Two glasses of local red

Monday June 23, 2008

One of those days when everything happens at once.

I had the day booked for going to the hospital at 15:00 for the results of my biopsy, and really didn’t want or expect anything much to happen otherwise.

Except.  10:15 the agent rang and after a long rigmarole of explanation and softening up told me that the military couple had finally secured an offer on their house and, in consequence, were now able to make us an offer.  Fully £35k less than our asking price.  I started breathing slow and easy, waiting for him to say something else.

“They may have some room for manoeuvre,” he said, eventually.

“Just as well,” I said, having asked him to repeat the amount.  “Please tell them that their offer is unacceptable.  Big time.”

“Are you sure about that?  I’ve been checking properties in Wales and they’ve dropped at last as much, from a lower start.”

“You do realize that if I accept this offer I am making a full £24k drop against the amount I paid for this house two years ago?  In cash?”

At this point Graham blew his top.

“We are NOT accepting that or anything LIKE that,” he bellowed.  “Tell ’em to get lost.”

“Did you hear that?” I asked the agent.

“Yes.  Shame, that.”

“I wouldn’t let Graham hear you say that.”

“Well, I advise you to think about it, do some price research in Wales, and then perhaps you’ll let me know what we should do.”

I was very pleased to put the phone down so I could cool Graham off, who’d heated himself to full-blown Welsh boiling point.  That “do not go gentle” has more than one shade of meaning to anyone who knows Swansea people.

“Let’s forget it for a while and go get lunch,” I said.  It’s a helluva crisis that’s not cooled down with a nice English sandwich lunch.

Just then, the postman came, bearing several business-type envelopes, one in particular enclosing my new MasterCard from the bank.  I hadn’t noticed that the old one was close to expiry but it doesn’t get much use so there’s nothing strange there.  I checked the details carefully and all was well.  Applied to the front of the new card there was a sticky label instructing me to phone a special number to tell them I’d received it.  Turning my caution circuits to the max I dialled it.

All seemed well.  They wanted to know the serial number of the card.  That was ok.  They wanted to know my full name.  That was ok.  They wanted to know my daytime phone number in case of queries.  That was ok.  Then:  “Just a couple of security questions, Mr Bailey, and we’ll be done.”

“Ok, fine,” I said.  “What was my mother’s maiden name?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said:  What was my mother’s maiden name?”

“I don’t think you understand, Mr Bailey.  It’s you who needs to answer the security questions.”

“Oh, really?  But how do I know that you are not a phishing enterprise posing as the Bank?”

“Because we are the Bank,” he said.

“I don’t know that,” I said.  “You’re some enterprise claiming to be associated with the Bank.  Strikes me as perfectly reasonable that I should seek to validate the accuracy of that claim.”

“That’s not the way it works.”

“Well.  Ok.  Try me with one of your security questions.”

He was sounding a little rattled by now, and not a little weary.  “First, could you tell me your date of birth?”

“Why.  Don’t you know it already?  I’ve been a customer of the bank for almost fifty years.  You must have it on file, and on your database, surely?”

There was a long silence.  “I’m afraid I shall have to report your refusal to cooperate to our security section.”

“Fine.  Do that.  Phone me back when you’ve reached an acceptable way forward.”

Then I phoned my old friend, still working for the Bank, who once, long ago, looked after my personal banking and is now a very Big Wig Indeed at Head Office.

“The cheeky little shit,” she said.  “Did you get his name?”

I had made a note of it and gave her the details of the call number, time, etc.

“Right.  First off.  Fear not.  You are a customer in good standing with the Bank and shall remain so. Now.  I’m holding the little squirt’s manager on another line,  can you hang on while I deal with him?”


It didn’t take long.  The manager was dealt with, along with the little squirt, no doubt, and I was thanked for my vigilance. “It it were not for people like you, John, these petty dictators would give as a bad name.  When are you coming up to London so I can buy you lunch?”

“Oh, I’m too old and creaky for London lunches,” I said.  “How’s about us meeting up in a few months when we’ve moved back to Swansea and I’ll treat you to a Baguette du jour.

I do love to hear a lady Big Wig splutter.

So, then, off to the hospital where I got prodded and poked by a new consultant and assured that the biopsy on my enlarged boob revealed nothing but ‘perfectly normal’ results.  He agreed with me that one or other of my main cardiac medicines is almost 99% certain to be the cause and is to write to my G.P. to get a programme of controlled change and adjustment off the ground.  At last!  A result!

“What about the other 1%?” I asked.  “Is that something you might want to take the knife to?”

“No,” he said.  “No need for that. But I think I’ll book you in for a new technology ultra-sound scan as soon as we can claim a slot.”

“Great”  I said.  “I’ll go see my G.P. in about a fortnight to give you a chance to write to him, and I’ll wait to hear from the ultra-sound people.”

“You’ve done this before?” he asked.

“Oh, once or twice.  All I really know is that it’s nothing at all like Casualty.”

At the other end of the hospital, the quiet end, Graham was waiting for me and, having fetched me a coffee to wet my whistle, demanded the full story.  Which I related.  In detail.

Sometimes, if you don’t record the detail, you forget the way the story sounded.

Now, in the cool of the evening, I’m just about to pack up here and go demand the first glass of my evening wine.  We’ve already agreed that if Swansea doesn’t work out for us we’ll settle down once and for all in the Luberon, buy multi-geared bicycles, and finish our days sitting outside little Provencal cafes watching the world go by.  I have secured an agreement in advance that, in such an eventuality, I shall be permitted two glasses of local red with my lunch.

Tomorrow we sack the agent at start off fresh with a new one.  I reckon that, once we’ve done that, I shall have earned my two glasses of red, even if I do have to note them down against some future redemption date.


21 responses to “Two glasses of local red

  1. Such a shame when the agent was once working for YOU. Hope he appreciates his loss of commission.

    So glad the biopsy was nl.

  2. John, I love you. I’ll raise a glass of anything you’d like in recognition of that very successful push back of the squirt and all his ilk. Well done, sir, well done.

  3. Idjit! That’s what that pitiful bank person is. Not enough sense to be allowed to cross the road unattended. You did the correct thing, John, as if you didn’t already know that! Felt good, too, I’ll wager. Probably he’ll spend the rest of his life wondering where he went wrong, too. Sigh.

  4. It’s getting late now. I just emptied the bin on my document shredder ready for collection by the recycler-men tomorrow, and shall stack all the empty [mostly wine] bottles of the past fortnight with them ready for collection. Then, another glass of wine, and settle down to pre-dinner TV. Dr Who, I think, so’s we can synch Graham back in.

    The wine? A rather nice sauvignon blanc from the mountainous banks of the Blue Danube, put together by Hungarian vintners. Not so subtle as the real French article, but with enough panache to fill a pretty good ghoulash.

  5. Hi John, good to see the clean bill of health on your biopsy.

    I was wondering if you’ve ever seen this painting called Morning in Luberon

    Oh, yes! That has every element of the place about it. Thanks, Janet!

  6. Oh dear lord! What a day! Can’t say as I don’t know what you’re talking about, John. Real Estate agents here are horrid. By the time they’ve got a buyer for you, they’ve turned coat and seems they now work for them!!!

    Job well done on the ‘little squirt’! ha!

    Raising my glass to ya! *clink*

  7. It’s commendable to be cautious giving security details over the phone, especially when the “bank” rings you unannounced and the first thing they ask is for your details. Could well be phishing. But when they ask security questions when you ring them, when it’s easy to check the number before you dial, then dare I say it, it’s a little churlish to refuse to answer the questions. You could have been anyone who’d filched the letter. it’s a bit rough to report him for doing his job, and even if his tone was a bit off it sounds like you weren’t as helpful as you could have been. After all, you did phone them. Please don’t get angry at this, I’m just trying to say that you’d have a lot more to say if they just activated the card for anyone who dialled in.

    The agent, on the other hand, is taking complete liberties 🙂

  8. I’m with Nicky. The bank guy was doing his job. You may have sidetracked his career. Get angry if you wish.

  9. You may be right, Nicky and Joanie.

    I am making a one-man stand against the attack on our civil liberties by government, government bodies, and those who use ‘security’ as a blanket justification for intrusion and heavy-handed behaviour in customer relations. The man was trying to frighten me into buying ‘identity fraud’ protection, and would not take no for an answer. In my view that alone warranted my action.

    But then, I may be wrong, too. 😀

  10. Buyers are getting cheekier.When my house had been up for sale at £ 300 k I got an offer of £ 55k less .I also told them to get lost!In this climate they are as rare as hen’s teeth and think that you’ll be so desperate that you’ll accept any offer.Glad the news from the biopsy test was negative.When I phoned up I refused to tell them too!I went to the bank and spoke to them to get my card activated.I said the same thing that I wasn’t sure about giving so much info over the phone.They were very understanding.

  11. Yes, John, I’m with you… I mean, first off we are the customers and not the other way round. And secondly anyone who doesn’t take no for an answer deserves you John.., if I may say so. 🙂

  12. PS: Happy for your biopsy results, John! 🙂

  13. In my opinion, you were right about the ‘squirt.’ Clever phishers would mail you a fake card and a faux phone number, then pump you for information. It made me chuckle to hear how you called the VIP. That’s one thing the ‘squirts’ of this world don’t take into account; old fogies like us may have social connections far more extensive than the ‘squirts’ can imagine. We’ve had many years to make them, heheheh.

    The real estate agent is crazy to try and drive your price down like that! He does seem to be working for the military couple, indeed.

    Very glad to hear about the biopsy, though I thought that the long time between test and report-appointment boded well.

    Do enjoy your time with Graham, and with Dolly, too, of course.

    Hugs all ’round,
    ~ Sil

  14. the real estate market worldwide sure is crummy….

  15. Yes, isn’t he supposed to be working for you? This guy didn’t catch on. Hurrah tho for your bank moves, and an even bigger hurrah about the doctor’s and their actions.

  16. Kayper in Dallas

    I’m baffled that the potential buyers would have even considered making an offer on a house so clearly out of their price range. Of course they liked the house; you and Graham have put a lot of your time, effort and money into it! But to offer so much less than the asking price is ridiculous. The agent obviously gave them false information about what you would consider settling for. He did as much a disservice to them as he did to you.

  17. Now I want to go and live in Luberon!

  18. In real estate transactions, any buyer is entitled to make ANY offer just as any seller is entitled to refuse them. Your agent would have been derelict not to inform you of the offer and not to give you his best assessment of the current market.
    I don’t speak for the UK, of course, but here in California it seems that every sale I hear about is a forclosure, a “short sale” or a “walk away”
    Things are bad all over.

    Sorry to be such a doom and gloom merchant. Hope you get a more acceptable offer soon.

  19. John, I think you were absolutely right about the bank and Nicky and Joanie are wrong.

    If all the bank needed was verification that the new card had been received (which many banks and credit card companies do over here, not setting their computer systems to make a card active until they receive a verification phone call — very often specified as having to come from your home number), then the mere fact of you calling them (from home even!) was all that was needed. What they were really doing was hunting for an up-sell or cross-sell opportunity, the chance to do a sales pitch for extras (at extra cost to you).

    I say good for you and good for your banking VIP friend.

  20. Good for you, John … you were right on all counts. Too many people out there trying to treat us like sheep.

    When I activate my new card, each time, I make a call, and never have to talk to a soul… quick, and neat.

  21. John, I am impressed.

    I used to deal with real Bank Managers, back in the day: people you could have lunch with, and know the deal was sealed – but I really thought those days were over, and everything worked on a “computer says no” basis these days.

    You have restored my faith a little, but I don’t think I will try it with my bank any time soon; I may have paid off the mortgage but I still need them for some things!

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