Feb Knott's Landing

Going to the bank used to be a relatively pleasant thing to do. You would walk into a warm room, stand in a queue to talk to a person behind a glass screen and then if there was a problem or you needed to discuss something you would be ushered into a little room.

It's not pleasant any more. Something changed. Internet banking? The High Street? The desire for profits over the customer experience? Probably all three actually.

I had cause to visit a city centre bank recently and discovered a fresh hell that adds a whole new level to Dante's Inferno. I walked through the main doors into a largely empty room. In the centre of the room stood a woman with a clipboard and the dead eyes of someone who really needs a sit down with a cup of tea. Disinterested and brusque she greeted everyone, asked what they needed, wrote their name down with a time and directed them to either sit on a banquette or go upstairs in a mysterious lift that only business people and the rich are allowed to use.

iPadsI sat and waited dutifully as bright young things in grey uniforms, barely distinguishable from normal people, whizzed about with ipads slung across their fronts 'helping people'. This works if you are a man or if you are a woman with no boobs. If you have boobs, this is a degrading, hideous experience which provides comedy for all around as you struggle to rest the ipad on the boobs and search for whatever mysterious bit of info you need from the internet. It's an idea that some beardy consultant type came up with because it frees us from the chains of the desk environment and allows free movement of ideas and thought which helps us come up with better solutions - or something. Whatever, he didn't have big boobs.

The casual approach also seemed to encourage lounging around on sofas and if someone had walked in wearing pyjamas I wouldn't have been surprised.

The bank has its own radio show which was clearly being done by Phil from Investments who has never read a news bulletin in his life. I heard two while I waited so I can attest to the amateur performance and the music choice was odd. A sort of dad rock mix that added to the sense of chaos. People in Brownian motion in a large space.

Into this maelstrom walked an older couple. Hand in hand, she had a stick to help her walk, he wore a cap and his good coat. They made their way to the dead eyed woman, she sent them to the chairs, which were not a good height for older people, and they sat, clearly a bit bewildered by the set up. It was all a bit too public, no whispers, no privacy, no comfort zone. I'm not sure if they got what they needed, I hope they did. I hope they were treated kindly and gently by the staff, but I doubt it. The environment was against them. I was quickly 'dealt with' by a hot-desking wunderkind and sent on my way. I am sure though, that the old couple, and every single customer in that bank would have much preferred a person behind a glass window and a few roaming managers to help out.

I'm all for progress, but that felt so far from banking it was unrecognisable. I won't be going back any time soon.

Helen Knott