2007 - 2021

The Virgin Experience

Losing my virginity at sixty eight.

I have decided, at sixty eight, to lose my virginity. It will be tough given that I have been involved in a deeply satisfying relationship for fifty years with a partner who once lent me enough money to buy a house and pays many of my bills. But the time has come.

You see I first joined the Clydesdale Bank when I was around eighteen. It was a pleasant experience. My bank manager invited me into a quiet room and explained all the processes. Even although I was young he called me Mr Macleod and said that if I ever needed impartial advice on money matters he would give it to me for free and in confidence. Then we had tea, discussed the weather, and he wished me well in my career in teaching.

Recently I went down to my bank to see his successor. I needed a small overdraft for a month.

At first I thought  the bank had moved. There was no sign of my bank’s name – The Clydesdale-  and all the staff, who used to wear suits and looked happy enough, were now being forced to dress as if they were going to a basket ball game in California in May – in tee shirts and plimsolls. I didn’t have to ask them if they were happy. It was February in Scotland. Minus eight.

Some of the furniture had changed. There was what looked like the seating for a baseball game. A girl of about eighteen came up and asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted to go to the bank. This is the bank she replied. Oh, I said.

I explained I would like a small overdraft. Oh no we don’t do that here. She responded, as if I had lost my mind.

You will have to phone someone else. You can use our phone. Oh, I said. When I picked up the phone a voice said that my call to the someone I didn’t know would be recorded for training and security purposes. Now I have been happily offering my confidential calls to the bank for some years for their training purposes, but you do wonder  how much recorded data they are going to need to write their training manuals.Maybe I should mock a heart attack to give them more material to work with, the Clydesdale has given me excellent service for over half a century. It would be nice to give something back.  Actually after twenty minutes waiting in the telephone queue I almost didn’t have to mock that heart attack. I think it was the piped music . I do wish they would pipe it somewhere else.

The lady at the other end of the line, who sounded almost suicidal and who could blame her, called me by a Christian name that I have never used. I’ve told them this many times. So much for training. Or indeed emotional security.

As Ieft the bank I noticed that there were two signs up in the window ( I promise this is true ) one said that the bank opened at nine and the other said it opened at ten, I asked one of the basket ball dressed people why this was and he explained that the bank were legally obliged to put up a sign in the window  saying they opened at nine during the time when they weren’t opening at ten.I asked him to explain why and he said exactly the same thing again, only a little louder.

I tried to discuss the weather and my teaching career, but he just looked a little nervous.

The next day my new bank card arrived and with it a leaflet saying I was to say Hi to it and that it would give me total control. It was red and announced in lurid graphics that I was a virgin, it’s a piece of plastic I now have to present several times a day to various strangers. I shall resist smiling sheepishly. When I next opened my computer an email invited me to report on my banking experience and then asked a number of questions whose primary purpose seemed to be to ensure that I couldn’t report on my banking experience, whilst a computerised report will probably one day imply that I had.

Now I recognise that we live in rapidly changing times and that all these changes are probably a result of a number of marketing exercises and focus groups, but I do wonder who attends these things. I mean are there really people who suggest that it might be a good idea to have piped music, to have basket ball seating, and to call old men by their Christian names, particularly ones they don’t use?

So now, after a warm and helpful relationship with my bank for fifty years I have decided to lose my virginity.

Because I am indeed in  control and this is my report on my banking experience.

Comments (35)

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  1. Doug says:

    And there you go. I had a very similar experience. I am now wondering about changing banks.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      do it!

  2. Martin Coffield says:

    Where have you been sir? I had my first “Just pick the telephone in the kiosk and you’ll be connected to someone who could care less, very soon” experience years ago. I mean lots of years ago. More than 10! Sounds like nothing has improved. Now that I think on it, I never actually go in the bank building anymore. Less stressful.

  3. Dougie Blackwood says:

    They are all the same. I’m with RBS( or is it NatWest). When I go into the bank a young person directs me to a machine opposite the door; she tells me that I can do all my business there, with the machine. They no longer accept cheques at the counter in the middle of the floor, there is no other way than to push them into a slot in the machine and hope it does whatyou want. If I want to with draw significant amounts of cash the manager must be called and many intimate questions answered; if the answers are not to their liking they will not give you your money which there and is visible in the positive balance shown on the account.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      We are the customer, tell them if the service they are supplying is not what you want. Fight back, without us they are broke.

  4. Squigglypen says:

    You are not alone! The Bank of Scotland didn’t pay my telephone bill ..I was nearly cut off .I complained to BOS and they said a bag of letters ‘got lost’..and I would get an apology in the mail..didn’t.(probably got ‘lost’.) Went to see them re telephone..nearly fell over kiddies seats and toys lying about…the noise was unbelievable ..it was Hallow’een so posters of witches etc were plastered over the windows. I left permanently and joined TSB…seemed ok for a while then locked out of online account.( they were transmigrating files?)..then told the local branch was closing but that the one in Bearsden would be my branch and then found out that was closing soon…( seems no-one wants to buy TSB) researched other banks and most seemed to be in the middle of take-overs or closing down.
    Now looking at Bitcoin….

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Its ridiculous the providers seem to have lost sight of the market

  5. Roland Reid says:

    Prior to the makeover I did let the Clydesdale Bank know that in my opinion the change of name was a great mistake. The name has a long tradition in Scottish banking and has not suffered the same bad publicity as some of the other Banks. I advised that I do not have a high regard for the “Virgin” brands having been extremely unhappy with the price and level of service I had received as a Virgin Media customer.

    Although I don’t think that it has been widely reported, there will no longer be Scottish notes printed by the Clydesdale Bank. I have been a customer for almost as long as the author but as other commentators have said, it is a challenge to know who will provide a better service.

    1. maxwell macleod says:


  6. Tom Ultuous says:


    1. maxwell macleod says:


      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Meaning I found your article very funny & was Rolling On Floor Pissing Myself Laughing.

        1. maxwell macleod says:

          Well than k you. Cheered me up greatly.

  7. Carol says:

    As a Clydesdale customer myself for many years I empathise with your plight, I have had similar experiences at my local branch. It’s bloody irritating to say the least. I am not hip teenager nor have been since the early 1970s, however, I am a sixty something, a specialist in archaeology. Also, if I wish to buy a banking product I am old enough to ask for it myself without one of their teenagers taking if I have this that or the other.

  8. Alba woman says:

    The RBS closed in our community followed shortly by the Clydesdale and the TSB ….we were left in a matter of weeks with no banks at all. There is talk of a skeleton service maybe starting up but so far no service at all for years.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Complain! WE are their bread and butter, without us they are nothing.

  9. Chas Gallagher says:

    Me, I just do not like ‘Virgin’ in any shape, size or form and I’m currently researching switching to a ‘Mutual’ Building Society.

    1. Not that old really says:

      This. My local Nationwide branch has people with ties (no jackets mind) who seem quite knowledgeable. It’s also nice and quiet.

      1. Tim Hoy says:

        Ties in a pandemic? Any idea how unhygienic they are? They also serve no practical purpose.

      2. Dougie Harrison says:

        I have now been with the Nationwide for a few decades. It is NOT perfect; we live in a capitalist world. But when even the Co-op Bank is no longer a co-op (it is NOT owned by its customers), Nationwide is a mutual. Which means precisely that it IS owned by its account-holders. It doesnie have so many branches; my nearest requires a fifty-minute trip with a change of buses. But it is NOT driven by a need to make ever-bigger profits for shareholders; it is driven to provide a decent service for its owners. Of whom I am one.

    2. maxwell macleod says:

      me too

  10. Rikky Pickle-minus-T says:

    Surely a bank has lost its virginity as soon as the first customer makes a deposit?

  11. Gordon Bruce says:

    Loved this. Before I realised it had been written by Maxwell, I imagined it written, and narrated in his lovely Aussie drawl, by the late Clive James.

    1. Maxwell Macleod says:

      You couldn’t have said anything nicer unless you had said either Ron Ferguson, or Patrick Campbell or Mike Small on the day after he gave up his nationalism. Jesus, its only a joke.

  12. Pub Bore says:

    I do all my financial transactions online. I haven’t used cash in about a year.

    I keep thinking that this would be a good time for the banks etc. to shut their branches and for local people, in voluntary association, to repurpose their premises as one-stop portals, through which people who lack the means to access public and private services online can be facilitated in reaching their full panoply by the same cheery wee faces that currently work behind the counters in banks, post offices, retail outlets, and government offices. This could include the infinite Borgesian Babylon of news, information, and other content services, currently known as ‘libraries’.

    1. maxwell says:

      Interesting, with the collapse of the high street , churches and reduced need for post offices and banks there is certainly going to be a need for new centres for socialisation. I understand that Denmark has a voluntary church tax to maintain buildings and social centres and much else besides. We live in interesting times.

      1. Pub Bore says:

        Yes, I see it as an opportunity to return our high streets to residential use. Almost all of the retail units in my nearest settlement are former townhouses and cottages. A bypass would also help the town’s residents to reclaim their high street, which is currently used as part of a major trunk road, for pedestrian use; a place where weans could play and adults congregate in their leisure time, should they so choose.

        As part of this reclamation, they might also replant the plane trees that were cut down during the ‘streetscaping’, which was undertaken by distant government to enhance the high street as a commercial zone (and, incidentally, increase the flow of traffic through the town’s ‘bottleneck’).

        Understandably, however, the town’s conservative commercial interests tend to be agin sic changes and to lobby government accordingly.

      2. Pub Bore says:

        Think of the collapse of commerce on the high street as an opportunity to reclaim that public space for other forms of association. Perhaps people could still meet under the plane trees rather than in the bank.

  13. Wul says:

    I used to bank with the last independent bank in Scotland (or perhaps UK?), the Airdrie Savings Bank.

    Chosen specifically for its lack of razmatazz and simple, straightforward approach; customers goes in and is served by a knowledgable staff member in privacy. Manager (even more knowledgable and experienced) on hand to deal with any problems. I was even interviewed in person by the manager before being allowed to open a business account, to check my bona fides.

    This prudence meant that they were fully solvent during the banking crash and remained solvent until the day they closed in April 2017 after 182 years.

    At the time, Chairman Jeremy Brettell said: “Whilst we are financially strong, a comprehensive strategic review of all future options concluded that we will not have – as a very small bank – the resources in the years ahead to provide the products and services our customers need in this increasingly digital world.

    1. maxwell macleod says:

      Wull. That’s a remarkable post. I have had a strongly favourable reaction to my own and not only from luddites. The bank you have described seems to be exactly the sort of bank that people want and everybody I have spoken to, and there are many, loathes the depersonalisation of their private money management. One can only hope that the market responds to need, though the forces of digital standardisation seem strong.

  14. Marion Rondot-Hay says:

    I wrote to Richard Branson at the time of the sale (of the name) to ask him not to change the name from the Clydesdale Bank – and gave reasons : West of Scotland tradition etc. I got no reply of course.
    But I still love being able to phone (from France) if I have a problem and getting a Glasgow voice on the other end – and not someone in Karachi. The other day I asked the woman what the weather was like in Glasgow and she said it was tipping down.
    I might stay with them. I’ve been with them for 60 years.

    1. Maureen Kerr says:

      Marion! Fancy meeting you here! This is Maureen – your Innerleithen dancing pal. It’s a small world!

      1. Marion Rondot-Hay says:

        Hi Maureen! Yes, a very small,
        internet-connected world! Are you in Canada? Hope all’s well.

  15. Isobel Anderson says:

    When I married in 1969 I became a joint account holder on my husband’s account with the Clydesdale as did he on my Bank of Scotland Account.

    Over the years most of the time we were reasonably satisfied with the Clydesdale but I am now a widow and had decided to give up one of my two bank accounts. The Bank of Scotland is far from perfect, but at least if I do enter my nearest branch, much nearer than my closest Clydesdale branch, I get service from ladies not wearing ties but at least attired in office smart clothes and looking and sounding businesslike Helpful too, I can sit down beside them while they press all the buttons. If I phone for any reason, I don’t have to wait 20 mins. for a reply. Yes, it is likely to be someone from the Yorkshire Bank but I can cope with that.

    By the time my current cards run out I have no intention of having something that says Virgin Bank on it. I managed to cope with them becoming part of a worldwide Australian organisation etc. but at least during all these take overs they kept the name Clydesdale alive. Last straw. I won’t be using one of these red things.

  16. Niemand says:

    ‘Now I have been happily offering my confidential calls to the bank for some years for their training purposes, but you do wonder how much recorded data they are going to need to write their training manuals’

    I was thinking it could be a gigantic public database running to hundreds of thousands of pages of analyses. It would be an extraordinary resource.

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