Banks are under a great deal of pressure to keep their systems watertight but sometimes they implement security policies that make no sense and create unnecessary inconveniences for their customers.
Last weekend, at the Good Vibrations festival, I found a wallet. It contained a small amount of cash, a few credit cards and a UK driver's licence.
One of the credit cards was from St George, so I called the bank see if they could help me return the wallet to its owner.
When I got through on the emergency credit card hotline the operator told me the card had already been cancelled and so the customer's details had been hidden.
So what was I to do with the card, I asked?
The operator told me that because the card had been cancelled, she could not access any of the cardholder's information.
So what was I supposed to do with the card, I asked again?
The response was to try calling one of the other banks or give it in to the police. The only other cards in the wallet were from a UK bank and I thought it very unlikely the owner would ever be reunited with his wallet if I handed it in to the police, so instead, I turned to Google.
The cardholder had a very common Anglo-Saxon name but luckily for him, his hometown was a small village in Scotland with a far more unusual moniker. So, after a little searching, I found him on the social networking site Bebo.
This is definitely one example of where the lack of privacy created by social networking sites had a positive effect.
Oddly, when I met with the wallet's owner, he admitted he had not cancelled the card, so I assume St George' response was an attempt to stop a random from attempting to clean out the account. Whatever the truth, the wallet is now safely reunited with its relieved owner -- no thanks to St George bank.
It seems nuts that the bank had all his details yet was not in the least bit interested in seeing its customer reunited with their wallet.
I wasn't asking the bank to reveal the cardholders details -- I'm well aware of the security implications of that -- but I was hoping St George would ask me to drop the wallet off or post it to one of its branches so it could safely reunite the wallet with its owner.
Unfortunately, in this case, it seems the bank was using security as a reason for not taking any responsibility in helping one of its customers. I guess there are no profits in returning wallets to their owners.
On its Web site, St George claims the "quality of service we deliver and the positive attitude of our staff, combined with the goodwill and loyalty we receive from customers really does set St George apart ... Excellent customer service is not only about meeting needs, but also consistently exceeding service expectations."
I think in this case, St George failed miserably.