I wasn’t expecting that I would ever have reason to get in touch with you. How wrong I was.
I’ve been aware of you for some time, of course. I’ve seen your bizarre advertising campaign starring some frankly terrifying puppet pensioners.
I’m also aware that you recently followed Kevin Keegan, Geoff from Byker Grove, Alan Shearer, Ant, Dec, and Shola Ameobi (probably) as the City of Newcastle’s newest messiah following your restoration of the St.James’ Park name.
More than anything, though, I’ve been aware of your questionable business model which seems to prey on the stupid and vulnerable with tantalising offers of cash advances on their wages, albeit with an ever so slightly inflated 4200% rate of interest.
I was, however, prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt. I mean, if people are daft and desperate enough to willingly submit to you, then who am I to say they or you are in the wrong? It’s none of my business after all.
However, you’ve recently demanded my attention, haven’t you, Wonga.com? Because, it seems, your own particular brand of moral bankruptcy (no pun intended) stretches far beyond those who opt in to your ‘service’, but also to those who have enough intelligence to know not to touch you with a fifty foot pole.
You see, on Thursday evening, I logged into my online bank account to conduct my financial affairs. You know, the sort of thing your clientele don’t tend to bother doing, hence why they’re your clientele? Only, I was surprised to see that I was in my overdraft, a situation I’m not exactly accustomed to. Again, quite unlike your clientele.
Now, I will confess, I can be forgetful at times, Wonga.com. Organisation isn’t my strong point. So my initial reaction was that it might be my fault, that there was some outgoing that had slipped my mind. I clicked into the account, and saw a name that I was never expecting to see on my bank balance.
It was your name, Wonga.com. Twice. And that’s where the fun began.
You see, forgetful and disorganised as I can be on occasion, I remained fairly certain that I’d not been in touch with you to top up my funds, seeing as I have, in another account, something called ‘SAVINGS’… again, a strange concept to those you normally mix with. And with that sure certainty that I’d had no money from you in the first place, I was doubly sure that you had no right to remove the near £800 sum that had disappeared from my account.
So, straight onto the phone I went to give my bank a call and report this obvious fraudulent activity on my account, only to be told that the first port of call would be to contact you directly to try and straighten things out.
Have you ever seen the Channel 4 sitcom, ‘Peep Show’, Wonga.com?
If not, you should, it’s really rather good.
Anyway. There’s an episode of Peep Show where one of the show’s main protagonists, Mark Corrigan, is mugged by a gang of youths. They made off with his wallet and Blackberry if I recall rightly. It was funnier than it sounds.
Later in the episode, Mark meets some of his assailants’ accomplices in his local fried chicken emporium in a hopeful effort to retrieve his possessions. Deep down, he knows they have no intention of returning what’s rightfully his, yet he still spends his time and money in the hope that they may come good.
I was put in mind of that scene when trying to deal with your customer services helpline, Wonga.com.
You see, it’s not the best experience. From the almost inaudible menu of options, to your staff’s surly and often rude manner, to your system’s tendency to suddenly cut people off, it’s a veritable cavalcade of misery.
Having finally managed to complete a conversation with your operator, during which I reluctantly submitted my debit card details having been told that my case couldn’t be investigated without them, I was promised that your fraud prevention department would be in touch the following day.
Now, I’m a perpetually single fellow, Wonga.com. I’m well used to waiting for phone calls or messages which never come. But then, most of the time the people involved haven’t stolen a fair wedge of my hard earned, so I’m able to let it slide.
Your call, though, Wonga.com, I was particularly anxious to receive. But it never came. It never came.
So I called you. And again it was difficult. The first time, I was halfway through the conversation when I entered a tunnel and got cut off (I was on a train you see). I’ll let you off on that one.
The second time, I was again inexplicably cut off. The levels of apoplexy were rising at this point.
The third one, in hindsight, was my particular favourite. You see, my call was answered by a gentleman who strangely chose simply to answer the call by saying ‘Goodbye’ before immediately hanging up the phone, a curious event which was, brilliantly, followed by an automated customer satisfaction survey. I’m afraid he scored 1/5 on all counts, and that was only because my attempt to enter a zero on my keypad was rejected.
Finally, I managed to reach somebody, who told me that the promise to contact me that day had never been made (it bloody had), and that I would, in fact, be made to wait ‘at least 48 hours’ and ‘possibly up to a week’ to have my case investigated before my cash could be returned. Quite what there is to investigate about the theft of almost £800 from somebody who has never been one of your customers is quite beyond me, Wonga.com, but it seems that this is par for the course for you, doesn’t it?
Because, as all of this was unfolding, I’m afraid I was complaining about you on Twitter. And through doing this, I was made aware of the ‘Expose Wonga Fraud’ feed (@aloadofWonga), which outlines the staggering amount of people who you seem to be allowing this to happen to.
The press are on to you, too. Yet still, this appears to be happening.
So, why am I writing to you Wonga.com?
Do I want compensation? No. I don’t think I could handle the shame of receiving a payment from you, regardless of the circumstance.
Do I want an apology? It would be nice, but I have no faith whatsoever that it would be in any way sincere. You’ve already stolen from me and then lied to me, after all.
All I want is for you to answer one question. Just one. Do you think you can do that for me?
Why oh why oh why, Wonga.com, do you continue to pay your loans into one account, and then accept your repayment from entirely different accounts which aren’t even registered in the same bloody name?
Just an answer to that. That’s all I want, Wonga.com, because right now it seems that you’re willingly revving the online getaway car outside the online bank that the online thieves are robbing, and it’s just not right.
Oh, by the way. Such was your unwillingness to help, my bank has now, finally, agreed to accept this as a fraud and to reimburse me following your failure to do so. And don’t worry, they’ll be on the receiving end of a few choice words as well.
They did tell me a couple of interesting things about you, though. Reading between the lines, it seems they’re not happy with your fraud prevention techniques AT ALL.
The way you’re going, Wonga.com, perhaps Newcastle United fans could be looking for their next messiah sooner than they think. My money’s on a resurgent Jimmy Nail. Once you give it back to me, obviously.
You know it is. It really is.
Thomas T. Parker.
EDIT 1st May 2013: Updating this following a BBC Watchdog report this evening. Have removed the update from last October which said I was satisfied with their response, because, in hindsight, I don’t believe they were doing anything but trying to shift the blame.
Their excuse, at the time, was that one of my immediate neighbours (those with precisely the same postcode as me) were the only ones who could possibly have been responsible. At first, shocked, I believed this could be true. However, it’s just not the case. My neighbours are largely middle aged/elderly folk on a fairly middle class street. To blame them is crap, I’m not having it.
The other reason that I’ve retracted my earlier statement is their statement on Watchdog earlier this evening, boasting of hassle free resolution payments and quick repayment to those affected.
In my case, as outlined above, the procedure was tedious, painful, dull and unhelpful. The only point at which I received a phonecall from them was when I posted this blog and they spotted it. PR crisis management masquerading as customer service. I’m embarrassed to have briefly fallen for it.
In the end, after days of struggle, it was Lloyds TSB who gave me my money back. Wonga refused to do this, repeatedly.
It was Lloyds TSB who compensated me, it was they who apologised. Wonga just palmed me off, hoping they would get away with it. Let’s not allow that.
Their statement on Watchdog was a laughable lie, and I’m calling them on it. As should everyone affected.