Wednesday, February 27, 2008

 

My Halifax bank saga continued and concluded

After noting the farcical bank appointment scenario the other day, I feel that I have to bring the comical saga of events involved in re-arranging a mortgage lending rate to their conclusion.

Needless to say I was not prepared to go to a bank in order to use their phone to speak to a Call Centre, so instead I rang up, complained and was then given an appointment with a “real” advisor at a different branch.

The appointment
We arrived 5 minutes early, notified a cashier of our arrival and waited. The advisor we were due to see was still in a meeting. 5 minutes later her meeting ended and she opened the door, looked at us, then sat down and started using a PC - we assumed to complete the details of the previous appointment.

After a further 5 minutes (now 5 minutes into our appointment) she left the office and disappeared. A further 5 minutes passed, then 10 minutes, until my wife decided to speak to me in a high volume about the poor service. I suggested that she lower her voice slightly, at which point another person (also waiting protractedly), told me that my wife was correct and, in even louder decibels, recited his annoyance with his similar situation. By now 15 minutes had past and we were of course using our lunch break for this purpose.

At this point one of the counter staff requested help from a manager (re our and others increasing agitation) at which point everyone in the branch started to express very loudly their irritation and disgust with what was taking place i.e the service, or lack there of.

What then followed was a series of loudly recited descriptions of the staff’s incompetence by every customer in the branch. It was a sight, or sound, to behold, Brits actually standing up for themselves in the light of poor service.

One guy had come in to transfer £6K from one Halifax account to another, but after 15 minutes of questions had been told that it could not be done in the branch, he needed to do it through the Call Centre. The explanation being that “only they had procedures to validate his identity”. He had already provided details of both accounts, included dates and branches at which they were opened and proved that he was who he claimed to be.

Another person wanted to pay a renewal on a Halifax insurance policy, but again was told that rather than doing this at the regular counter, he need to make an appointment and come back the following day. Or of course, ring a call centre. All that was required was the presentation of his check to someone at his bank prepared to accept it!

The saga went on and of course there were 4 counter staff present the whole time, but as ever, three had “till not in use” plaques in front of them.

When our advisor finally appeared we simply told her what to do and how long she had to do it in. This after expressing our disgust that she had failed to apologise, or offer any explanation for wasting our time. With threats of serious complaints against her and the bank she then complied quickly with our requests, but was unable to confirm any arrangement in writing. This, we were told, would come through the post directly from the Call Centre.

All told this was an unpleasant and pointless experience for all concerned and all due to a bank’s inability to fulfil pretty much any banking activity through a branch. In total we saw 8 separate members of staff in the bank, but only 3 actually did anything other than chat to one another.

The moral however, is that even British people will only stand so much before they unite in what they consider to be a worthy cause – in this case the incompetence of Halifax bank!!!! Who knows the next revolt might be about why we have the highest tax and duty applied to fuel on the planet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

 

British banks!

I think that I have been more active on this blog over the last 3 weeks than the previous 3 months, but regrettably the reasons are nearly always negative – as this entry will demonstrate.

Our current mortgage terms are coming to an end and therefore we have been asked to make/re-negotiate new ones with our bank.

Yesterday I rang up to find out more, but after almost 15 minutes the advisor had still been unable to locate my account on their system. When he did, he informed me that he now need to ask me some security questions – this after I had given him every bit of pertinent info about the account in an attempt to allow him to find it.

Question one (which was as far as we got) was – who is you home insurance provider?

Given that these details had recently changed and were not in any info ever given to the mortgage provider I followed up his question with one of my own.

Namely, you cannot possibly know the answer to this question, so how can you treat the answer as proof or otherwise of my identity (this bank has fixed security questions for this purpose and this was not one of them). The response was not one of yes I do, but, no you are right, can I try another question?

This from the company responsible for our property mortgage and several savings accounts.

Things have since got even more bizarre.

Following from this call I decided to do things on a face to face basis, so I made an appointment with a branch of the bank for Wednesday. Half an hour ago I got a phone call confirming the appointment, but informing me that I will be ushered into an office where I will speak to a mortgage advisor – over the phone!

Yes my appointment is to visit the bank and speak to a mortgage advisor over the phone.

Monday, February 25, 2008

 

Spanish Consulate, Manchester


This entry actually has little to do with the Spanish consulate in Manchester, except for the fact that that it was the objective of our morning’s activities today.

Our reason for going to the consulate was to renew a passport, but it was my first visit to Manchester city centre (in a walking capacity) for well over 10 years. That said, in the late eighties and early nineties I spent one and often two days a week there on business and, at that time, new the city well.

Today was however very odd as we both walked around trying to figure out what seemed wrong – or to be precise, what seemed right about the city.

Then it hit me. In Leeds, a modern day satellite of Pakistan, at least every third “person” that you see is asian and at least 25% of those are sharia law ******s. In Manchester however – no Asians.

Once alerted to this near incomprehensible observation, we actively tried to spot asians. There were plenty of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Europeans, but in total 4 asians in 2 hours. Were we really in England?

This now forces me to rethink, and indeed re-evaluate, many of my thoughts and comments on the UK – all of which are based on projecting my knowledge of the disgusting city of Leeds on to the rest of the country. Perhaps the ethnic English are still the majority grouping in England!!!

A further point we observed was the lack of speed cameras every 250 metres – something that I assumed applied “cross-city” in the UK. In Leeds at least, this is certainly the case.

A final and closing comment on today’s excursion is directly related to the Consulate who were fast, courteous and efficient (although they were not so the last time that we were there).

As we got to the main reception area we realized that there was a long queue made up of asians, naturally all after visas and few able to speak English, let alone Spanish. As ever the pair at the back decided to cut through to the front to try and jump the queue. But they made one mistake, they forgot that the Spanish Consulate is Spanish territory and that “extra asian rights” do not apply. They were promptly sent straight back to the end of the queue. We of course were quickly ushered into the actual consulate.

I should also add that the cost of Spanish passport renewal (our objective) was a massive £11.35!

2012 footnote - This consulate has now closed dowing meaning that it is now necessary to travel to London for passport/citizenship issues for Spaniards in northern England.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

 

Galicia flights from Liverpool


This is nothing more than a reminder to those living in central and northern England that Ryanair recommence their Liverpool to Santiago de Compostela schedule in early April. The Stansted flights also return (I believe) to “daily” rather than thrice weekly.

Flights are of course book-able now and prices start from next to nothing.

As ever “rip off” Briton’s taxes and duties turn 99 pence flights into around £25 to £30 each way, but this remains good value even so.

Who knows, if you are very lucky, you may be flying out one way without the dismal prospect of having to return to this despicable country of yobs, drunks, violence and worse of all, politicians. Every friend, neighbour and colleague that I have is currently looking at permanent escape routes out of Briton – I guess that says it all.

On the AGA – I have heard nothing more officially, but believe that “membership” will probably not be confined to “first language” English speakers, but rather anyone (whatever their nationality) who wishes to be involved and converse in English. A meeting will be taking place shortly at which, no doubt, these options will be discussed and agreed or disagreed upon!

If you want to be in the AGA loop, send an email to angalass@gmail.com (and not me

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

 

Galicia visitor trends!


For anyone interested I have just been reviewing the stats for my Galicia related websites for the first few weeks of this year.

Visitor numbers are considerably up on a similar period last year, but that needs to be placed in the context of the various websites enhanced positions on searches, now as opposed to 2007.

Galicia Villas
A fact that is interesting, at least to me, is the number of visitors who check out the “Villa” page on galiciaguide.com. This page gets a least twice as many visitors as the equivalent “Hotels” page on the same site.

I draw from that the conclusion that most visitors to Galicia from the UK, Eire and North America, like the idea of independent accommodation over a hotel – but maybe I just misinterpret the numbers.

In any event, if you have a villa for rent in Galicia and you are not getting bookings, then something is clearly going awry with your marketing/promotion/advertising efforts. I recon that you should have the main 3 month summer period sorted by the end of this month - at the latest. If not have a re-think, but do not contact me, I no longer run individual villa ads on any of my sites.

A further stat that has always intrigued me is that of the busiest page on the site (after, of course, the main index page). That honour goes to the “la Coruna” index page and not, as I would have guessed, the “Santiago de Compostela” index page. There are some site specific reasons that may partially explain away this particular figure, but only to a limited degree.

Is la Coruna better known than Santiago de Compostela? Pehaps it is!

As for actual unique visitors and page view numbers, I have no accurate idea. I use (on all my sites) free stats counters and only place them on specific pages – about 5% of pages generally.

My reason for this is simple. If you have a small number of visitors, no amount of counters and stats can make the numbers larger. Equally, if you have large numbers of visitors you don’t care.

AGA

I made an item about the Anglo Galician Association (AGA) in one of the previous posts. But I have not done so since as no further details have emerged. For anyone interested, see the email address within that entry (about 2 blogs ago).

2012 - Please be aware that this association is no longer running.

Friday, February 15, 2008

 

Reply to my previous post

Because I have disabled anonymous replies, the follow response (sent to my email) did not appear on the site in the comments section. So to provide the balanced and fair view, here it is – with thanks to Brendan for taking the time to write.

I'm one of your very few readers and no it never crossed my mind that you
were an aggressive Englishman...

I live in Vigo with my wife (a native of the town) and two sons. We moved
here back in January 2007 from London.

Regarding your views on the AGA. It's not possible to just forget who you
were once you move to a new country, there's always a part of you who
needs that contact. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you whole heartdly
regarding integration, I've been here for a year and two months ago I
spoke for the first time in person, to a native English speaker.

The AGA could well be a useful tool for cultural exchange, which can only
benefit those involved.

Your entilted to your opinion and now you have mine.

Naturally I understand the sentiments expressed above and will wait to what the AGA comes up with – and I already see another email from them arriving now – and with an attachment!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

 

AGA

This blog gets very few readers as a rule and consequently I give scant regard to what I write. That said, I rarely if ever use profanities. However on the single occasion on which I did (i.e. my last blog), I find that my friend Colin Davies wishes to include the blog in a list of “web activities” associated with people connected with Galicia.

I will no doubt be seen as a loutish and aggressive Englishman by anyone reading it - which I hope is not actually the case.

Again, risking giving the wrong impression, or at least a negative interpretation, I will explain the context of the circulation mentioned above.

An informal grouping called the AGA (Anglo Galician Society) is being set up in Galicia for British (or English speaking) ex pats by the aforementioned CD – mainly around Pontevedra.

I have to say that I have had a long standing dislike (to put it mildly) of ex pats from any nation who move to another country and then seek to continue the lifestyle, associations and activities of their nation of origin.

It seems to me that living in another country should be perceived as a privilege and that the integration and adoption of that country’s culture, lifestyle and language should be a pre-requisite of making such a decision. I am all too aware of the long term consequences of this happening simply by looking at the state of a country that was once called England, but which bears little resemblance to the England that I was brought up in.

The same can of course be said of many southern Spanish Costas where it is the Brits themselves who have taken over, or a least reshaped the social and cultural landscape.

As far as the AGA is concerned I have extremely mixed feelings. I have always chosen to believe that those moving to Galicia have done so for the Galician lifestyle – a lifestyle which you only experience through integration!

Perhaps the “apparent” enthusiasm with which this venture has been initially greeted with contradicts this, or perhaps I am confusing integration with “isolation” from one’s fellow Anglophiles. Either way, it will be interesting to see how things do or do not develop with this association.

Friday, February 08, 2008

 

Copyright thieves

I am finally starting to tire of lazy lying bastards copying content in the form of photos from my sites.

Copying content (textual) is a very risky business since all 3 major search engines penalise duplicate content by removing the “copying” page from search results. All tricks to prevent this from being noticed are now spotted, almost immediately by google, and the result is that the thief is penalised.

Often they are too stupid to realise that their thieving efforts have been wasted and as a result few webmasters takes these thieves to civil court.

With photos however it is slightly different. A legal case is almost certain to prove successful, but again few make the effort to pursue the culprits as the first option is to report the “copy” (with proof) to google, yahoo etc. The search engines are again quick to penalise the thieves by removal from images searches of all files on the offending pages and often the entire site.

The problem of course is that to do the above takes time - time more effectively spent elsewhere. But I am now starting to consider both SE and legal options.

Two sites in particular have taken a couple of my photos, which in essence would not bother me too much. However, both have added their own logos and copyright signatures to them.

Having consulted a legal friend, I now find that I can sue both and in the case of one I am seriously considering it. They have taken sentences of text (the page is now removed from the SE’s) and 2 photo and also have a full page of threats, relating what “they” will do to copyright thieves. Quite amazing and remember, if they have stolen form me, they will have done the same to lots of other sites too.

To make matters even more challenging to my restraint and 6ft 2inch frame, these shits are based less than 1 hour away from where I live. I am sorely tempted to get in the car and deal out some natural justice of my own.

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