Friday, November 21, 2014


You have received a secure message

One of the most efficient and logical ways of getting a message through to someone has to be to send them a quick email. Now that we've all mastered the art of sending and receiving email, where do we go from here? Tell you what, let's make it ridiculously long-winded and complicated so as to cause maximum frustration for the recipient. Why the hell not?

The worst offender in my opinion has to be National Savings and Investments, a government-run organisation already notorious for their bureaucratic bungling. These are the people responsible for administrating the management of Premium Bonds, which in the UK is a kind of safe lottery where you enter a monthly prize draw without ever risking the loss of your stake money.

If you choose to do this online you'll be notified of any prizes you've won by email, only they won't simply tell you, "congratulations you're a millionaire". Of course not, that would be too easy; instead they'll send you a message to inform you that you've received a secure message you can read by logging into the Premium Bonds web site and checking your Premium Bonds inbox. Whenever this happens I sense the announcement should be ushered in with a fanfare of trumpets to mark this magnanimous occasion... and each time I'm disappointed.

Just a quick matter of entering an easy to remember username and password then? Not a chance! You first need to know your eleven character long NS&I ID number (not your 'holder's number', that's something different again), which can be found on a paper document you received in the post however many years ago you first started investing in Premium Bonds. Then you need to find the randomly generated password they chose for you when you signed up (and can no longer remember), and select certain characters included in it from a drop down box rather than just typing it into a text field.

If you forget any of these details, don't worry, you can download a form, print it out, complete it and snail mail it to NS&I, and they'll send this information to you, also by snail mail (because phone or email isn't secure)... no doubt using an address you vacated five years ago despite filling in your current one on the form. What about the terrorists hiding under your bed? They could pounce on the letter and steal your life savings, identity and soul before you've even wiped the sebum out of your eyes. Didn't think of that one did you NS&I?

If the web site doesn't then time-out, insisting you start again from the beginning, you can then navigate to your Top Secret, Super-Special Premium Bonds Inbox. Yes, the one you only use for receiving Premium Bonds related correspondence with roughly the same frequency as we witness a solar eclipse on each Friday the 13th during a leap year.

You persevere with this rigmarole merely because there's the faintest prospect that you might have won a cash prize, only to realise that when you've jumped through all these hoops, they're actually getting in touch to tell you that line 63 of page 717 of their Terms and Conditions tome has been updated. The chances are an i has been crossed or a t dotted somewhere, though obviously nothing has changed that actually makes a difference to anyone's life, other than the fact you're now older and have less time left to enjoy on this planet.

Are there any worse examples? Feel free to share them below.