Simon Read: Music is not the solution to banks' continuing errors and rate-rigging

 

Just when you thought banks couldn't get any worse, Barclays has admitted rigging interest rates. The bank has been fined £290m by UK and US regulators and bosses have been forced to hand back their million-pound bonuses.

Meanwhile, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland have struggled to right the computer wrongs that have left millions missing payments and facing overdraft charges or even black marks on their credit score.

At least RBS has apologised and promised that no customers will be left out of pocket, but who can trust it now? Especially customers of Ulster Bank, who are still waiting to have services resumed some 10 days after they collapsed.

But enough of that. Let's turn to a more prosaic banking matter; music played in branches. The issue has struck a chord with many of you.

The subject was raised last week by reader Fabian Acker who compared the music played in his local HSBC branch to "the same background noise that you get in a third-rate supermarket".

This week I was sent several emails supporting Fabian's view.

David Holmes of Leamington Spa weighed in with: "The gratuitous introduction of background music by HSBC is an insult to its customers. Banks are places to be business-like in and concentrating on financial matters with that distraction is difficult."

He has complained, as has another reader, Nicola McAuley.

"I know some of the staff don't like it either," she wrote. "I would be off in a flash if there were another bank with a branch local to me."

David Jones of Oldham says he deplores music in banks and shops. "We have complained on the basis of maintaining standards in banks where the primary aim is to deal carefully with one's affairs," he reported. "But it makes no difference."

Katharine Barker of Harbury said she was glad to find out she is not alone in hating the music.

"When I visit my bank I want to be in a quiet environment where I can exchange information with the bank clerk, without constantly having to ask them to speak up."

Having never having heard the music, it was time to find out for myself. First I contacted HSBC. The bank told me its music was provided by HSBC Live Radio which has been played in all its branches for several years "and is generally well received by customers".

The station, apparently, broadcasts "a mix of popular music, news and adverts highlighting bank products".

This week I visited the HSBC branch in Paddington to see if the music is, indeed, popular.

When I walked in, my ears were accosted by a dreadful, wordless version of the old Guns N' Roses rock classic "Sweet Child Of Mine". It was certainly not sweet, more painful.

But it was a joy to hear compared to the ultra-bland DJ who then piped up flogging overseas bank accounts. You could almost hear the despair in his voice as he read the deathless, promotional prose.

That was enough, I had to leave. Then an old Alanis Morissette hit came on. The opening lyrics seemed particularly ironic for a bank to play to hard-up customers: "I'm broke but I'm happy, I'm poor but I'm kind..."

When I thought about the experience afterwards, I realised that the annoying music and DJ made me feel uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I wanted to get out of the branch as soon as possible.

But, the thing is, I visited two nearby branches of rival banks. And my experience there were even more uncomfortable.

First was Barclays, a smaller branch which reeked of austerity and despair. It almost felt like I'd walked onto the set of a depressing, Ingmar Bergman movie. Sure, there was no annoying music, but there was also a noticeable lack of warmth.

The same was true of a NatWest branch opposite which, dealing with the fall-out of its computer cock-ups, was pretty full. But it still felt like a dentist's waiting room with an air of general unease and unhappiness.

Banks have long gabbled about creating a positive retail experience and other nonsense, but it seems that, apart from a few, showpiece branches, they remain as depressing a place as you can find.

So despite the annoying music and gibbering DJs, at least HSBC has made an effort to lighten the mood. It says if customers find the music too loud they should ask staff to turn it down.

If enough people complain, we could maybe persuade the bank to rethink and scrap the music altogether. But would that really improve the experience of visiting a branch?

s.read@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

    £350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

    Chief Financial Officer

    120-150k: Accountancy Action: We are looking for an experienced CFO from a min...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?