Vi is asking about experiences with banks. This is mine.
When I lost my job in 2003 I was, to put it mildly in a bit of a state. Health problems which were blindingly obvious to my employer were still being denied as nothing more than attention seeking by the doctors supposed to be in charge of my care. Diagnosis would come some months down the line, but at the time I had no idea of the underlying cause.
I was left with no option but to apply for benefits. I managed to fight my way through the reams of forms which needed filling in, but in the meantime I had nothing to live on. No wages, no sick pay, no benefits.
To grant my income support, the benefits agency needed certain documents from my employer. They wrote, and then wrote again asking for the relevant items, but there was no response. I phoned my employer (the NHS), they promised to send said documents immediately, but seemed never to get round to it.
In the meantime I had to find some way to pay for the essentials, primarily food and the debt on my car as I was lucky enough to be renting from an old friend prepared to wait for the rent until whenever housing benefit came through. So I went to my bank for advice.
I had limped into the bank with my arm in a sling and fully declared everything I knew about the health issues I had. I was asking for advice on what the best course of action would be between my sick pay finishing and my benefits starting. I had absolutely no income, and as it was the local bank of my branch they had accessed my accounts and had that information in front of them.
I was in such a state both physically and mentally that when the 'personal banker' repeatedly insisted that the best course of action would be to take out a personal loan I believed her. The idea that the advice might be biased towards sales figures and not in my best interests simply never occurred to me.
So, when the advisor repeatedly told me that it would be cheapest for me to take out a £12, 000 loan I believed her. Plus insurance of course. I declared my (very visible) existing health issue and asked if I could be insured. I believed the repeated assurance that as I'd declared my health conditions I would be fully covered by the insurance if for any reason I could not repay the loan. The total, including insurance, turned out to be something like £18, 000 but I would not know that until much later.
It took over four months for my benefits to come through. The irony being that on the day I was diagnosed I found out I was entitled to high rate mobility allowance, back dated to before I took out the loan.
Of course I couldn't pay the loan back. The repayments were around £250 a month. I carried on making the monthly payments for something like a year, having no idea it was possible to access any debt advice. Loan payments meant I literally couldn't afford to eat. So I didn't. I somehow got through a winter where I was quite literally starving and freezing.
It was Star who helped me. She put me in touch with a debt management charity and sent her parents round with a car boot load of food and basic essentials. I am in no doubt that their actions saved my life. The debt management charity were disgusted at what was, of course, a missold loan. Turns out it wasn't unusual for that to happen to people on benefits, particularly those with disabilities. They helped me deal with the bank and set up a token payment each month.
I accept fully that it was my responsibility for taking out the loan and being so stupid. However, I cannot help but blame a bank for pressuring someone so visibly vulnerable into taking such a significant loan whilst fully aware that person had absolutely no income. Oh, and of course the insurance didn't pay out. They refused on the grounds I had a pre-existing condition despite my being able to prove I hadn't known I had the condition at the time.