Saturday, 19 January 2008

Wanted: TLM for Stealing His Own Debit Card

Here is a letter I've just sent to Wetherspoons about today's events.


TLM's House
TLM's City
January 19, 2008

Dear Mr/Mrs Weatherspoon,

This afternoon (Jan 19th) at approximately 2:43pm missbliss and I, along with a friend entered ..... (a pub, somewhere) What followed was the perhaps the most annoying meal I’ve ever had.

At 2:49pm, our party of 3 was ready to order, unfortunately, when we were eventually served at the bar, there were no burgers. According to your menu, burgers are available all day every day, well let me tell you, that is a blatant lie as they sure as hell weren’t available this afternoon. After returning to the table (number 48 incase you’re interested), and consulting the menu again, I returned to the bar with a new order. This time I was told there was no scampi – what sort of restaurant is this? Having queued up for the 3rd time I was eventually able to order. Then came the part where I am supposed to pay for the meal, perhaps I should have expected that things would not go smoothly. Having handed over my HSBC debit card (at 3:03pm) I was rudely told that “Its been declined, gunna have to keep it”, I was then told that the machine had said my card must be retained, however the rude and unhelpful barmaid would not show me the machine. She did make a very brief phone-call to her manager who confirmed that my card would have to be retained and without anymore information my card was wrapped up and bundled into the till. I was asked for alternative payment, which I gleefully provided the £21.67 in the form of cash (one £20 note and one £5 note, both NOT stolen). I was given no information whatsoever about what would be done with my card (despite me offering an explanation as to why the card might have been declined – in that I’d requested a new card that morning from the bank), nor did anyone ask who I was or if I could provide any identification which I would have happily provided had it been requested.

I returned to my table, rather bamboozled by what had just happened. Realising that I’d just let my card be taken by a complete stranger I promptly returned to the till and asked for the card to be destroyed. Unfortunately the person I’d spoke to previously was no longer behind the bar and I was told that they would come to my table when they returned. They never did bother to return and after eating my steak pie (which I shall come onto later) I returned to the till to speak to the barmaid I’d spoken to originally. This time I was told that they couldn’t destroy the card so I asked to speak to her manager, I was again told that they’d come to my table. The manager, who looked barely old enough to drink let alone manage a pub, finally did come to the table and explained to me that they had to retain the card and that policy dictated it would be sent to “head office, then onto the police.” I would have been very interested to read this policy, unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to. She politely explained that it was “my word against theirs” – what she meant by this I’m not quite sure, she clarified this by saying “if you’d stolen the card, you wouldn’t exactly admit it would you?” I was obviously going to get nowhere with this so I told her that I would phone my bank for their advice before phoning the police to report my card stolen by your barmaid. I phoned my bank and reported the card stolen by Wetherspoons. Following that, safe in the knowledge that my card could no longer be used and having decided not to phone the police because I was accruing car parking charges and didn’t really have the time to wait around for this to be sorted out, we finished our drinks and left.

I can just about understand why my card was retained, but it not being destroyed is an infringement of my personal privacy. My personal card details are now available to anyone, including my account number and sort code. What baffles me most is that if I had indeed stolen the card (which, if it isn’t obvious by now, I didn’t), absolutely no effort was made to clarify who I was by asking for ID, no effort was made to contact the police and no effort was made to apprehend a potential thief. Why even bother to retain the card if you’re not in the least bit bothered that someone might be standing there who could have stolen my card? I would have been seriously pissed off knowing that you’d let whoever stole my card sit there for 2 hours without the slightest effort being made to check who he was. Perhaps that is beside the point, but as far as I’m concerned my HSBC debit card was stolen by your barmaid this afternoon at 3:03 pm. I expect, if the situation is reported to the police by yourselves, then the card will be flagged up as stolen as I reported it so at 4:00pm this afternoon. In which case, the police will probably be interested to speak to me about having stolen my own card. I’ll be more than happy to cooperate with the police as it was in fact, a Wetherspoons barmaid who stole my card.

I wish I could say that is the only problem we encountered this afternoon, unfortunately I can’t. We ordered 2 steak pies, unfortunately one of them was burnt to a crisp. The meat was charred and solid as a rock, entirely inedible. The staff were kind enough to replace this steak pie but only about 35 minutes after the other 2 meals had been finished.

Having queued 3 times in the first place, spending the majority of time trying to sort out the debacle with my debit card and waiting an extra 35 minutes for another pie, we had wasted an extra hour and my car parking charges had escalated to an extortionate £1.80.
Fortunately the good company meant this meal was not an entirely infuriating experience but Wetherspoons did everything seemingly possible to make it so!

I shall not be eating at a Wetherspoons in the near future and I look forward to hearing from the police with regards to the theft of my debit card.
If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me either by phone, letter or email

Yours Sincerely,
The Little Medic
I've not written a good complaint letter for ages - you're probably not surprised that I rather enjoy doing them. Anyway, we had quite a nice day overall.


DundeeMedStudent said...

eh? I don't get why they took your card. When I worked in shops if a card was declined I just gave it back and wouldn't sell the folks the item.

Nice letter BTW.

Xavier Emmanuelle said...

Good complaint letter!! I've written some pretty good ones, but I do it just to vent and I never actually send them.

Dr. K said...

Heh. Your card was stolen by the barmaid. That cracked me up ... I would never have thought to put that kind of spin on the situation. Nice letter!

steph said...

If that ever happens to you again, you should decline to pay in cash until they give you your card back/reassure you. If that fails, take your meal to a table and start eating it while they decide what to do. They'll soon get their act together!

btw it costs €2.75 an hour to park a car around here :-)

Michael said...

Haha, fight the powe! Come on though, no drinking at Wetherspoons? But the drinks are so cheap! How can any student honestly resist Thursday night Curry Club? Bosh down a curry before getting hammered on pints, it's how God intended students to live.

Regarding your card I must admit it baffles me. Since moving to the UK I seem to find that customer service in this country seems to exist for publishers of handbooks and common sense is rarely deployed. None so apparent as to when I had (stupidly) booked a flight on the wrong days as I was a bit stressed and preoccupied with other things at the time. I phoned the British Airways flight desk two minutes after receiving my flight confirmation realising what had happened and they wanted to charge me something like £50 to change the date. After endless "but I only booked it 3 minutes ago" arguing, I proceeded to phone the office in Helsinki (my destination) and they changed it within two minutes free without even mention of a cost for the service.

AMiB said...

wow..that is ridiculous. if that had happened to me, my letter would not have nearly been as well

hope all goes well with getting your stuff back, and be sure to post the response from their PR department online!

jessica said...

Well I'm impressed. I don't even know the number for my bank.

You always seem to have the best of luck, y'know?

You've never been struck by lightning, right? ;)

Elaine said...

A very sorry tale, but an excellent complaint letter. Good luck with getting it sorted out

dr_dyb said...

Oh dear.

The advise when I worked in retail was not to retain if teh card company said it was invalid. The alternative, if the card was reported stolen was to call the police, detain the person and give the person and their card to the police. If the card was invalid, we used to ask the person for another method of payment, but if we got a 'code', we called our merchant services company who would advise us what the issue was a) limit breached - ask for another payment method b) card stolen, call police and detain customer or c) system error.

sillyvicky said...

I work behind a bar and yes we would have kept your card but the manager would have come down and cut the microchip out and cut that up in front of you. If the card was just declined and didn’t need to be retained id have offered you to try it again as the readers are crap and half the time just don’t like to work or asked for another method of payment. Weatherspoons are crap I have to present ID to buy a breakfast eventho it says it is a family pub crazy.

Anonymous said...

sorry, tlm, i like your blog, but in terms of the complaint letter, fair enough to complain about the food and waiting, etc, but in terms of the card... that would have been the fault of the bank. i have to ask, when you applied for the new card that morning, wouldn't it have been written somewhere that your current card was not able to be used until your new card arrived and was activated? you can't blame the restaurant for that oversight can you? i don't know what weatherspoons is because we don't have it in australia, it sounds like a chain, of which there are HEAPS in the UK!

Tea N. Crumpet said...

I know what I'm doing is anyone every takes my card!

"MH" said...

Buch of theiving bastards! And I thought our 'spoons was bad enough! Let's hope a bit of good comes out of it.

Ms-Ellisa said...

Wow... sorry you had to go through this...

...but I really REALLY enjoyed reading your letter of complaint... it made such a fun read... hee hee... :-D

the little medic said...

dundeemedstudent - I wasn't even bothered about keeping it, if they'd destroyed it i'd have been happy. And thanks :)

xavier emmanuelle - Thanks, I quite enjoy writing amusing complaint letters and most of the time I end up sending them too. Hopefully it brightens up customer services day

dr k - thanks a lot

steph - Thats a good idea, although I was paying before we'd got the food so it wouldn't have worked on this occasion

michael - I've had similar issues with BA.

amib - I will post their reply and what happened when I get it.

jessica - No, not been struck by lightening.....yet. Argh, I'm scared now

elaine - thanks

dr dyb - I'd have been much happier had they done any of that. Even if they'd detained me and called the police. I could have proved who i was. The fact they did nothing except take my card and not tell me what they were doing was what annoyed me.

sillyvicky - If the manager had cut the microchip out i'd have been happier but apparently they aren't allowed to, or something.

anonymous - The bank were supposed to cancel a different card which they'd sent and I hadn't got, not the one I was currently using. It seems they cancelled both of them. Like I said in the letter, I can just about see why my card was declined. My main issue was with how it was dealt with. In that I wasn't told what was going on, they refused to prove anything to me so they might have just been stealing it and that hadI actually been a thief they'd made no effort to find out who I was. It was just dealt with completely incompetently. Oh, and like you mentioned, there was the food too.

tea n crumpet - what is that then?

"mh" - HAHA, lets hope so.

ms-ellisa - glad you enjoyed reading it.

Calavera said...

What a bizarre incident - why the hell didn't they just return the card? That makes no sense at all...

Let us know if you get a response - in fact, post it up!

Anonymous said...

just came across your blog- have now wasted a good morning when i should have been writing a report happily reading ;)

i worked in a wetherspoons a few years ago (oh the shame!- i needed to pay university fees!), the only time that i ever retained a card was when the machine flashed up retain card, not just that it had been declined- we were then instructed to cut it in half in front of the customer and then send it to head office.

just to let you know that if a member of bar staff retains a card in a wetherspoons because it is deemed "stolen" they get a cheque made out to them for £66 something or other. wetherspoons even pays for the tax so they get a full £50. this led to people behind the bar actually being excited when the machine stated that the card was stolen as it meant more money in their pocket!
don't know if this happened in your case though.
they have a notoriously bad customer service record! really wasn't suprised about that!