21 February 2007

Banks and subeditors

I had a huge row with my bank yesterday. Last Friday, I rang them to order a new chequebook for my business account and was told it would be sent out first class the same day. By yesterday, it hadn't arrived and I was getting antsy as I urgently need to send a cheque to a supplier. So I picked up the phone again. The call-centre lackey I spoke to told me it took 7 to 10 working days to send out a chequebook. Does that mean I was lied to on Friday then, I asked? The lackey would only confirm the chequebook had been ordered and said it would be posted shortly. I did a quick calculation - by the lackey's reckoning, it would arrive this Friday at the earliest and possibly as late as Tuesday 27th. Now, as my cheque needs to be with the supplier by 1 March at the latest, I was not impressed. The conversation went into a tedious loop for a while before I demanded to speak to someone higher up.

I was connected to the business banking centre - the chap there told me it had been posted to me on Friday and it would take 4 to 5 days to arrive. So that's not first-class post then is it, I pointed out... We eventually agreed that if it hasn't arrived by tomorrow, I can get an emergency blank cheque from my branch that day. I took the opportunity, while on the phone, to ask why I have had five different business banking managers over the last two years and moan about the lack of customer relationship continuity. That whole call took an hour.

In the interim, an email arrived asking me to attend a client meeting with my lovely graphic designer tomorrow. Now, I don't know if I can go or not - it all depends on whether the chequebook arrives today. If it doesn't, I'll be spending tomorrow morning waiting for the post and, possibly, kicking up an almighty fuss at my bank branch when I could be earning money talking to my client.

On a brighter note, I had a very apologetic email from the editor of the magazine for whom I've just written a food review. Having sent my copy over, it came back slightly tweaked, which was fine, and I ok'd it. Then a couple of days later, I received another version that had been hacked to pieces by the subeditor and ruined, in my eyes. I sent it back, with comments. Looks like I have scored a small victory - an apology and the decision to use the first tweaked version. I must admit I was quite stunned to see my feature so chopped up - in 28 years, this is the first time I have ever experienced this. I guess I've been lucky over the years, in that my copy is generally published with minimum tinkering, although I know that many journalists routinely have their copy completely rewritten by someone else. Having worked as a subeditor myself, I understand the need to cut articles for space reasons and also to modify into house style, which is why I generally write to house style to start with. It's worked fine all these years. But subs should treat copy with care and never do more than is needed. Perhaps things have changed since I sat on the subs' desk.

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