Why I don’t prefer eBay

I rarely buy something online. One major purchase I did was my phone (Sony Ericsson w950i) more than 2 years ago. The MRP in the market was INR 27,999.00 and there was a Diwali offer for SBI Credit Card holders that gets us the piece at INR 11,800.00. I read the reviews on various sites and finally placed the order on November 1st 2007.

I might have heard a dozen bad stories of online purchases as soon as I clicked ‘Submit’ and announced that am all excited about my new phone; someone had ordered a INR 2500.00 saree as a birthday gift to her mother and she was disappointed that what she received is hardly worth 250.00, someone else had ordered a jacket on rediff and received a wind-cheater, another buddy ordered a home theater and received two small speakers worth less than INR 100.

I didn’t think all the transactions would go bad. There might be some bad vendors who’s business is to cheat but was trusting on my deal. Site is Indiatimes shopping and payment on offer using SBI credit card. I waited for 7 days and received my phone in good condition, which I am still using now. So, I lost that nervous feeling about buying stuff online.

My next adventure was with eBay. I first wanted to test how it works- so I ordered an inexpensive vacuum cleaner for car. Price was INR 249.00 and it didn’t work as expected. I contacted the vendor through eBay process and got the piece exchanged. It still doesn’t work and is lying in my shoe rack now. I wanted to break it open and see what’s inside so didn’t throw it away, yet.

Since then, eBay religiously sends me an occasional “10% off on iPod” email regularly. I wanted to stop the notification and logged in to edit the preferences. I guess everyone at eBay has the duration ‘up to 14 days’ on the tip of the tongue. They need 14 days to save my checkbox against “no email” too? Too much.

SBH ‘Explore’d

I hope you’ve read my earlier experiences with banks. I should be a tough customer for everyone; why else would I have a terrible experience with every bank? Or, may be my stay in ‘Customer Support’ arena for the last 8 years (all my career!) forces me to look at service in a different way.

You can access my earlier posts about Emotional banking, HDFC (here, here and here), UTI, ICICI, SBI and Credit card calls right on this blog.

This one is with State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH). This is the first bank I opened an account with, when in graduation. My dad and uncle wanted me to have an account of my own to start savings (I used to earn OK with tuitions and stuff back then) but the idea of showing off a cheque book was more appealing than savings, so I did open one.

I used it for a while, with not many issues. Until I got my first salary account (with all those free transactions, zero balance, ATM card and Internet banking), I thought standing in line for 20 minutes to withdraw Rs. 300/- was perfectly normal. Then I realized I didn’t have to keep track of the bank holidays and timings (10.00 am – 2.30 pm) anymore. So, I started using ICICI more than SBH. And then someday soon I had already forgotten I had an account with SBH. And then I discovered my ‘passbook’ in some old files.

I took it to the bank and inquired about the balance. By then, they had supposedly changed the account number format twice and it took 45 minutes in the line to get a new account number and passbook with dotmatrix print (It was pen and paper before). Yeah, everytime I asked to have my passbook updated with the transactions, they put the complete book in the printer. How kool?

Then I saw an advertisement on billboard or newspaper that SBH has come up with ATM cards. I had one from ICICI already but why not another one if I have an option? How kool would it be to flash two ATM cards when someone asks if I have a bank account, haan? So, I went to the bank and requested an ATM card for my account.

The first person I approached looked surprised and answered “We don’t have an ATM card for SBH! If you are so much into technology and advanced banking, you have to go to one of those corporate banks like ICICI, HDFC or GTB”. Yep, Global Trust Bank was one of the well known banks then, unfortunately no more now.

I wanted to talk to the manager. Not very surprised this time, I received the same answer from manager. I actually had to get the newspaper cutting and show him that SBH has an ATM card. I wonder how it happened that a branch manager had no information about it. He then inquired with some assistants and gave me an application form.

Six weeks later, I received the card and after another two weeks, and may be 5-6 visits to the branch, I got the ATM pin. All was well till April first week, 2006.

Two days before I left to US on a corporate trip, I lost my wallet. I lost all the ATM cards with some good amount of cash I saved to get new shoes and stuff. I managed to block the credit cards and ATM cards from other banks. Till today I didn’t even bother to visit SBH branch and/ or block the card, it’s almost 4 years now!

Today on my way to office, I saw a billboard that talked about “SBH Explore”. It’s a new face of SBH with all the corporate banking features. Wow, if the technology allows me to access my account without standing in line at the branch, I wanted to give it a try. I walked into office, opened a browser and searched for the URL. I didn’t have any luck at first but then I visited Wikipedia page to get the official site there. And guess what? I see this message below. Cheers SBH! 🙂

Com’on, they forgot to renew the domain name? Huh!

Pure Banking. Nothing Else!

The moment I opened my mailbox I could see one of the email subjects

RE:’CaseID=001-152-985’Credit card…

and I knew what the content was. Well, I was not trying guessing the response to my question or something in similar lines. I literally knew what the response was! (Because it’s the same email I receive for ANY question/ request)

Believe it or not – some companies advertise the real status on TV and we perceive it as different/ innovative/ special/ simple etc. (typically all positive impressions). Do you remember the SBI ad with a tagline “Pure Banking. Nothing Else”? They really mean it.

When I said ‘yes’ to an SBI Credit Card, I assumed that it was part of ‘Pure Banking’. The ‘Customer Service’ part, however, was moved to ‘Nothing Else’ section. Here is an example of my interaction with SBI Customer Care, which I think (am not sure) is handled by GE now.

sbiI never received my credit card, but two statements so far! One of those reps themselves called and informed that the card was returned undelivered. I thought ‘wow!’ for the information and checked if they can send it again. Then the trouble started. Any number of times I call, the rep has the same answer: “I made a note of this and our manager will call you within 2 working days”. I wonder if they worked 2 days yet since Jan 2007 [because no one called me yet!].

I thought, let me try ‘e[mail]’ way, and may be, some sensible person is around in that area. Irrespective of my question/ concern/ request, I receive this email ONLY:

Dear Mr. Reddy,

Thank you for writing to SBI Cards.This is with reference to your communication dated March 08, 2007 regarding your SBI card account.

SBI Card Related: We have taken note of your request, and would like to assure you that the same is under consideration. We would be intimating you shortly on the status of the same.

In case of any further queries on the SBI Card, we would request you to reply at feedback.gesbi@ge.com without altering the subject line or call our 24 hours, 7 days a week, at our local Helpline number 39020202 or 1800-1801290 (for BSNL and MTNL users).

Yours sincerely,
Manager – Customer Service

A couple of times I also replied asking what my request was and what was taken into consideration, because I receive their reply after a week of my initial question!

Now, I don’t know where my card is and I assume none at SBI (or GE) has the information. Oh, yes, in the initial email, I was told that I wrote my address incorrectly somewhere, the reason for the card being returned undelivered. I still wonder how I receive the bill/ statement regularly every month! And, did I mention that I received 4 ATM PINs for this missing card to my mailing address till now?

B(l)ank calls

How many calls do you receive from banks every day/ week? Irrespective of the number, bank calls sometimes are as annoying as blank calls. Most of the callers [banks] want to know if I need a credit card. Any answer wouldn’t stop them from talking further. I would say, most of them won’t even listen to what we say! All of them have a standard paragraph, features of the card I guess (I’ve never concentrated, either!) that they have to complete before the call is over. And irrespective of our response, they always ask “Are you interested? Shall I send my executive?”

I’ve finally figured out a few ways that can keep them away from me. My favourite is, I tell them that I do have a Credit Card already from some bank or the other. They will need the [latest] statement as part of the documentation, may be to check the past record if my bills are paid on time. I simply refuse, saying it’s ‘confidential’. Some even tried convincing me: “What happens saar? Its just bank document no? Please give only xerox copy no?”. I asked for their credit card numbers just like that. They wouldn’t want to disclose their’s because it’s ‘confidential’ again! Why the hell would I have to disclose mine??

True, not to blame the reps calling us, but I guess all banks need someway or the other to increase the customer count. And this is the most annoying! And answering atleast a couple of calls everyday is quite an inconvenience for me too!

OR, there’s another idea. If you have some rep still insisting that you give them some documentation/ an appointment to their executive, ask for their home/ personal telephone number.

Am sure they would refuse/ object to that. Just add “So it’s okay you call me on my personal number but I can’t call you?”

More often that you’d think, that should make them understand. 🙂

Nothing’s free in Free-for-Lifetime Card

I found an informative article on the IBN website. Most of the questions like the ones listed below are answered. Check out, just in case:

  • credit-cardWhat is the difference between Gold Cards, Classic Cards and Platinum? Whenever you have given an upgrade, it is always a good idea to take it?
  • What are these Free-For-Lifetime Cards? Are they ever totally free?
  • What must you do as a consumer, keeping in mind that it is not a safe world out there?
  • How safe are credit card transactions Online? We see Online shopping booming and at the same time there are lots of Online crime – how safe is it?
  • How wise are EMI schemes and what should consumers really watch out for?

Click this link for complete questions and answers.