Barclays: the online bank that doesn’t Excel

One of the most hateful parts of running a small business is having to do the dreaded quarterly VAT return. I’ll probably stun you when I tell you I do this myself, using Excel for my accounts. I could, of course, use any one of a range of accounts packages to perform the task in a more adult fashion, but Excel works for us, and our accountants are happy with it.

Barclays: the online bank that doesn't Excel

Getting hold of all the relevant banking and credit card data is a pain, though. Can you believe Barclays doesn’t hold enough data online to do the accounts of a small business’ quarterly VAT return? Yes, I can download a PDF, but if I want raw numbers in CSV or some other money-orientated file format, I’m fresh out of luck – my data has scrolled off the end into the bit bucket.

Things deteriorate even further if you choose to download a bunch of transactions as an XLS file

Things are worse still over at Barclaycard Commercial, where the user interface was evidently designed by someone deranged. It’s also extremely buggy on some browsers, and many of its menu functions simply don’t work. You’d think browser testing would be standard in 2013, but no.

Things deteriorate even further if you choose to download a bunch of transactions as an XLS file. Now, this is merely a “download as XLS” feature, not open-heart surgery. You’d think it would just work. On my Mac, I downloaded it, opened Excel 2011 and tried to open the file. It told me it couldn’t, claiming “Excel does not recognise this file format. This file may have been created in an application that is not compatible with Excel”, and offering the options OK and Cancel. I pressed OK and, after a pause, the file opened. Why the spurious, needlessly alarming error message?

Curious, I tried Excel 2013 on Windows 8. Here, I received a slightly warmer spurious warning: “The file you are trying to open is in a different format than specified by the file extension. Verify that the file is not corrupted and is from a trusted source before opening the file. Do you want to open the file now?” After pressing Yes, the file opened.

I raised this with Barclaycard Commercial support, who went away and thought about it for a while. In the end, they said: “They have advised you to try and download the file with a computer that is not a Mac, as unfortunately we do not fully support the Mac yet”. Given that it barfs in Excel 2013 for Windows, too, it would seem it doesn’t support Windows, either.

I pointed this out, and expressed my surprise at the apparent lack of testing by Barclaycard Commercial. What’s its problem? My guess is that its developers use a third-party XLS-creating library that spits out old-fashioned files that current versions of Excel don’t like. That’s fine, I can cope with that. It’s the lack of testing and subsequent Mac-blaming that really isn’t on.

Today, I had a phone call saying my “official complaint has been registered” and that Barclaycard Commercial is “looking into it”. Maybe my toys-out-of-pram email – informing the company that I’d be telling all you readers about this – finally reached the right ears. I’ll report any further news.

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