Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Rage and bureaucracy

Written by

Computer says no, so it sucks to be you.

If you’ve ever had a day where your chest caved in because you were dealing with {insert name of bureaucracy here} and you copped a fatal dose of mendacious fuckwittery, you might understand why I arrived home yesterday in a state of boiling impotent rage.

To be clear, this is not an attempt to use my media platform or my small number of twitter follows to yell DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM at the NAB. It’s just that every human not living in their own separatist colony has had to deal with some large organisation and been royally screwed by them and known that there was nothing they could do, no one they could talk to, no common sense or logic that could be brought to bear. Computer says no and now it sucks to be you.


I’ve been a customer of the NAB for nearly 25 years. Most of the time it’s just (not enough) money in, (too much) money out and the occasional reasonable requests that I pay a bit off my credit card. Then, one day I tried to pay for the petrol I’d just put in my car and I was told my credit card has been cancelled, with instructions for it to be immediately confiscated the next time it was presented. A few hours later I had this conversation:

Me: “Why did you cancel my credit card and even more, why didn’t you tell me that you did it?”

NAB: “We had to cancel a batch of credit cards because Nigerian fraud and we did so tell you about it. There’s a machine in Bangalore spitting out letters right now, they’ll be mailed out next week. Would you like me to email you an application form for a new card? We have your email address and phone number on file.”

Me: “Can you at least tell me when you will send me a new credit card?”

NAB: “That should arrive within 10 working days.”

3 weeks later, after many similar phone calls and no new credit card, they sent me three copies of the card and then cancelled all of them because they’d issued multiple copies by mistake.



A few months back a couple of Tribune enthusiasts were asking if there was some way they could give donations to us. We’re running on the smell of someone else’s’ oily rag, so that sounded like a good idea. I went to the PayPal site, found the code for a Donate button and popped it up on our site. PayPal immediately decided that this meant The King’s Tribune was a charity and refused to release any funds to us until we proved that we weren’t. Then, after we had provided proof of not being a charity (!?) they froze our funds again because we needed proof that the bank account connected to PayPal for the last 5 years was, in fact, the bank account connected to PayPal for the last 5 years.

Because terrorists and money laundering.


Another NAB:

Last week I applied for a car loan. It’s a fairly simple online process. At the end of the week I had this phone call:

NAB: “Hi, I’m just ringing to let you know that your loan has been approved, subject to verification.”

Me: “ok, what is verification?”

NAB: “Oh it’s really easy, we just need copies of your last two pay slips and a utilities bill to prove your address.”

Me: “I’m a contractor so I don’t get payslips, I submit invoices”

NAB: “Oh, that’s not a problem, just send us your last two invoices and your loan will go through by next Tuesday.”

Me *sends invoices and bill, pays $400 for vehicle inspection, pays $1000 deposit, tells seller to go ahead with the roadworthy fixes and certificate*

3 days later

NAB: “Hi, I’m just ringing to say that your loan cannot be approved because you’ve submitted invoices instead of payslips and we can’t tell that this income really exists.”

Me: “But the invoices have been paid into my NAB account for the last 7 years.”

NAB: “No, that’s not proof that you’ve been paid that income, can you send us your last tax return?”

Me: “Um, I’m a bit behind and haven’t got that done yet, is there something else I can send you?”

NAB: “Well, I can see that you’re perfectly able to pay back the loan and I can see that all your income is all there in your NAB account, but I can’t tick the box that lets me go to the next page so no loan for you.”

Me: “But you last week you told me something completely different and now I’m going to lose about $1400.”

NAB: “Yeah, sucks to be you. Would you like me to connect you to our complaints department? They won’t be able to do anything but at least I have someone to whom I can transfer your annoying call.”


Centrelink and debt collectors

I once had to prove to Centrelink that 2 children plus one child equals three children. It took three months and a 27 page form.

The reason I had to fill in the 27 page form is that they decided that they should not have paid me the money they had paid me so they sold the debt to Dun & Bradstreet, who would ring me once a week to have this conversation:

D&B: “Hi, I’m Numpty calling from a blocked number, could you please give me all the details necessary to proving your identity?”

Me: “Umm, who are you?”

D&B: “Oh, I can’t tell you that until you prove who you are”

Me: “Oh. Ok then. No.”

D&B: “But this is a really Big Thing and I can’t proceed until you prove your identity.”

Me: “Yeah? Wow. Sucks to be you, huh.”

D&B: “Well now we’ll be going back to Centrelink to say that you refused to talk to us and they should take you to court.”

Me: “But you haven’t confirmed that you’ve talked to me, so how can I have refused to answer? Anyway, look, I know what this is about, if you ask Centrelink they’ll tell you that I submitted my 27 page form and they’ve admitted there is no debt.”

D&B: “Oh, we can’t talk to Centrelink about your debt. Because privacy. Talk to you again next week.”


The time I bought a new phone from Optus and cancelled my old contract. I paid the next three bills they sent me and then they cut my phone off because the bills they’d sent were for the old contract not the new one and I was in arrears. Apparently they had sent a letter about it to the address on the old contract (I didn’t live there anymore) and didn’t call me about it because privacy.


Existence Fail

I ceased to exist a few years ago because VicRoads had put an inexplicable ‘y’ in my name when they gave me my licence. 15 years later when I got married I suddenly had 3 names – Jane Shaw, Jane Gilmore and Jayne Gilmore and didn’t have 100 points of ID in any one of them. Cue months of this conversation with a dozen different desk clerks at a dozen different government agencies:

Me: “Hi, I need you to reissue my {ID} in my actual name because it’s all got a bit confused and I don’t have 100 points of ID under any one name”

Desk Clerk: “Oh, you poor thing that sounds terrible, of course we can help. Could you just fill in this form and provide 100 points of ID under one of your various names?”



6 years ago my mother set up a trust fund for her superannuation. A trust needs 2 trustees so she asked me to be the other one. Every year when I do my tax return the ATO jumps up and down screaming about tax avoidance because I have not declared my mother’s income as my own. Every year I ring them and have this conversation:

Me: “Hi, you’ve sent me a letter about not declaring income that is not my income, it’s my mother’s. We sent you all the stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and mum’s tax return declaring it as her income this last year”

ATO Dude: “Tax avoidance is a very serious crime you know.”

Me: “Yes, I do know, which I why I sent you all the stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and mum’s tax return declaring it as her income this last year.”

ATO Dude: “There’s serious penalties for tax avoidance. Fines and interest payments and the like.”

Me: “Yes, I know, which is why I pay my accountant to spend a couple of hours on this every year. Can you just check the system and see all the documents from last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that?”

ATO Dude: “I’m sorry, our system doesn’t allow us to do that. You will need to provide stat decs and trust documents and bank statements and your mother’s tax return declaring it as her income and until you do we will be demanding payment on that income. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

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Jane Gilmore

Jane Gilmore is the editor of The King's Tribune.

Follow Jane on Twitter: @JaneTribune