I bought a house alarm the other day, albeit completely unbeknownst to me. Apparently, the mere mention of such a possibility down at the bank was enough to guarantee the whipping out of just under two thousand euros from my account. I called immediately to see what was going on.
"Good morning, might somebody like to inform me why I've just been charged one thousand nine hundred euros in some kind of mystery transaction?"
"Ah yes, that's for the house alarm we mentioned when you enquired about a loan."
"Would that be the house alarm that I specifically and categorically stated that I didn't need because the loan would be for renovating an old abandoned house that only a thief with a fetish for dry rot and woodworm would bother his sorry self with?"
"Er, well , yes."
"I never even confirmed the loan, let alone the alarm. Refund me immediately, you halfwits."
"It'll take a few days."
"That's odd. It took precisely twelve hours from a very vague conversation where precisely nothing was agreed or signed to grab the money. Now you say it'll take a few days to return it?"
"Er, yes, sir, that's right. Can we help you with anything else, this afternoon, for you, sir?"
"No, you certainly can't. In fact, I'll be very wary next time any of your staff asks me where I'm thinking of going on holiday this year on the off chance you send me a couple of Ryanair tickets and a gold plated bucket and spade and then charge them to my account within twelve hours. Good day."
Later in the afternoon, I received a call from the bank's central office asking me if I had five minutes to talk through the details of my recent house alarm purchase. This clearly meant they hadn't even started the cancellation process yet and I now envisaged "a few days" meaning that I'd get my money back around the time the late autumnal mist rolls in off a restless sea.
These are precisely the kind of antics I can clearly recall the banks indulging in in 2006/7 just before they - and we - were given a sharp smack around the chops to teach us all a lesson.
Sadly, however, it appears that the financial crisis of 2008 taught us precisely nothing and our unfettered desire for more and more unnecessary stuff is once again being hungrily nurtured by our greedy chums down at the banks.
It is, if I may say so, all rather, er, alarming.