What a bizarre sunny Saturday afternoon spent in St. Anne’s Square, Manchester preaching to a massed crowd about bank charges. I was there for last-ditch filming for the Tonight with Trevor I’m presenting tonight on reclaiming unfair bank charges.
Booted from the Trafford centre by the banks?
The problems started with attempting to put up a demonstration stall proclaiming “Tonight’s bank charge clinic”. This was designed to be done on camera in five minutes. The problem? Originally filming was scheduled for the indoor Trafford Centre, yet the banks based there seem to have got wind, and complained so we had to change setting at the last minute, and in the outdoor breeze the stand became a sail, desperate to breach its bounds. After an hour we managed to put the thing up, leaving one researcher to stand hidden behind holding the thing.
Two preachers, two subjects, one space
That overcome, the next problem. The intention was I’d hopefully preach to a crowd about how to reclaim their charges, but a real life evangelical preacher was already there. Yet his rather nasty sounding invective seemed to alienate people more than cajole, and many people were shouting back some nasty stuff. Not only did all this make the sound man wince and declare it unfilmable, it also meant the last thing I wanted to do was get on my temporary soap-box! Even so the producer politely asked if he’d mind moving and he did – so my options were closed.
The Soap-box moment
Onto the metal filming case I stepped to do the job. With hundreds of people milling about, as much as I’m used to being on telly, this was a whole different ball game, especially following the preacher. However, I did my duty, took a deep breath and stood up there, at full volume and I mean full; “ladies and gentlemen, a moment of your time please. Last week someone was repaid £17,500 in unfair bank charges and I’d like to explain how they did it”.
Thank heavens a crowd of around 100 gathered and I began my story. Luckily many there had suffered bank charges and were on side…. until one boy amongst a group of lads in football shirts (yes the England v Jamaica match was being played at Old Trafford not much later), wanted to get in camera and somehow thought mouthing obscenities was the way. I politely asked if he’d stop, so he shouted louder, until the cameraman asked him to shut up with stronger terms, as did the rest of the crowd, who thankfully at this point seemed interested in what I was saying. His mate then dragged him away.
When I asked, many in the crowd had great examples. One man talked of a £35 overdraft fee for going 10p over the limit, two students told of £800 of snowballed charges with credit cards, and one man, who’d been paying a third of his wage in bank charges and was drowning from them, walked away with an extra kick in his step, off to write a letter. I must admit it was a great feeling to see people get fired up that way.
There was some heckling though. One guy even shouted out “tell them about your website, it’s fantastic”, an opportunity I of course didn’t miss. Near the end though, someone started to shout “the banks are only doing their job, making money” and “they’re doing nothing wrong” much to the displeasure of the rest of the crowd, some of whom shouted “which bank do you work for???? Strangely this echoes my own philosophy; “a bank’s job is to make money, people knew about the charges when they signed up” but misses out the “our job is to minimise the amount they make from us and fight back.” He then continued (and I do think he was playing a bit of devil’s advocate for the camera) but I explained that there’s making money, and there’s imposing charges which are disproportionate and unlawful. I added it’s an argument now backed by Which? and a number of other groups, with even the OFT saying the charges are unfairly high.
Scores of MoneySavers in the crowd
After finishing, many of the crowd turned out to be MoneySavers, and they stopped aside to say hello, which is always cool. It’s strange to realise how many there are out there. Most of them had simply been passing by and came over to listen.
There were a few who’d turned up specially though, as I’d put a wee note in the Chat Forum about it yesterday. They came with copies of the Money Diet to be signed at various points in the afternoon, it was lovely. Sorry for those who came in the midst of filming so I couldn’t say Hi properly. The biggest hello goes to Chat Forum Board Guide NearlyRich, who stayed most of the afternoon and helpfully wrote out the web address of both this site and the consumeractiongroup for those who needed help.