Chocolate Pillow | Customer grades – discrimination, elitism or common sense?
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Customer grades – discrimination, elitism or common sense?

16 Oct Customer grades – discrimination, elitism or common sense?

Today, I walked in to the Halifax branch I normally used, went to the counter to deposit cash, and was informed that my account did not allow cash deposits at the counter – I had to use the self-service machine.  I further enquired about what services I can use at the counter, to be told that my account does not allow for counter service.  Apparently I was also not good enough a customer to be considered for actually being told about this by the Halifax either!

Now, the thing that annoys me most about this is that the history between me and the Halifax has always been a varied one – when trying to upgrade the account a while ago, they screwed up mine and my partners details, somehow making the credit reference agency believe that we were one and the same, the underwriters received the wrong information, then they lost the application altogether and no-one could find it, despite the underwriters having it.  The frustrating thing is that the Halifax is the only account me and my partner hold – all our income goes through those accounts – they had nearly £30,000 of our money go through their accounts (it really does not last as long as you may think!), but they deem us too lowly to warrant the service of a human being at a counter – all because of the type of account we hold; one that is as a matter of fact now held by choice.

Let me put it this way – if we upgrade the account, we may get loads of ‘perks’ such as an overdraft or a good interest rate, but:

A) I do not want to be in debt – having an overdraft only promotes the use of money that isn’t really there

B) The interest rate I get on the savings account with Halifax is better than their current account rate anyway!


This sort of attitude towards customers is becoming more commonplace – people are no longer rewarded for loyalty to specific businesses (except with paltry reward schemes that do little to benefit many except take up space in a wallet or purse) and are becoming classed according to wealth or account type held.  Take my account as an example – say someone wanted to deposit cash in to my account (freelance writing, christmas, birthday, emergency etc) this would not be allowed as the account is only allowable for deposits via machines.  This change was, like so many, buried in to the Halifax terms and conditions of banking and this brings me to another point:

When did terms, conditions, rules, policies, procedures, obligations, undertakings and general ‘let’s screw you over before you can screw us over’ clauses become so sneaky and covert? I have come across many companies that can readily twist and turn terms and policies to be read in whatever way benefits them!

Say you book a hotel – do you ever read all the terms and conditions?  Probably not!  Visit a website and read the privacy policy and website terms and general terms of use and cookies policies before you read anything else? Thought not! – but this is another post entirely!

Back on track – the classification of my account to not be allowed counter service is one that no doubt is to ‘save costs’ (for a multi-million pound profit machine), but at what expense.  Telling me that I have to use a faceless machine, that does not smile or give any real service, because of the type of account I hold is tantamount, to me, to someone telling me I cannot go into a shop because I am gay, or telling me that I cannot have petrol for my car because my car is 10 years old, or even telling me that because I am wearing a tracksuit I am not allowed in to that designer shop.

And this is where I move on to now – restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs etc have alarmingly created an array of dress codes.  Restaurants have ‘no tracksuits’ rules and clubs have ‘no trainers’ policies; certain fine dining establishments are ‘black tie only’ and some pubs or bars do not allow jeans – if I go abroad most restaurants have a ‘no shorts and no bare chests’ policy or a ‘no bare feet’ policy or both! But why? (I actually understand health and safety for no bare feet in places and also for no bare chests with hot food counters etc)

These clothing or ‘look’ based policies will no doubt be ‘to maintain an atmosphere for clientelle’ or to ‘retain the character of the establishment’ or some other non-sensical claptrap!  Be honest with everyone – you want to keep the riffraff out, well, what you class as riffraff anyway, because you are too high and mighty, snooty and downright up your own behind to wake up and realise that elitism died along with the charleston back in the 1920’s!!

Let me share a story with you all….. ~~~~~~~ (wavy lines for a flashback sequence!) ~~~~~~~

Many years ago, when I was Front of House manager for a hotel in Blackpool, we received many tips throughout the hotel.  We often made in excess of £100 per staff member per week during high season, even on reception! (we split them all). One weekend, a couple came in, drunk, with cans of ‘special brew’ in their hands – stereotypical ‘riffraff’ or ‘undesirables’ – the sort of people that you could guess were going to be trouble, and you really did not want them to be around you generally.  What happened then made me realise not just how judgemental I was, but how judgemental other places were.  I put my concerns aside and gave them one of our rooms, at a good rate which they paid in cash.  Later that evening they came back and the merriment went on – they bought drinks for everyone in the bar and at one point, the receptionist considered that possibly they were using a fake credit card, or were going to ‘do a runner’.  In the morning, they came and paid on their credit card (a Capital One Card – used in the UK mainly by those with poor credit).  They left a tip for the staff – over £200 (which was a sizeable tip at the time and definitely one of the best the hotel had seen!) and I spent some time talking to them whilst they waited for a while for a taxi.  They ordered champagne and got directions for the casino, so I brokered the question – where was the money coming from? The guy responded, they had won the lottery 3 weeks before and the cheque etc had just cleared – they were celebrating in Blackpool.  They had several thousands of pounds in cash and were just looking to have ‘one hell of a weekend’.  They came back later that day and stayed another night because, as it transpired, to get in to the casino they had to go and buy new clothes, they were refused a room at the 5 star hotel up the road, they were refused entry to the first class lounge at the train station coming up, and were even at one point asked to leave the first class carriage until they produced their tickets.

This taught me a lot about how people can be judged by money – take for examples hotels.  How many times have hotels been ‘fully booked’ when someone walks through the door who looks a bit shabby; how many people have been turned away from pubs and clubs because of how they dress – the same with restaurants!  What you are actually saying to these people is that their money is not good enough, just because of what they choose to wear, or to look like.  Take for example Bruce Forsyth, someone I have had the pleasure to meet and serve. He wears tracksuits a lot of the time – would you refuse him entry to your hotel or pub or restaurant if he was wearing the tracksuit? Probably not.  But he too is human, he too has money, so what makes him different to that person you turned away yesterday except for the jobs they do?

You cannot discriminate on age, race, religion/beliefs, sexuality, sex, gender identity or disability, however are more than welcome to discriminate on how someone chooses to dress or look, or even how they come across when talking to them – if you are reserved exclusively for only those with money, why are you refusing the good money of someone wanting to pay you, based on their dress style? Unless of course you are the proponent of elitism!

Elitism: The attitude or behavior of a person or group who regard themselves as belonging to an elite.

So – what if your guests went and changed their clothes – then they would be good enough? So the entire basis for your decision on refusal to allow entry is that the person is wearing a specific item of clothing – say for example trainers.  So if they went barefoot and removed the trainers, you would let them enter?  No? But why not?  They have removed the offending item!  Oh…. because you do not think it is proper?  But they are within your policies so what moral/ethical right do you have to refuse admission?

This is not a real argument, but it demonstrates my point – the basis of a company’s image should not dictate whether or not a specific client is allowed through the door – surely if you want to make money then the money of Joe Bloggs is as good as that of Lord Farthington Smythe the 16th!?!  Nor therefore should the type of account a customer hold with you dictate the type of service they receive – a customer is a customer, irrespective of how they look, dress or portray themselves – if you are happy enough to take their money, will they remain happy enough to give it to you?  The point here is that I understand why business do this – they want to retain a certain air, or calibre, but because I wear trainers I would be slung in to the same category as someone who spends every weekend getting drunk and starting fights or ‘causing trouble’ yet I am 100% beyond those years of my life and my last fight was when I was about 11 years old at school! Yet your policy states I would be refused entry – my entire character, history and ‘worthiness’ to be in your business establishment is judged by one measly piece of footwear… 30 years summarised and assessed by a pair of size 8’s – well my reverse assessment is this – bugger off!  As far as I am concerned, I understand a certain amount of social decorum is required, but to discriminate and alienate people based on what they wear (but of course bending the rules for celebrities and VIP’s), is bad business and tells me that if you are going to judge me by my clothes, I will judge you by your policies and my judgement is that you can shove my business!

As for Halifax – well, I can’t be arsed moving accounts, but will surely avoid the branches and stick to online banking; after all who am I to dare to walk through the doors except a loyal paying customer?  Remember, if you don’t like those trainers being in your establishment, people will just use them to walk elsewhere!

Matt Shiells-Jones

Husband, Author, Hotel Manager and ambitious 'old cat lady'

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