Apart from suddenly having to think in pounds Sterling rather than U.S. dollars, the hardest part has been coping with the brutal treatment doled out by the business community.
I wrote not long ago of a stockbroker here who messed up some share sales, costing me $1,200. The broker agreed it was his fault and said he'd make me whole. When I called to ask for a check, a "compliance officer" at the firm laughed at me. It took threats to recover my money, five months late.
The day after I returned, I took my life savings to a bank and tried to deposit them into my checking account. The bank manager looked at me as if I were the Thing From Another World when I pointed out that his business card contained four spelling errors, including his name. "Can't put this money in your checking account," he said, adding ominously: "Security." But, I could open a savings account--at no interest, with heavy monthly fees. Don't want that, I said. You've got it, he replied.
I sent instructions to the bank to carry out an international wire transfer. Written instructions not accepted, they said, you have to come into the bank and identify yourself. What if I'm out of the country? I asked. Fly back, they replied. I had to read the letter out loud to a woman, who then made the transfer. Written confirmation not provided.
Everyone hates bankers. But until recently, I thought bankers were OK. I didn't mind if they made millions, providing I could cash checks or make payments. U.K. banks are phasing out checkbooks, and mine has already started. It wouldn't give me a checkbook until I started screaming. Then they gave me two.
The Royal Mail calls registered mail "signed for." That is exactly what it is not. A check I sent "signed for" was lost and "cannot be traced; we don't do that," I was told. It's either signed for on receipt, or it isn't. The Royal Mail doesn't care either way.
Why didn't I use a courier service? The best they can do here is to come by "some time" to collect urgent packages. If I'm not at the front door when they arrive they won't come back.
Furniture I ordered from a website that said "in stock" had none. Money taken. No refunds. Six-week delivery delay. The Web is largely an alien concept here. I'll cite one other example: a land registry website, open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After office hours, the information-only website is suspended.
Yet every interaction I have had with government has been flawless. All levels of it in Britain seem to employ people who are competent. The one shining corporate exception to all this has been insurer Standard Life. (Standard Life board member Sir Sandy Crombie is no relation.) They offered to reduce my premium, but not my benefits, if I would simply confirm my repatriation. The confirmation I mailed was, of course, lost.
My psyche may recover from being exiled from Bermuda, but my finances probably never will.
ROGER CROMBIE is a London-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
April 1, 2011
Copyright 2011© LRP Publications