Friday, 6 July 2012

Aaarrgghghgh! Banks!

I’ve long ago given up complaining about my bank – or any bank. They’re all as bad as each other. Regardless of their adspeak, they’re in it to make money, and that’s the bottom line.

I’ve just bought a new car, which is financed. Getting your car financed is actually quite easy if you qualify – you need to provide a slew of documentation, but if it’s all in order, you get your bucks lickety-split. And there’s a good reason for this: banks make money out of people who borrow money from them.

This is why (and read this slowly) if you put down a BIGGER DEPOSIT and choose to pay your loan off over a SHORTER PERIOD, you get nailed with a HIGHER INTEREST RATE.

Yes, that’s right: if you do what our government and everyone else who’s anyone in finance is telling you to do right now, and try to pay off your debt more quickly, the banks ‘fine’ you by charging you a higher interest rate. Why? Because that’s how they make their money. (No, they don’t care about you. Really. They don’t.)

So that’s very irritating. But much more irritating was the astonishing hoops I’ve just had to jump through to get my previous car ownership papers out of Absa. Because that car was also financed. I paid it off about 2 years ago. And now I want to sell it. I was offered a laughable trade-in price; I just didn’t feel like being screwed by the bank and a secondhand car salesman on the same day, so I declined it and I’m going to sell it privately. For which I need ownership papers. Which, to my surprise, I discovered I don’t have.

Because when you get finance to buy a car, the bank keeps the ownership papers until you pay it off. Nobody told me this; I just assumed that the hefty file I was given containing all the documentation relating to the car when I took delivery of it also contained the ownership papers.

Several phonecalls later, I discovered that once you’ve paid off your car, you have to REQUEST THE OWNERSHIP PAPERS from the finance institution (and then go to all the trouble of actually changing the ownership into your name, which is a hoop I’m going to think about jumping through – probably with the aid of several Jack Daniels – another day).

I find this amazing, that you have to actually ASK FOR your ownership papers. After all, if the bank can lighten your wallet by several thousand rands each month, and post you monthly statements confirming that they’ve done so, surely it’s not too much to ask that once they’ve reclaimed all the money you borrowed plus a kajillion bucks extra for the privilege, they can just post you the ownership documents?

But noooo. That would be too easy for us. Why should they do this when it’s just so much more inconvenient for us to have to officially request the documents?

And that’s not all. Because I wasn’t aware that I wasn’t in possession of my car’s ownership documents (which, incidentally, are still in the bank’s name – I’ve been driving a car that doesn’t technically belong to me, although I paid for it, for several years), the documents have now gone to ‘Archiving’.

The word alone sends shivers down my spine. Archiving. It conjures up images of irritable old men in dusty basement rooms, moving very slowly, ignoring ringing phones and misfiling correspondence, breaking for tea and ginger-biscuits at precisely 10.15am and 3pm, eating pickle sandwiches out of brown paper bags between 1 and 2pm, and clocking off at 4pm as the second-hand hits the 12.

To get my documents out of Archiving, I’m now required to fax (yes, FAX! when last did you send a fax??) a letter of request, a copy of my ID and a copy of the licence disk. I asked the woman who ‘helped’ me on the phone if I actually am required to scrape the disk off the car windshield to make a copy of it, and she said ‘yes’. I also asked her if I’d have to take my car through roadworthy in order to change ownership and she said, ‘As far as I’m concerned, no.’ Obviously, I’m a little concerned about that ‘as far as I’m concerned’.

Once they’ve received the fax, it will take Archiving ‘seven to ten working days’ to locate my documents. SEVEN TO TEN WORKING DAYS!? Where the hell have they archived them? In Afghanistan? Even slow-moving clock-watching grumpy old men should be able to find a document quicker than that, surely?!

I know I said I’d long ago given up complaining about banks. But I haven’t.

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