There are six little words that strike terror into the heart of anyone forced to utter them: "I'm just popping to the bank." While stood in the dejected queue, shuffling forwards a millimetre every five minutes, staring at the broken paying-in machine and wondering why there's eight windows but only two tellers, we start to ponder: why does going to the bank have to be such a chore? Being the gadget-crazy Cravers we are, we wonder why technology hasn't transformed the high-street bank the way it's transformed so many other parts of our lives. We were overjoyed, then, to see how Barclays is pointing the way towards stress-free banking of the future with its new flagship branch in Piccadilly Circus: multiple types of cash machine, free Internet access, staff with tablet PCs and, if you can afford it, a chance to finger a Microsoft Surface.
The branch is located where Burger King used to be if, like us, you use the fast-food-outlet method of navigation. It opened in December 2008, and is rammed with technology to make the banking experience much less of a chore.
When you walk in, you'll spot a crowd of cash machines to your right, and a large interactive video wall to your left. The wall shows off Being:London, which allows you to look for things to do in the city. It's totally unrelated to banking, but is geared towards the many tourists milling about the West End in brightly coloured windbreakers.
Floor staff with Samsung Q1 Ultra tablet PCs can help you with simple tasks, or you can head for the counter, where you don't need to shout because there aren't any screens. There's a mezzanine level for chats with personal bankers, free Internet access, and plasma screens flicking between BBC News 24 and Barclays ads.
If you're a premier customer -- ie, if you're rich or daft enough to fork out extra for the privilege -- then you can access the premier lounge. Here businessfolk can use the meeting room and business facilities, and also take advantage of three Microsoft Surfaces.
Sadly, privacy issues mean that you can't yet slap your bank card down on the Surface to access your account. Instead, you can call up information about Barclays. This includes videos, which can be resized by moving your fingers apart, and interactive leaflets, which can be moved and rotated with a swipe or a swoop of your fingertip.
We can't wait for these technologies to trickle down into our local branch, but we're not holding our breath. Click through the pictures to see just how much better than your local branch the flagship Barclays is, as we check out the clever uses of technology, find out how the counter is kept secure, and go beneath the Surface.