It’s 8.30 in the evening, I’ve been home 15 minutes and I’m about to put dinner on the table. Then the phone rings. Of course, it does. To answer or not to answer? Only two groups of people routinely ring my home phone: family, who would only ring at 8.30 in an emergency, and cold callers (who are not supposed to, because I got the number put on some sort of banned list; but that was then, and this is now).
The other day, the caller was someone who styled himself, improbably, Patrick –improbably, because he spoke with a heavy Indian accent and a pause on the line suggested he wasn’t exactly calling from next door. But at least Patrick was a bit of a novelty. He wanted to sell advice on cutting heating bills, while denying he was selling anything. I was almost nice to him; after all, he wasn’t trying to hunt down another aggrieved purchaser of PPI.
Which is, of course, what the 8.30 call – which I foolishly picked up on the last ring – was about. Half a sentence in, I slammed down the phone – something highly satisfactory that you can’t do with a mobile. For these PPI callers and texters seem to have intensified their activities recently, sensing perhaps that their days of soliciting claims are numbered. And I really hope they are, because I’m one of those foolish people – there were some – who didn’t actually take out Payment Protection Insurance. I didn’t fall for the patter, or bow to the pressure. As with those equally dubious extended warranties, I asked what it was for, what it would cost, why I should have it, and Just Said No.
Now look where that caveat emptor spirit has got me. All around are people who were bamboozled into paying for something they didn’t need, only to discover, after a bit of prodding, that they’d actually taken part in a sort of involuntary savings scheme which is now netting them a handy little bonus. You could say there’s an element of poetic justice here, in that badly behaved banks are at least having to reimburse someone. But why, once again, is it the profligate being rewarded, and the prudent picking up the tab? After all, the burden of compensation is depressing the banks’ bottom line and helping keep savers’ interest at a punitive low.
The most convincing argument I’ve heard is that the payouts actually function as an individualised form of Quantitative Easing, because the recipients treat them as windfalls to be spent. If that’s how you look at it, though, don’t all bank customers deserve a cut?
Let Becks take his beauty sleep
Some have cast doubt on the authenticity of this story, scenting a public relations rat. But if the national flag carrier really has warned its cabin staff after David Beckham complained about them queuing in the aisles for his autograph and even snapping him on their mobiles while he was asleep, then I tend to think British Airways has only itself to blame.
It was among the first airlines to decide that greeting their passengers by name and professing to know something about them, treating them all as minor celebrities if you like, was a good idea. I thought it an appalling innovation. One of the joys of travel, especially air travel, is anonymity – at least for the time you are in transit. I imagine that if you are liable to be mobbed by the world and its wife before and after the flight, that time in transit is a million times more precious.