths to our own particular hells are paved with good intentions relating to up-to-date records of work and rapid turnaround of homework exercises.

This year I am focusing on customer care - revolutionising how we deal under pressure with those who may have a complaint about the school. Inspiration came on the day I was leaving for my holiday, when I visited the bank to pick up my supply of francs.

Readers will recognise that banks have changed. Gone are the imposing granite edifices, the dark polished wood counters. Instead customers are met with a perspex and light oak open-plan office, in which young people bend studiously over computers behind pot plants, and helpful notices suggest that we would do better to pursue our transactions via a hole in the wall rather than hanging around in the hopes of catching the eye of one of the workers.

Be that as it may, the francs had been ordered, so they should have been available, but they weren't. The GPO, the mainframe computer and the branch down the road were all blamed, before the customer services manager hove into view, complete with coat and handbag. Profuse apologies were offered along with the information that she was just going over the road to the travel agent's to get the necessary currency. Why did I not think of that?

I sat and steamed, preparing witty but cutting comments relating to incompetence. The manager oiled his way towards me.

He was even younger than polismen appear to be these days and corporate apologies oozed from every inch of him. However, just as I was framing my introductory "That's all very well but", he produced from behind his back, with a flourish, a bottle of Chardonnay, saying: "Please accept this with the bank's apologies!" Well, as Francis Howerd used to say, never had my gast been so flabbered. I left dumbfounded and slightly sheepish at being silenced by a bottle of plonk. Did he have a case of the stuff under his desk in case of cock-ups, or would he have his ear chewed off by his better half when he arrived home without the wine for their candle-lit dinner?

Naturally, I shall be taking up the idea in my dealings with parents this year. A mild and justified complaint will merit a bottle of Corbieres, while a furious rant will be met with a wine box of indeterminate quality. To add to the ambience of customer care, those waiting will be soothed by a muzak machine playing Dean Martin's "Little old wine drinker me".

Now I must phone Oddbins about the school brochure.

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