Column: Roger's Soapbox

Basic Business

By: | May 24, 2016

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

Have you ever opened a bank account? Of course you have. You signed a form, handed over some money, and toddled off.

Have you ever rented a car? Of course you have.

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Was it a while back, when you could drive with one foot on the dashboard, a drink in one hand, and hurtle forward as fast as the vehicle would go until you hit something? And did you then hand the car back, fork over 12 bucks, and wander off?

It’s different now.

On what happened to be the last day of the British tax year, I tried to open a new checking account.

I already had one, of course. But my bank of 47 years’ standing had failed to treat me with suitable respect, i.e., any respect. I decided it was finally time to make a switch.

Everyday people trying to do everyday things are now seen solely as security threats.

The new bank needed to investigate my suitability, a mysterious process requiring a delay of three weeks.

This was Barclays — the same bank that once refused to allow me to open a checking account in the Caymans. I had work coming from there and wanted to facilitate my clients’ payment procedures.

After abandoning Barclays, I went to rent a car. A process that, compared to opening up a checking account, promised to be a piece of cake. And it would have been … providing that I could produce a government tax bill, a telephone bill from a supplier I don’t use, my Social Security number, a driver’s license, a now-cancelled form that once accompanied the driver’s license, and a passport.

The car rental fee for the two days would be £36 ($50). Yet the sum of £700 ($1,100) would be taken from my checking account in advance of the rental. I asked why, and was told that the insurance company demanded it, £700 being the deductible.

I could buy a perfectly good used car for that much, drive it off a cliff when I was done and come out $50 ahead.

I asked for the name of the insurance company, but nobody in the office seemed to know which one it was.

That’s because they were lying, of course. The insurer was being framed. Had I known its name, I might have been able to make contact, and expose the rental merchants for the swine that they are.

Thus, two banks and a car rental company had — within hours — treated me as if I were the worst kind of villain imaginable, for trying to engage in basic business transactions with them.

Ah, you say, but what if I were a terrorist or a communist? Terrorists, however, don’t rent cars. They steal them.

Everyday people trying to do everyday things are now seen solely as security threats.

I am not now and nor have I ever been a terrorist. Although after the car rental agency visit, I did briefly consider becoming one. It would be the perfect crime.

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Why would a terrorist blow up a car rental agency?

I turned my attention to the internet, to read that 11.5 million documents, known as the Panama Papers, had revealed trillions of dollars’ worth of hot money buried offshore. This was the tip of an iceberg of illegal cash washing through the world’s banks.

Few if any of those cheating would be punished, apparently.

The innocent, customers and insurers alike, are treated to merciless abuse, while cheats are welcomed with open arms. Spot the chumps.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]