Thursday, April 16, 2009

Bank on It

My sweetie possesses many wonderful traits. She is bright, humorous, generous, hard-working and passionate about things that deserve passion. That must be why she just doesn't have room to add patience to her finest qualities.

I need to share a story that A) illustrates why I said that and B) serves as a parable that more or less shows the results of cutting off your nose to spite your face. It also shows C) how crappy Australian banks are for customer service, but then I doubt that anyone felt the need for proof of that.

It all started when we received unexpected letters from a bank we will refer to as Westp*c. This bank sent us new Visas telling us that our other cards had been compromised overseas and we needed to start using the new cards as a security precaution.

The letter also indicated that, if these were cards for a new account, we would soon receive a letter with our PIN so we could use the money machines and EFTPOS. However, they did not actually change our account - despite their carelessness in letting bad people get a hold of the details. Instead, they just changed the expiration date, figuring this would be enough to prevent crooks from using them. (Interesting that they were good enough to get all the details of the cards but the expiry date will grind them to a halt.)

Anyhow, this meant we had to trudge over to the bank to get PINs for our new cards. This is the sort of thing we would normally put off for a year or two, but not being able to get cash out of the ATMs did kind of spur us on. I went within a few days, and I accompanied LK when she went on the 8th of April.

Unfortunately, the problem with going to a bank branch is that you encounter bank employees. Or in our case, you see them but they choose not to encounter you. Being snubbed and ignored is something I am learning to adjust to in my retirement. LK isn't there yet.

So, when she finally was told that someone would see her soon but that person then walked off in the other direction, she had enough. "I am taking my money out of this bank," she said.

I think she expected some sort of reaction from the manager or the customer service rep or at least the janitor. But no one really cared. So she closed down the account for her business. (Mind you, that process took about 15 minutes and we would probably have had a new PIN by then. But when my bride decides something has gone beyond the pale, there is no turning back.)

Now, I am going to make this already long story cut to the chase. She made a few mistakes by closing out her business account.

1. That account had nothing to do with the Visa. So two days ago she still had to go back to another branch and spend about 10 minutes waiting for someone to help her change the PIN, at which point she went to a teller demanding that some customer service rep at least come out of wherever they were hiding. And then another 15 or more minutes actually getting it done.

2. She had to open another account at a bank I will call Commonweal*h. There we had great service, but it took about an hour -- that's right, an hour! -- to open a cheque account for her business.

3. The truly lovely customer service rep there forgot to tell us our client number, which is required for us to do online banking, which is how LK pays for many of her company's bills. Today I called up to get that info. I was on hold for 4 minutes until a real person answered me. She said I needed to talk to Net Banking people. Hold for 12 minutes. The really nice person who finally answered there needed to know my telephone banking password. I had no idea. Hold for three minutes as she consulted with her supervisor, who finally devised a series of questions to prove I was who I said.

I finally got my client number. And so, let's tally the amount of time we've spent because they left us waiting about 5 minutes:

15 minutes or so closing down the account
60 minutes opening a new one
20+ minutes for LK finally breaking down and getting the PIN that started this all
20+ minutes for me to get the client number to do online banking.

And if you think karma isn't coming into play once in a while in our lives, I need to tell you that when I finally got my client number I asked if Linda could use the same one. "Oh no," said the customer service rep at the new bank. "Her number is entirely different. She will need to call up and get that herself."

I can only hope they answer on the first ring and give it to her on the first request. I don't think I have the stamina to move the account one more time.

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