Dear Lazyweb, what are some good conferences to consider?

I’m off to FOSDEM again soon, and really looking forward to it, but I decided I should try to make more time for going to other conferences too.

I’m not sure that ShmooCon is really my kind of thing and it’s also in February like FOSDEM so it’s a bit difficult to schedule.

Chaos Communication Congress is more appealing, but that’s in less than a week which is a crazy time to put a conference on. Maybe next year.

Can people recommend any other conferences for UNIX sysadmin networky types?

Update: Actually I take it back, ShmooCon does seem more interesting than I first thought. Maybe in ’10 then.

Abbey Anger

This is a really long rant about Abbey business banking. If you have no interest in such a thing or are already convinced of the incompetence of Abbey / Santander Group then there is probably no point in reading further.

Bitfolk‘s business account is and has always been with Abbey business banking. The initial account opening back in early 2007 was very quick and painless being almost entirely done over the phone, but getting access to the online banking proved to be a bit more difficult (and it seems I was not the only one).

For a start, they wanted my three security answers posted to them by normal mail. This did not seem very secure, but I did it anyway. After a couple of weeks it still wasn’t working, giving the useful message of bean error not found within scope, so I had to call customer services. They wanted me to post the details again, but I wasn’t willing to do that so after a great deal of persuasion they eventually agreed to accept a fax.

After a few more days, still with the same error, I had to call again. They wanted me to fax again saying that maybe it had got lost! I faxed again. It “got lost” again. I called again and demanded to be able to give the details over the phone or the account would be closed.

This almost worked! They apparently input my mother’s maiden name incorrectly, as every time it would ask that question I would always get it wrong. If I reloaded then it would ask another of the three questions, so I was still able to use the service. Given the pain experienced so far, I preferred that to speaking to customer services yet again.

Fast forward to yesterday, Monday 8th December 2008. I go to log in and Abbey (well, Santander, I assume) have changed things. In order to transition to the new online banking system I have to give my mother’s maiden name, and of course it does not work. Oh no, time to bang my head against the customer services wall.

Inevitably the phone lines were incredibly busy. I was on hold for over 45 minutes before I got to speak to a human. She took my name, date of birth, account number, business name, debit card number, expiry, recent transaction history and account number (twice). In between doing this she went away several times for 5 to 15 minutes at a time. By the end of all this I’d been on the phone for well over an hour only to be told that they “have no access to the old system at all.” I’d have to wait for some details to be posted to me again by normal post, and this would allow me to log in.

I pointed out that I needed access to the online banking to process payments from my customers, to which I was told, “oh, you can do that on the phone!” Well, not really no, not when it takes an hour to get to a human. I was then told that this was my fault for not sorting it out sooner.

I asked for the customer services representative’s name as I wanted to complain, and she just said, “Ashley.” I asked for her surname and she actually refused to give it to me! I was told that if I wanted to make a complaint then her first name and the time of the call would be sufficient.

I asked to speak to a supervisor and was again put on hold for around 10 minutes, after which time “Ashley” returned to inform me that no supervisors were available and all I could do was give her my phone number so that one would call me “before close of business tomorrow”! Meanwhile the paperwork had supposedly been put into first class post.

It’s now the next day. There was nothing in the post this morning from Abbey and I have as yet received no phone call from a supervisor. Their phone line is open until 9pm but I’m not calling it again at my expense and the chances of them calling me now seem slim.

This sort of delay with the post is expected near Christmas and is one of the reasons why doing this by post is unacceptable to me (the others being security-related, and the likelihood of a repeat of their shambolic handling of paperwork from before). The complete futility of calling customer service and the rudeness encountered even when making an effort to keep an even temper though is the really irritating thing.

It’s time to look for another bank.

Update December 15th, 2008:

It’s now a week on. I’ve received one of the three pieces of information I’m told I’ll need to use the online banking, so I’m now entering my second week without access. If it isn’t sorted out this week then I don’t think it will get sorted out in 2008. I’ve not received a phone call from anyone at Abbey.

Bitfolk was turned down for a Business Direct account with HSBC.

Update December 16th, 2008:

The remaining two pieces of information arrived today. I’m now able to log in. However I’m unable to do anything except look at the list of transactions since I keep getting the “Not authorised to perform this function” and “You currently have only one account linked to your card” errors. It says I have to call them. Great. At least I can now process payments from customers again.

NatWest have provisionally approved a Business Plus account and are sending me the paperwork.

Update December 17th, 2008:

Abbey got my business account working again this evening.

Meeting with Barclays on Friday about a business account.

Update January 9th, 2009:

Someone from Abbey’s complaints dept. phoned me and said he would look in to my complaint and that there may be some compensation for the inconvenience caused.