I am sure automated answer machines do -in the short term - boost banks profits - but only at a long term cost of infuriated and angry customers. So the moronic bank which I use, HSBC as you ask, returned a cheque which I had tried to pay into my account giving as the reason that 'the payees name has beem omitted' even though my name was wrtitten in big letters on the supposedly blank line. So infuriated I reached for the telphone - what a mistake - a disembodied automated voice answered - asking me to choose from a range of options and then yet more options until at last the inevitable message 'that all our operators are currently busy' to be followed by some truly appalling musical drivel - after about ten minutes of this - with my blood pressure nearing boiling point - some poor girl answered. Now what on earth does the HSBC expect the customer to do next? (a) to be grovelingly grateful that at long last you have an actual human being on the end of the line or (b) to be so furious that you vent your spleen on the unfortunated HSBC employee. Well my guess is that it probably breaks down into 50/50 and no prizes for which option I chose. Not that I am particularly proud of it but seriously what do the banks expect people to do? Sure they will say that by employing such practises it makes their operation more efficient and thus enables them to reduce borrowing costs by a fraction of one per cent. Actually they would have been able to reduce borrowing costs by a lot more than that if they hadn't made, in the case of HSBC, the moroinc business decision to buy an American bank some eight years ago specialising in lending money to people who were unlikely ever to pay it back - so far that has cost HSBC some £5 billion an counting - just think how many intelligent young people they could have hired to answere your calls promptly for a fraction of that sum? As the banks sweat about what new taxes and regulations are going to be imposed on them they might care to remember that every time a customer rings up and gets that disembodied voice asking them to choose from a range of options they have increased the num,ber of people who hate banks with a vengance by one.