The world’s dimmest bank (staff)  

Friday, 22 August 2008

There’s nothing quite like the level of irritation that can be achieved when the thin veil of marketing bullshit is ripped asunder to reveal a reality of total incompetence. Such was the case today with my experience at HSBC – the one that likes to portray itself as the “world’s local bank”. 

The wife has an HSBC account. She is in Tokyo and needs to get some money from her account. Japan has cash machines that work with UK cash cards. Tokyo has a branch of HSBC. You’d be excused for thinking that, in such circumstances, the withdrawal of a few Yen from a local cash machine would present few problems for a customer of ‘the world’s local bank’. You’d be wrong, of course.

It appears that HSBC is only the world’s local bank for people within the UK. Travel beyond the borders of Great Britain and HSBC immediately blocks your card from being used unless you have informed them in advance. How convenient.

Especially if, like my missus, you don’t speak English that well. So it now appears that the world's local bank is only local if a) you are in the UK and b) you speak English.

So basically, the situation is this: The wife is in Tokyo with a bank card she can't use. The Tokyo branch if HSBC can't deal with UK accounts and the wife can't understand HSBC's outstandingly obscure and utterly ridiculous automated phone banking service. And when she does eventually get through to a human being..."Hello, my name is Gupta...." - an imbecile who can barely speak English himself. So, basically, that's the end of the conversation.

I really didn't want to get involved in this, but I felt duty bound to try and get somebody within HSBC to carry out the simple task of unblocking the wife's card so she can get her money. Given that we have between us 4 bank accounts at HSBC, and that I've been a customer for over 10 years, you'd think that would be easy. Wrong again. I hadn't reckoned on the potent combination of the Data Protection Act as administered by the inept pillocks that HSBC refer to (without a trace of irony) as “customer support executives”.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I walked into the branch: I counted at least six vacant-looking junior bank staff hovering around the “customer support desk” like a bunch of lobotomised vultures. My objective was to carve my way through this cannon fodder as quickly as possible in the hope of reaching someone with a brain. The first idiot was dispatched easily enough: The glassy, uncomprehending gaze that greeted my query showed that with one telling blow I had taken this doorstop well beyond her comfort zone. “I’ll get my supervisor”, she stuttered. Next up was the 20 year old expert. “I’m a customer services advisor, actually”, he sneered as he stood arms folded in front of me. “That’s nice”, I retorted. “Now run along and find someone who knows about banking, there’s a good boy.” Ego crushed, he skulked away muttering. I was ushered into a cubicle, wherein sat a girl of perhaps 24 years, with an IQ to match. “You want to draw some money out in Japan?” enquired the animated vegetable. My eyes turned skyward as I uttered a silent prayer for strength in what promised to be an epic – and as it turned out, pointless – quest to get someone to empathise with my predicament. “No, you don’t quite understand,” I said as quietly and as gently as my rising tide of irritation would allow.

What followed was 40 minutes of pure Victor Meldrew-style mayhem, eventually involving the branch manager (IQ 30) and various drones from the HSBC call centre (with a collective IQ in minus figures). I won’t go into the various tortuous paths my arguments took as I tried to illuminate what was clearly a difficult concept for them to grasp. But essentially, my point was this: My wife would like to get her money;she can’t because you’ve blocked her card. She can’t unblock her card because she can’t understand the instructions that Gupta in your call centre is giving her. As well as effectively being robbed by the bank, this means of course that she also can’t tell them about a change of address, meaning that all her bank statements will now be seen by whoever ends up living here next. They won’t talk to me, citing Data Protection as justification, while completely failing to grasp the fact that their actions will inevitably result in exactly the situation the Data Protection Act was intended to prevent. 

In other words, they are plain bloody stupid. The kind of wooden plank, arrogant stupidity that denies any possibility of responding to a reasoned argument. You’d have more luck talking to the desk. I even tried that at one point, but to no avail.

I find it hard to understand how every one of these morons has probably got a zillion A levels and yet they are functioning at the intellectual level of a turnip. What happened to initiative? Empathy? An appreciation of the fact that rules sometimes need to be relaxed? Why can’t they just do what is obviously the right thing to do instead of repeating the rule book parrot-fashion? The answer is; education, education, education – or lack thereof.

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