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Revenge is a dish best served cold
Long time coming, well deserved revenge
It all happened seventeen years ago, but the memories were as clear as if they were yesterday. Every detail stood out crystal clear.
That made it very easier for her interviewer. He simply switched on the recorder and recorded her voice as she spoke. He occasionally made notes. By his left hand were the photocopied pages of every document, letters and a few other bits and pieces. They were the proof of what she spoke.
Occasionally, she paused for a sip of water. Once or twice, coffee was produced. The caffeine helped the woman focus when she appeared to flag a little. From time to time, the journalist asked a question, for clarification.
At least three hours passed as the woman spoke. Several times, the journalist had to switch tapes in his recorder. 'Are you absolutely sure you told them what you wanted to do?' the journalist asked.
The woman nodded vigorously. 'Absolutely.'
'And what was their reaction?' the man asked.
The woman hung her head. 'They all laughed at me. And then they proceeded to bully me, saying only a fool would want to do what I wanted to do and that I had to stay where I was.'
The journalist stared at her, curious. 'Why would those four people think you a fool?'
The woman stared back at him. 'You have the paperwork and my testimony. It's all there. The mortgage agreements from 17 years ago, now out-of-date. The first statement showing what I was worth, compared to the current statement. It makes a shocking comparison, don't you think?'
'Why didn't you pursue this through the Financial Services Authority?' the man asked.
The woman hung her head. 'It's all there, in the paperwork. The breakdown. I've never recovered. My GP can't help. Anti-depressants simply wouldn't work in this instance. I know, I've tried them. I have to live with the hell of this every minute of every day.'
The journalist nodded in sympathy. He picked up the two statements and looked at them both. It was indeed a startling thing. The two figures, the final balance on each sheet and their disparity. From the first statement with its large balance, to the second with its tiny figure at the bottom. Well over three quarters of a million pounds down, wiped from the value.
The journalist whistled softly. 'And you want all this money back?' he asked softly. The woman nodded. 'I'm not surprised,' the man said. 'Personally, if I'd been forced to give all this up-' he tapped the first statement, '- and made to lose so much, despite them knowing what you wanted, well-' the journalist blew out his cheek and thought for a bit.
The woman watched him for a bit. 'Well,' she said, when the silence had drawn out a bit. 'Will you print the story - my story?'
The journalist looked up. 'Yes, we'll print the story, even under the pseudonym you asked for-'
'It's only a anagram of my name,' the woman interrupted.
The journalist nodded. 'Well, yes we know your real name. Luckily for you, it makes a nice anagram. The only thing is-' he hesitated. 'We'll pay you, of course, but it won't be as much as what you've lost.'
'It's a start.' There was the ghost of a smile on the woman's face. 'What do you think about this bank, then?' She tapped a piece of paper.
The man laughed unkindly. 'Quite frankly, they stink. My paper has done a lot of research into that bank and every report has been in the negative. They have the worst reputation of all the banks in this country, by a long chalk. Every time we look into their affairs, we uncover something new and bad. This is one of the worst I've seen though. I reckon we can afford to pay you a bit over the odds for that fact alone.'
He fingered the stack of paperwork. 'I take it I can have all this paperwork?'
The woman nodded. 'I have all the original paperwork in safe-keeping.'
The journalist fingered the thick stack of paperwork. 'Out of interest, just how bad is your relationship with this bank?'
The woman snorted in contempt. 'As far as my memory goes, the last time I talked to anyone from that company was about two years ago.'
The journalist whistled through his teeth. 'That's a hell of a long time, if you'll excuse my language.' By the way the woman was smiling, it was clear she thought a lot worse of the bank. 'Do you have any contact with them now?'
The woman shook her head. 'The last letter I sent to them was-' she rifled through the paperwork, 'Ah yes, this one. It's dated three months ago. You can see I formally ended contact with them. See?'
The journalist read the letter. It was polite - well, sort of. But as the woman said, she had formally banned them from contacting her any more in the future. She had also asked for all of her money back. But it was clear they had sent no further letters to her. 'Do they still pay that income you mentioned into your personal current account? he asked.
The woman nodded. 'That is the only thing they are doing. But look here.' She withdrew a little document from the pile. She showed the journalist the date, only three weeks ago. 'They are still charging me over £1,000 a year for managing the account. Even though the only thing they are doing is allowing me to function on a daily basis by paying me that monthly amount. So I can buy food, pay bills - that sort of thing.'
The journalist raised an eyebrow. 'The charges seems very steep under the circumstances. I mean, they're not exactly doing anything to justify that sort of charge.'
He flicked through the paperwork. It was all in date order. Form the first complaint over four years ago, her letters to the Bank and their replies. The journalist thought that many of them sounded patronising, bullying even. He shook his head. No wonder the woman had finally had enough and stopped calling, finished all contact. Well, it wasn't up to him, but a story was a story. There was enough here for a decent length article. 'I'll write up your story,' he told the woman. They shook hands.
As promised, the article appeared three weeks later in the paper. The woman got paid £50,000. As the journalist had said, it wouldn't be enough to solve her problems, but it was a start.
A stinging letter from the bank arrived on her doormat seven days later. The woman's hands shook when she was it and recognised the familiar, loathsome logo. With trembling fingers, she slit open the envelope and withdrew the sheet of paper inside.
The bank told her the paper had been in touch, revealing her true name and whether they would be prepared to comment. The bank said they were extremely disappointed that she was so unhappy with her account with them (the woman snorted at that - hadn't she told them again and again how unhappy she was). If she wanted to discuss how much money she wanted in settlement, all the woman had to do was ring the free phone number below and they could talk numbers.
That last bit so incensed the woman she nearly put the letter through the shredder. Her anger was so great. Hadn't she told them over and over that she would never talk to any of them again? And they already knew what she wanted.
So she put that in a letter the next day, reiterating exactly how much she wanted. She also added, that the only way she would tolerate hearing from them from now on was through the paper's lawyers (That last bit had been the journalist's suggestion). Before she could think twice, she posted off the letter.
Then she sat back and waited. And waited. She didn't mind. Nothing would induce her to pester anyone, not even the kind journalist. After three long nerve-wracking weeks, she finally heard. It was the journalist. He rang her to give her the news.
'The bank have finally agreed to your demands,' he said in her ear.
The woman could hardly believe it. Then she began to cry, tears of joy, of happiness. 'I'm so happy, thank you,' she hiccuped through her tears. 'When do the bank expect to pay me all my money back?'
'The money should be in your personal account within twenty-four hours,' the journalist told her. 'Will you let us know when it's there?'
'Of course I will. And thank you so much again,' the woman said. 'How can I ever thank you properly?'
The journalist laughed. 'Our circulation has gone up on the strength of your story. On the back of it, many other readers contacted us to tell us their stories and complaints about the bank. So for you and us it's a win-win situation.'
In the months, the woman finally followed her dreams. While her work was hard as a landlord, she was determined never to treat her tenants badly. She had a lettings agency deal with the day-to-day problems, but she always dealt with any problems promptly. Her income was up too. Now she could afford some things that had previously been out of reach. Like a weekly bottle of wine, or an occasional meal out with Hubby. What joy.
She watched the fortunes of the bank. She read the papers (principally the journalist's paper, it had to be said) and scanned the internet for the fortunes of the bank. They weren't good, but they were making changes. The top brass were incredibly reluctant to change, but forced to by circumstance, they trimmed their lavish habits and made banking changes that were at least fairer to their customers. (the woman had always given thanks that her current account was held at a building society instead). There was no place to hide. The media was on to them and so were the regulators.
The woman's hubby came into the kitchen, leaning on his walking stick. He gazed at the newspaper headlines. 'They never did know how to treat their clients,' he remarked.
Later that night, they shared a bottle of wine one night. 'You're happier now,' he said, chinking his glass against hers. She drank some wine. 'And here's to the future - our future.'
© 2017 Alice Dancer