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Staying ahead in the name game

I was born in 1945. My mother had a crush on an actor called Melvyn Douglas and I was given the same Christian name.

In 1972, when I joined the National Provident Institution, I replaced somebody with the same Christian name. He had been referred to as “Mel” and, subsequently, so was I.

Time passed and, in the post-Spice Girls era, almost everyone employed in insurance companies was of an age when the name “Mel” was automatically assumed to be female. Virtually all of the replies sent to me begin with “Dear Ms Boustead”. This I have grown to accept.

What I do find irritating, however, is that many communications are not grammatically accurate. Frequently they begin “Dear Mel Boustead” rather than “Dear Mel” or “Dear Mr Boustead”. Sometimes they begin “Dear Boustead”.

I would never dream of writing to a client in so lax a manner. I realise that part of this is because we are now in the Christian name culture. Ring any call centre and eventually, when you get to speak to a human, you will be greeted with: “Hi, my name is Darren, how can I help you?” What we would all like to hear is: “My name is Darren Price and my extension is 5213. Please make a note of this so that when you call back you will be able to speak to me because I will know what it is about.”

I had a problem recently, which was being investigated by someone at Fidelity, who gave me their telephone extension. When I rang back, I had the devil&#39s own job trying to persuade the individual who answered in the call centre to put me through to the relevant person. I expect that, by the time I retire, some bright spark will have the idea that “pieces of work” should be processed by one person, rather than anyone who picks up the phone, and we will revert to the methods used when I first joined this fine,sbut now failing, industry.

Mel Boustead

Barbican Independent Financial Advisers



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