Society Magazine

Smack into the Wall

By Seabee
Back in Dubai and I smashed straight into the inevitable wall of frustration.
Sorry but I need to get it off my chest. After all, what's a blog for if it isn't to let off steam. (Feel free to leave at this point before I start).
The first and worst frustration is the bank. No surprise there then for anyone living in the UAE.
Two days of incompetence, of stupidity, of false information, of bank-built barriers to prevent the customer doing the simplest thing. I swear they do it deliberately to make us go away, to stop us asking them for anything.
And I'm still only at the begining of trying to do one very simple thing with them.
Here's the story so far:
I arrived back in Dubai to find a new credit card and new Debit/ATM card waiting for me.
With the Debit/ATM card is a sealed envelope containing a PIN. On the outside it says "Debit/ATM Card PIN."
Inside it says "...PIN to access Debit Card/ATM services..."
Next to the PIN it says "...PIN for Debit Card/ATM Services."
I assumed that means the PIN relates to the Debit/ATM card.
Foolish of me of course, that's apparently not what it means at all.
It tells me to change the PIN, "which can only be done at all HSBC ATM's in the UAE."
There's a sticker on the card itself that tells me to call an 800 number "to select your PIN."  Not a good sign, starting with a contradiction. Only at an ATM...or alternatively by phoning.
I'll be passing an HSBC ATM so I decide to do it there.
Following the prompts I put my Debit/ATM card into the slot, then key in the PIN they've given me. Then I key in the PIN I want to change to.
As requested, I re-key in the PIN I want to change to and I re-key in the PIN they've given me. It tells me the transaction has been successful.
Then it changes its mind and tells me the transaction has failed and I should go to a counter.
I go to a counter.
The cashier tells me I'm using the wrong card, I should have put in my credit card.
I point out that all this PIN stuff came with the Debit/ATM card and that's what it says all over the envelope.
He shrugs and gets on with some important paperwork.
HSBC customer service personified.
I walk steam away, fuming.
I come back and recheck all the paperwork. No, nothing about PINs on the credit card paperwork, the PIN all relates to the Debit/ATM card.
Today I think I'll give the 800 number a try.
Unbelieveable.
You're being talked to by a computer of course, so you have to wait for it to tell you what to do, key in whatever it demands and then it moves on to its next demand.
What they haven't bothered to tell me in advance is that I'll need lots of information at my fingertips to be able to advance through the phone call.
How hard is that? While telling me to call the number to select my PIN they could so very easily have said "you will need the following information".
Here's how the one-way 'conversation' goes:
Please wait while we identify your contact number.
I wait.
To continue in English  press 1.
I press 1.
Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number.
(Dash away to find the numbers, come back and redial. Start all over again).
Please wait while we identify your contact number.
I wait.
To continue in English press 1.
I press 1.
Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.
I obey.
Please key in your full ten digit personal banking number or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.
Scramble for bits of paper trying to find numbers, count the digits to see if I've got the right one. Too late, the computer has lost patience with me and cancelled the call.
Redial and start again.
Please wait while we identify your contact number.
I wait.

To continue in English press 1.
I press 1. Please key in the last six digits of your primary bank account number or primary card number followed by the hash key.
I comply.
Please key in your full ten digit personal banking umber or your full twelve digit bank account number or your full sixteen digit primary card number followed by the hash key.
I obey.
We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records. Please try again.
I do. Very carefully. Digit by digit.
We're sorry, the number you've entered doesn't match our records.
You probably heard the phone slamming down over in Sharjah.
So HSBC wins again. I've done what they always intended me to do, give up, go away and leave them alone.
Now for something completely different, let me tell you about the customer service we enjoyed in one of our ubiquitous franchise restaurants food factories last evening.
The waiter was friendly, pleasant, doing his job to the best of his ability and let me say that I don't for one second criticise him for his lack of English. That's the fault of his employer. People employed in customer service here need to speak English because of our diverse population. But that's not something that concerns the people who employ them, they just bring in job-lots of bodies. Why would it matter if they can't actually give the service customers expect.
We'd been shopping and stopped at Noodle Factory in Dubai Marina Mall for a quick meal.
One of the dishes includes mixed peppers, which we don't like. Mrs Seabee asks the waiter to get the chef to change the peppers for a different vegetable.
Blank look.
Repeat the request worded slightly differently.
Still a blank look.
Try again, in pidgin English.
He sort of gets part of it because he carefully explains that, yes, the mixed peppers come with the chicken.
We try again. Yes we understand that but maybe the chef could replace the peppers with broccoli?
He tells us if we want extra broccoli we have to pay extra.
It's soon after my HSBC run-in and I get very close to losing my temper.
Through gritted teeth and perhaps a little louder than I would normally speak I suggest he just brings whatever he wants to bring.
We push the mixed peppers to one side and eat the meat, vegetable-less.
It's all so unnecessary. Doing the right thing, running a business competently, making it easy for customers to to business with you isn't actually very difficult.
But here there's a universal wilful insistance on doing it the wrong way, running businesses incompetently, making it hard for customers to do business with them.
And I haven't even mentioned their websites.
There, I feel a bit better now. I knew I would.

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