Nationwide tries hard sell on theft victim

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Nationwide Building Society was caught last week trying high-pressure selling on a customer phoning in the middle of the night to cancel his cash card after a robbery.

The Independent on Sunday reader's home had been burgled. He discovered the break-in at 3am and found that, among other things, the thieves had taken his wallet with his cards.

He called police, then started cancelling the cards. Alliance & Leicester, Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Barclaycard and American Express dealt with this and made no fuss.

But when he called Nationwide, the "customer service agent" astonished him by saying: "I know it's a strange time to ask, but would you be interested in a personal loan." When the reader said this might not be top of his priorities at that moment, the Nationwide salesman persisted with: "Well, we do have very low rates of interest."

Some banks use the calls made to cancel credit or debit cards after a robbery as an opportunity to sell card-protection or insurance services. But most appear to believe this is a time when it is best to keep their sales patter strictly to themselves.

When Nationwide was contacted about this enquiry, they first tried to justify the action. "No other product should be mentioned until the query is dealt with. But then the opportunity could be used to bring to the member's attention products of which they are not aware," The Independent on Sunday was told.

Nationwide also tried to defend selling products in the middle of the night. "We are a 24-hour bank. Lots of our customers are shift workers."

Ultimately, Nationwide did offer an apology. "This is not something our advisers are expected to do. They are expected to show discretion. This was an inappropriate time. The member phoned in need and, in the circumstances, it was not appropriate to do anything else."