A woman who has been mistaken for a man on the phone for a decade because of her deep voice has resorted to posing as a bloke called Derek to avoid confusion.
Lorraine Chademunhu, 42, says contacting her bank on the phone is nearly impossible due to her being constantly quizzed on her identity every time she rings up.
The mum-of-two, from Chessington, Surrey, claims her low voice means she spends ‘at least 20 minutes’ arguing back and forth with a member of staff before they’ll give her any information over the phone.
You can watch one such interaction below:
Despite having always had a deep voice, Lorraine said it never used to be an issue because she could visit the bank in person. However, when her local branch of Barclays closed, she was told she had to use telephone banking.
Which is when the problems began, because employees always assumed they were speaking to a man. Lorraine, who is a nurse, said she feels ‘insulted’ and ‘humiliated’ every time it happens.
The frustrated mother explained:
I can’t even add up the amount of hours I’ve spent on the phone being passed from pillar to post. I get it all – ‘Sir’, Mr Lorraine, buddy, the list goes on. I tell them you are speaking to Lorraine and then they just turn around and say ‘well is she there?’.
I try to avoid using telephone banking as much as I can. But if I lose my wallet, my card or can’t log into my online banking I have no choice.
Despite having had the same problems with her bank for approximately 10 years, Lorraine claims it never gets better. Each time she makes a formal complaint, staff tell her they have added a note on her account for future employees – but the mum said it doesn’t make a difference.
The confusion doesn’t lie solely with her bank either; the 42-year-old said she’s mistaken for a man when booking tables in restaurants, phoning the AA when she has a breakdown, and calling someone to fix the house.
So much so that she’s taken to calling herself ‘Derek’ whenever she rings someone new, to save the hassle of having to explain that she is, in fact, a woman. ‘I just go along with being a man to make life easier,’ she explained.
The mum-of-two said she is ‘used to’ those situations and can understand where the confusion stems from because ‘my voice is deep’. However, she stressed: ‘When it’s my own personal account and I’ve told them time and time again about it, it’s just poor customer care.’
I provide them with my mother’s maiden name, the address I have lived at for years but none of it is good enough. I do get that security measures are a thing but this isn’t as if this has happened, once, twice or even just a dozen times.
It’s almost like I have to grow a pair of balls. It’s the same conversation over and over again. Yes and no back and forth. I didn’t ask for this voice. I’ve just had enough.
The nurse said she has had her account blocked multiple times because of her mistaken identity, and on one occasion went out of her way to go into a branch to avoid confusion – only to be told she had to phone up customer services anyway.
Explaining how she rang up while in the branch, Lorraine said she had to pass the phone across to an employee for them to confirm she was actually who she said she was. ‘I had to hear them having a chat about whether or not I was a woman, they looked me up and down before chucking and saying “I know”,’ she added.
Lorraine described the incident as ‘humiliating’, saying she left the branch in tears despite having only gone in for a simple transaction.
A spokesman for Barclays said:
We have apologised to Miss Chademunhu for the inconvenience she has experienced. Protecting our customers’ accounts is our top priority, and we have robust measures in place to identify and verify a customer when they call.
We have reached out to Miss Chademunhu to implement a verification process that will identify her more quickly in the future.
Hopefully something can be arranged soon so that Lorraine doesn’t find herself in a similar situation again.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).