It was intended as a light-hearted social media campaign by Scotland’s biggest bank to coincide with Halloween, with an eerie video suggesting one of its Highland offices was haunted.
But the Royal Bank of Scotland’s attempt at a spot of seasonal humour was yesterday hijacked by angry customers who accused the banking giant of leaving their communities like ghost towns after a series of rural branch closures.
The row comes after a new report found the RBS Group, which includes NatWest, was responsible for more than a third of all branch closures across the UK in the past year.
The company’s tongue-in-cheek short film, shot in the style of a 1950s B-movie, aimed to introduce a note of levity to its Facebook page by claiming its Fort William branch was plagued by bogles.
With hammy sound effects and horror movie inspired captions, the 60-second long black and white film, entitled Tales From The Vault, tells of staff hearing disembodied voices, with intercoms ringing when no living soul was present.
One caption explained: “Since 1835 our Fort William branch has stood on the same patch of land and over the years employees have told of doors that are jammed shut then fly open.”
Another added: “Most recently, one employee heard her name whispered in her ear, but looking up, saw her colleague was seated across the room and was told she hadn’t said a word.”
But the tone of the video backfired, with members of the public accusing RBS of wasting money at a time when it is paring back its branch network..
It prompted the social media team at RBS to issue a series of apologies for closures in rural areas, despite making a promise five years ago that its branches would “stay open for business if we are the last bank in town.”
Customer Debbie Moir was among the first to take aim at the bank’s decision to produce the film, warning: “This is not voices from the past but a warning of the future.
“Look out Fort William, they will be closing your branch shortly just like they closed the one in Dufftown.”
A member of the RBS team replied: “Sorry you feel that way Debbie, and that we had to close the Dufftown branch. Please rest assured that the decision was taken with great sadness and regret.”
Another customer, Paul Wilson, also writing in the comments section of the video post, added: “The Stromness branch in Orkney just closed too – thanks very much – so you know where the ‘ghostly whispers’ are coming from.”
Again, the RBS social media team offered their “sincere apologies” for the inconvenience caused by the closure, adding that it offered a pay-in service at Mr Wilson’s local post office.
The state-backed bank has come under fire in recent months for closing rural branches it had once pledged to keep open. It has closed 23 branches in Scotland since the start of the year and plans to shut another 20 before next year.
A report out today by the Move Your Money campaign group found that the RBS Group shut 385 branches across the UK between 2014-15, with 165 branches the last banks in their respective towns.
An RBS spokesman said: “The video is a fun way to engage with our customers on a light-hearted story about one of our branches to mark Halloween.
“The video was never removed from Facebook and we do not censor our customers’ comments or complaints under our adverts or any of our videos.”