Ill-mannered letters and other people’s whiplash is grinding me down

Angry Bird - like wot I am

In fact, it’s not just the paperwork, it’s the tone of the paperwork.

Having recently become self employed, there is an astonishing amount of paperwork required of me on an almost continual basis, mostly because there are lots of things that I now have to pay for which I didn’t before.  I am also constantly asked to account for myself to various bodies and, whilst I understand that this needs to be done, I come close to getting upset by the hectoring tones of many of these letters.

One letter, asking me for details of the work I have been doing has the penultimate paragraph in large, bold type, some of which is underlined, threatening that if I don’t provide this information within 15 days the payment in question will stop.  This is the first letter of its kind from them and I would mind less if it hadn’t, in fact, been sent to the wrong address.

I have two other ill-mannered letters this week.  The first one regarding Council Tax which is threatening me with court action if I don’t pay £27 which is 7 days overdue.  They informed me that I was  constantly falling into arrears in this financial year and that it simply would not do.  I only received the letter confirming my Council Tax bill three weeks ago.

The second made me want to spit blood with rage at the hypocrisy of it all.  For the first time in a very long while, I was overdrawn at the bank.  Overdrawn by £8 for a grand total of 4 days.  This meant that a direct debit was not paid and for which I was charged £8.  Fair enough.

What was not fair enough was the letter that I subsequently received from my bank lecturing me on the evils of being in debt, that it was totally unacceptable to overdraw without authority and would I like to see an advisor and go on a debt management course.

Do you know what?  I would like the banks to go on a debt management course.  Added to that, I would like the writers of these letters to think twice before assuming that everyone is a work-shy, backsliding criminal.

I just get angry, but I wonder what an elderly or vulnerable person would feel like if they received letters like these.

And whilst I’m on the subject of getting angry, I would like to share with you my entire morning spent trying to get a quote on my car insurance.  My insurance has gone up by over £250 since last year and that was the cheapest quote I could get.  I was expecting it to go up a little bit because I took someone’s wing mirror off back in July and, apparently foolishly, owned up on the flimsy grounds that it was categorically my fault.

I asked each insurer (I rather quaintly get my quotes from humans on telephones) why premiums had gone up so much.  Each one told me that a large factor was the no win no fee companies urging people to claim for whiplash.  Apparently the new trick is to get your friend to bang into your car from behind, you both claim on your insurance, then get a whopping payout for whiplash – the going rate is currently £2k.

When some stupid tart ran into the side of me a year ago (still not gone to court, incidentally) I was bombarded with calls from claims companies for weeks afterwards asking whether I was getting headaches or back pain. Several of them suggested that I was foolish not to claim as whiplash was virtually impossible to gainsay.  Needless to say, I refused to play the game, again on the frail excuse that I was not actually injured.

Nonetheless, my premiums have gone up by £250.

I am very, very cross.  I probably blame Thatcher.

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11 Comments

Filed under Life in general, Transport

11 responses to “Ill-mannered letters and other people’s whiplash is grinding me down

  1. I feel your rage. The idea of “where there’s blame there’s a claim” has left us in dire straits in a number of areas. The fear of being sued has stifled so many things and increased costs for those of us who still believe some things are just accidents, we all have them and we just put them down to experience and move on.

  2. glynis

    ….and now take some deep, deep breaths!!!
    But I so agree with you – long gone are the days of the gentle reminders (before the feared RED LETTER).
    And to make you feel less frustrated is there something handy you could throw, though obviously not anything fragile or breakable and certainly not at anyone who could later sue you for damage or injury.

  3. Marie McWilliams

    I am sorry to see that rudeness, now endemic in the US, has become a serious problem in the UK as well. I am quite the Anglophile, and I have always looked upon the British as the last stronghold of manners and courtesy. Alas. The world we live in is becoming darker by the day. I try a little bit harder to be one of the lights. Sometimes I fail: when I come up against the kind of rudeness and stupidity you are describing (honey, I could write a book!) I tend to grow fangs and respond in kind. But usually with understandable provocation!

  4. wartimehousewife

    Claire: The bubble must burst eventually. I hope.

    Glynis: A hot bath and a large mug of Ovaltine will probably do the job.

    Marie: Courtesy seems to be becoming polarised in the UK. Companies are drfinitely getting more aggressive but there are still plenty of courteous people out there. The worrying thing is that it stands out so much which means that it’s less prevalent. But I agree, we must strive to be shining lights and lead by example!

  5. g-rider

    Banks lecturing you on the evils of being in debt? Oh, the irony. As for motor insurance brokers – Dick Turpin got hung for less.

  6. Here at Maison Gaherty, the most astonishing letter I have received was because I had inadvertently underpaid 15 PENCE (yes, 15 pence) on my Council Tax bill. Or it might have been a phone bill. I was told they would be taking me to court in 7 days if I didn’t pay it immediately!

    Of course, you and I know that these letters are standard letters triggered by The System, but – as you rightly say – an elderly person may not realise this, and may feel very stressed about receiving one. It seems to me that there should be a trigger level whereby any amount under, say £50, should be reviewed by an actual human before any letter is sent out, and perhaps a gentler tone of letter might be devised.

    • wartimehousewife

      Gosh Morag, humans involved in the process? That sounds a bit radical.

      I think that’s a sensible idea that there should be a trigger point that changes the tone of letters.

  7. Ian

    An error by a vast international corporation last week meant that they attempted to debit my account for twenty quid rather than the usual ten. My (“my”!) bank refused the payment and charged me thirty-five pounds instead, thus putting my account (always delicate at that time of the socio-fiscal lunar month) twenty-five quid into a non-existent (no overdraft facility whatsoever) bright red, some fifteen quid more than if they’d just coughed up. This use of a non-existent “unauthorised borrowing facility” to pay their charge then triggered a charge for “unauthorised use of a borrowing facilty”. I think the interest they have mooted is one leg and two arms a day, compounded. … I have written to them say that I appreciate their interest and am happy to participate in their PR stunt by telling all and sundry, in a ‘Yorkshire’ accent of course… (and bankers genuinely wonder why no-one will hug them).

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Ian – I feel your pain. It sickens me to hear stories like that. If you were to go to the bank and face them down, they might just let you off some of the charges, it’s been known to work and is worth a go. They must be pressured into being ‘Helpful’ and perhaps do some ‘Listening’. Would you like me to send you a biscuit tin to keep your money in in future?

      In a different context but a similar progression found me many years ago parked in my excruciatingly expensive residents parking bay in London. I went away for the weekend to find that my car had gone. After running around like a wailing banshee for an hour or so, I discovered that it had been impounded. The bumper of my car (not the wheel, mark you) had been six inches into the parking space behind me and an over-zealous traffic warden had given me a ticket. The following morning it was clamped and the morning after that it was popped on the back of a pick-up and taken to the pound.

      I was charged £40 for the parking ticket, £90 for the clamp and £250 to retrieve it from the pound. When I complained to the Council, where, incidentally, they had photographic evidence of my parking, they refused to back down down saying that in the opinion of the warden, I was causing an obstruction. Nit Picking, Sadistic Bastards. Hope you keep reading!

  8. Ian

    When a Council steals cars and demands money for their return it’s called a “Transport Policy”, if you or I were to run a similar scheme it’s known as either or both of ‘A protection racket’ and ‘Three to four in jail’.

    p.s., I like your style, no fear that I shall evaporate from your followers!

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