18 Sep2013

The stupidest F#@K&^! phone banking menu I have EVER come across, period. It is so INANELY AND RIDICULOUSLY IDIOTIC that it’s funny in the extreme. That a bank as large and supposedly GLOBAL as HSBC would have such an absurd dead loop is beyond me. And I once worked for them, I am bemused to say.

Not more than an hour ago:

Marketman: Opens courier delivered envelope with my new credit card. Old card not expired but cancelled by HSBC because of suspected internet fraud, and there were issues with phone banking a few days ago when I tried to call in…

Marketman: Follows instructions on letter to call 85-808 to “activate” the new card.

HSBC Premier Recording: “If you are reporting a lost or stolen card, Press 1, otherwise stay on line… so I stay on line…”

HSBC Premier Recording: lots of choices to look at accounts, credit cards, etc. but NO, ZERO, NADA OPTION for activating a card.

Marketman: Screams at phone, partially aghast as I wasted 30 minutes the other day trying to figure out how to speak to a human when there were no choices to pick for a card that was being suspended on suspicion of potential internet fraud.

HSBC Premier Recording: Keeps going and asks me to pick things I don’t need. THEY NEVER ONCE MENTION THE OPTION TO PRESS ZERO FOR A HUMAN.

Marketman: In desperation, and vaguely recalling my previous battle on the phone days ago, MM pounds on the ZERO key to no avail the first time around. It isn’t recognized as an acceptable option. Then I pound on it 3, 4, 5 times and FINALLY get transferred to a queue of several minutes waiting for a human.

HSBC Premier Phone Banker (human): “Good evening, this is Sasha, how may I help you?”

Marketman: I want to activate my card. MM then answers Sasha’s 6 questions to make sure I am real and authorized. Credit card number… Name… My birthday is… My Name of spouse… Name of child… Name of branch… My shoe size (no, I jest)… But even some of this is ridiculous, the phone system asks you to type in the card name, asks for your birthday if you don’t have a phone pin, so asking it verbally is superfluous…

HSBC Premier Phone Banker (human): “Your card is now activated.”


HSBC Premier Phone Banker (human): “Yes sir, I understand…. we are working on putting that option… this is a frequently encountered issue… we have had other complaints (I paraphrase, and that is not verbatim, but it is the jist of the exchange).”

Marketman: “Isn’t that just mental? Stupid? Ridiculous? You actually acknowledge that there is IN FACT NO STATED OPTION FOR ACTIVATING A CARD on the system? And that if the caller doesn’t figure out by osmosis that he or she has to pound on the zero key repeatedly that they will be cut off from the system again and again?”

HSBC Premier Phone Banker (human): “Yes, sir.”

Marketman: “Hold on, my wife Mrs. MM needs to activate her card, she just dialed up on another phone and the system cut her off. Can you at least do that for us?”

HSBC Premier Phone Banker (human): “Yes.”

Marketman and Mrs. MM: Hangs up once both cards are activated.


I’m sorry, but this is 2013. Phone banking has been in use for perhaps a decade or more. What nitwit put the current HSBC Premier Phone Banking menu in place that DOES NOT HAVE AN OPTION FOR ACTIVATING A NEW CARD WHEN THE LETTERS TELL THEM TO CALL 85-808? And on the same vein, the same phone banking system has no option to discuss a card that is suspected of internet fraud, when it is HSBC that texts the client about the issue and asks them to call 85-808? Working on it they say? For 4-5 FRIGGING DAYS? Surely this is a matter of some significance and the folks at phone banking can change or amend the script with some haste. Hundreds of irate clients calling in daily are met with the most FECKLESS sounding and acting menu of choices. UTTERLY ABSURD. INEXPLICABLY STUPID.

The person in charge of that particular phone banking script should be FRIED, oops, I meant FIRED in my personal opinion only. If they can’t write a script that is complete, that is relatively logical and easy to use, and that includes all of the likely categories of things callers are going to need, then they SCREWED UP BIG TIME. It’s not only unprofessional, it smacks of not having been vetted or reviewed by managers who were on the ball either. With dozens of people noticing this GLITCH over the past few days (that I know of, possibly weeks for all I know), you would think they could get this fixed ASAP. Or at least insert an option to tell people to press ZERO if they need to talk to a human. Imagine the angst dozens of phone bankers are going to endure as hundreds of clients point out this glitch in the system? Good grief folks, what century are you operating in???

SO THE MORAL OF THIS STORY??? When you need to get a human on the line at HSBC, pound on the zero key repeatedly. Believe it or not, they NEVER give this as an option, I just figured it out in a fit of frustration.

AND A WARNING TO ALL BANKS OUT THERE… Credit cards and their associated services (or lack of them) will be your achilles heel for premium clients… It is the weakest link in a client relationship, and the one that will get clients to move the bulk of their business to banks with real service.

P.S. If any HSBC executives out there are reading this post, and there is a high chance of that happening, I called in at around 8:30pm on Wednesday, 18 September 2013. You can check the recording for a totally accurate take on the call. You know the name of the HSBC phone banker from up above and can easily figure out which client this refers to… :)



  1. Marixie says:

    Of course !!! Remember you are in the PHILIPPINES..I hate to disparage Filipinos, they are really trying to be in tune with the rest of global technology, but somehow they are not there yet… And I doubt if the person who finally answered your phone call understood your rantings and ravings in English!! Tagalugin mo na para maintindihan at sumiksik sa kaniyang kaisipan!! And even then, chances are she /he is not going to collect the data of all previous botched attempts at activation and its irate customers and discuss these in their nexr QUALITY ASSURANCE meeting, because Pinoys have this laissez faire attitude that if it does not affect them directly, nothing will be done.

    Sep 18, 2013 | 11:22 pm


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  3. jestonijohn says:

    MM, I think it HSBC is on the rocks doing business in the country, their website is totally outdated. and you cant even apply a credit card online in their website. Things have never been the same @ HSBC since 2009. HSBC had to quash some rumors pulling out of the market in earlier in the year

    Sep 18, 2013 | 11:59 pm

  4. KK in Bermuda says:

    I share your frustration MM. Last month, I have a bad experience w/ HSBC here in Bermuda. I am not a premier client so I don’t enjoy same customer service that you get. Last month, I was charged US$200 for exceeding my credit limit. I was told that they charge $40 per transaction above the limit. I have 5 transactions above the limit which are all below $40 ($1.50, $1.79, $10, $29 , $36). I called up their contact center in India to complain as they should have declined the transaction when i already exceeded my limit on the first instance. I was told that they don’t decline transactions above the limit for creditcardholder’s convenience (& also for them to collect 40$ each transaction I supposed). I made 4 different calls to appeal for waiver of at least 4 of the transactions but to no avail. I went to the branch where I have an account to appeal again for waiver & they just blatantly said NO. They said that allowing transactions beyond the limit is a mechanism by VISA & they have nothing to do with the fees. I felt really frustrated & tried to appeal again via the feedback form in their website & luckily they waived $80 out of the $200. They said credit cardholders are responsible to maintain a record of all purchases made in order to verify if there are still balance within the limit. All my purchases were done during a trip in CA, WA & AK on 3 different days (i.e. hotel phone calls, vendo, etc.) & it is unreliable to check the outstanding balance online as they only update at least 2 days after the purchase.

    Unfortunately, we only have 3 banks here in Bermuda & only HSBC has global network so I still have to suck up w/ their crap.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 12:44 am

  5. Vanessa says:

    That is a pity, as this would have been so easy to programme into their phone banking system. Customer service and care is really all about the details.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 3:19 am

  6. moni says:

    MM, I also have an HSBC premier master card and not being able to talk to a human quickly for some credit card concerns is frustrating. I just had that same dialogue you had when my card was replaced as it was “compromised”. It took ages for HSBC to track where my card was from the embossing department to the Enterprise branch where I opted to pick it up.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 4:28 am

  7. Duke says:

    sad to say, this level of ineptitude (I won’t even get close to calling it inefficiency, because that can be fixed), is not uncommon in most service providers here, be it banks, telcos, airline, etc. oh, everyone has a dark story to tell, of seeming utter lack of brain matter or heart tissue. yes, there are exceptions, but few and far between. no wonder high blood pills are perennial bestsellers.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 4:53 am

  8. Marketman says:

    KK in Bermuda, that is a completely absurd excuse for a bank of HSBC’s stature. I seriously dislike credit card companies, as I find most of them (the glaring exception being American Express for me that has ALWAYS done the right thing for the 24 years I have had an AMEX) are really just a notch above loan sharks and pawn shops in the way they treat their clients.

    Charging you for breaching a “credit limit” when they could easily stop charges at the credit limit is a pet peeve of mine. It’s ludicrous in fact. So much so, when a similar situation happened to supplementary card holders of ours, after much wrangling, a Philippine based bank REFUNDED me over PHP20,000+ worth of charges over the limit, read about it here and here. I don’t let caca like this go by without a tussle. :)

    A credit limit is precisely that, a limit. Allowing a willy nilly excess for a large fee per transaction is banking mumbo-jumbo for financial rape of sorts… why have a limit at all then? Think that if ENRON or other companies had a total credit limit of 10 billion, and they drew down an extra billion or two for a “fee” of say a billion per instance, banks would allow that? Of course not. Instead, they do it against small consumers and often get away with it. It’s pathetic really.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 6:59 am

  9. Berto and Kwala says:

    I know exactly how you feel! I’ve called their hotline a couple of times and I still get confused! I guess they’re just really trying to discourage customers from talking to the call center agents.

    I guess their logic is: if your query can be answered by a robotic voice, why talk to a human (??) sure, we’ll waste your time as you figure out which button to push next, but at least we saved the agent’s time for something more worthwhile… like apologizing to customers who finally get to talk to them!

    Sep 19, 2013 | 7:33 am

  10. Marketman says:

    Berto and Kwala, it would even make sense if at least the robotic voice had all the key options, but in this case, they were missing critical ones… so it’s very possible that other folks just ended up with the system hanging up on them. This is what happens as credit card companies such as HSBC go to great lengths to sign up millions of customers, 80% of whom are borderline profitable, and only so if they nail them with annual fees, late fees, interest charges, penalties, over limit fees, etc. Then when an estimated 15-20+% of the loans go sour, the folks who diligently pay all their outstandings and obligations essentially end up paying for the the ones who default on their outstandings… The really ridiculous offshoot is that good customers with other bank products like deposits and car loans and home loans THAT are very profitable for the bank suffer as they get the poor credit card services offered and accessed by millions.

    This is not rocket science. If you call a U.S.-based card, it is answered by a pinoy in Cebu or Manila or Davao and they get the call done. Even re-iterating that if the “charge wasn’t made by you, there is absolutely NO LIABILITY to pay it” … but if you call a “local” version of the same card, you get a different story. The call center agents are doing as best a job as they can manage, within the context of idiotic, inconsistent, discriminatory and unveven scripts/rules/regulations of the parent banking/credit card company…

    Even for Amex, things are world’s apart. Amex service for an American card is brilliant, relative to all other cards I have ever had. But I also have a Platinum corporate card with Amex in the Philippines (operated by BDO) and the service is HORRIFIC to say the least, so bad in fact I have cut up my card once before, and am thinking of doing it again after a recent episode with one of their “promo events”…

    Sep 19, 2013 | 8:20 am

  11. Marissa says:

    Haha, I share your frustration with the automated banking service of HSBC. So I found out that the fastest way is sometimes to just get the option for reporting a stolen card because you get a person to talk to you right away.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 10:35 am

  12. marose says:

    Hi MM! I have the same card and I feel your pain. HSBC was my go to card before but they changed policies this year which seriously made me think they wanted me to move to another credit card company. I’ve since stopped using it.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 11:08 am

  13. Joey in Dubai says:

    MM, I have also discovered myself several years ago that you get to speak to a human when you press ‘0’. I’m in Dubai and when I dial a bank or the water company’s customer service number for something, the introductions and menu are too long because they are announced in both in English and Arabic. As soon as I have pressed my preferred language and the machine starts enumerating the menu, I press ‘0’ and voila, I’m transferred to a human being. Sometimes I get an auto-answer that the dialled number is invalid, but I keep pressing ‘0’ anyway and someone picks up my call in the end.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 11:32 am

  14. SpaceDog says:

    Heh, BPI are the same. I was trying to active my debit card for global use via the phone — obviously no option to do that on the system, no easy way to get to talk to someone. In the leaflet it says to call and press ‘5’ (if I recall correctly) — which is the option for lost and stolen cards — it seems like they’re saying the fastest way to talk to someone real is to use that.

    In the end I managed to get someone by following the menus, I didn’t want to tie up the lost&stolen line unnecessarily.

    Even worse are the automatic systems that expect you to talk to them, it just feels weird. And don’t get me started about having to go over all the same info you just gave to the machine when you actually get to talk to someone.

    I long for the day when the Philippines catches up and everything is on-line — I don’t think I’d actually been to a bank branch in a decade before I came over here.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 11:47 am

  15. ragamuffin girl says:

    Wow I’m shocked! HSBC here in HK is one of the best when it comes to customer service and phonebanking services. Tsk tsk tsk they should get their act together!

    Sep 19, 2013 | 11:53 am

  16. Monique says:

    Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to 1000. Grrrrrrr. Amazing what a little common sense can do to solve this. I hope someone from HSBC reads all of this…..

    Sep 19, 2013 | 12:00 pm

  17. Boopsie says:

    I believe people use HSBC CC not because of their great service but because of their promos and flyer miles.
    Then i believe its our fault to patronize such a CC company with poor services because of their numerous promos. HSBC locally probably believes pinots prefer great promos over great credit card services.

    I personally use BPI CC only after experiencing lousy CC services of my previous CC. I became allergic to using my previous card.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 1:23 pm

  18. manny says:

    What else is new? It’s sad that companies can get away with this philippine brand of customer disservice?

    It’s the same not only for banks but for telcos too.

    It’s frustrating but DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) can hardly do anything about these issue.

    Shame really. Maybe we should have a million march for customer service?

    Sep 19, 2013 | 3:13 pm

  19. Marketman says:

    Actually, manny, if pinoys simply picked ONE WEEK and didn’t use a single credit card during that week to protest anti-consumer like policies, I think THAT would really send a really strong message. Particularly since carrying credit cards CAN/IS RISKIER than carrying cash, see this old post here.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 3:46 pm

  20. Nacho says:

    Hi MM, I had the same “compromised” card situation, a couple of months ago. I was called by HSBC credit card and was told that my card would be cut off and I would have to wait at least 5 banking days for a new card to be issued. After a couple of minutes on the phone with the credit card representative, I decided to talk to my HSBC Premier account representative instead. The process was fast and painless, as she did everything for me. Ever since I “graduated” to a Premier account, I just call my account representative for anything remotely related to banking. In most cases, things get done efficiently.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 4:35 pm

  21. Isa says:

    Coincidentally, I just had to call Expedia US and was routed to Cebu (paid international long distance to call but whatever :) and my booking change was handled quickly and professionally, so obviously it’s not Filipinos but the stupid inadequate training system each company uses. I get so frustrated with other call centers that make the call longer than necessary, where everything you say is repeated back to you like you’re a child or when they try to explain with, “kasi ma’am, ganito…” Or “pasensya na”

    As far as American Express is concerned, when I first moved to Canada, I work at an AMEX call center and you know why their customer service in north America is so efficient? We had 6 weeks of class and training, 8 hours a day before we took a call and then two more weeks of a coach listening on on your calls before you were allowed to go solo. That’s 8 weeks of training! And it certainly pays off doesn’t it?

    Sep 19, 2013 | 5:32 pm

  22. Khew says:


    Sep 19, 2013 | 5:44 pm

  23. denise says:

    MM, pressing “0” works almost 100% of the time and most automated recordings from other countries give you that option, it is frustrating how it’s a “secret” here in the Philippines…good thing I have a call center background so I know this shortcut!

    Isa, hi! I used to work for a BPO in Makati that handled Expedia US for the longest time, we have more than 5 weeks of training and the manuals when stacked together nearly reached 3 feet tall! Plus during hiring we get sorted out based on how accent-neutral and fluent our spoken English were,and the ones with the higher scores goes to Expedia. Those that scored lower got sent to other accounts that don’t have strict accent/grammar rules

    Sep 19, 2013 | 8:29 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    denise, you mean like saying “would you like a room with a reprijerator ma’am?” that’s what the Holiday Inn call center agent located in Baguio asked Mrs. MM when she called the toll-free U.S. number to reserve a room for a Holiday Inn in New Hampshire. Mrs. MM smiled and said, a “reprijerator”? Is it a “prigidaire?” or a “whorlpull?”… heeheehee. They both had a good laugh.

    Sep 19, 2013 | 8:49 pm

  25. denise says:

    hehehe I think that location is also from the same BPO company I worked with but a different client.
    Our trainers call those slips “first language influence” and sometimes no matter how many hours of accent “reduction” classes we have, it’s hard to shake off…it’s why they try to enforce English Only Policy at all times within the office premises even the pantry.

    We had to train to say “coupon” right, can you believe?! but then Americans would pronounce it “q-pon”, much like “to-may-to” / “to-mah-to” debate hehehe

    Sep 19, 2013 | 10:53 pm

  26. MP says:

    I prefer banking with HSBC Premier because they give excellent service. However, i hate, hate, hate their phone banking service (although their call center agents are very helpful, that is if you get lucky and end up speaking with one). Also frustrating is converting credit card points to Mabuhay Miles! I seriously don’t understand why they have to complicate this process!

    In any case, I recently just discovered that in HSBC, US$ deposits (savings and time) do not earn interest! Not a single cent!

    Sep 20, 2013 | 12:27 am

  27. MP says:

    And yes, MM, Nacho’s right. Just call your Relationship Manager and s/he will help you with anything… Less stressful..

    Sep 20, 2013 | 12:31 am

  28. Babes V. Reyes says:

    Hi MM! For faster queuing, press *1. It will connect you straight to a human.

    Sep 20, 2013 | 10:39 am

  29. Ken_L says:

    I don’t think I am unusually cowardly, but I would never contemplate even applying for a credit card in The Philippines. Just using my Australian one occasionally is enough of a trial.

    Let’s be optimistic that the corporate world will manage to bypass the whole card thing and go straight to cell phone solutions. They seem to understand phones better. The sooner the better, as I’m tired of having to wait in line for 20 minutes at the ATM while somebody checks their account balance 14 times in a row, presumably hoping for a magically different answer to the one they got before.

    Sep 20, 2013 | 10:43 am

  30. Marketman says:

    MP and Nacho, that’s another LONG STORY that I should have written last year, and maybe will allude to it in upcoming posts, but I moved all of our banking business with the exception of credit cards for staff, away from HSBC due to idiotic service two years ago that was just ridiculous and started off with a credit card issue. Because of a relationship with the group elsewhere in the world, HSBC Premier Manila is FORCED to continue servicing our account (how awful is that, MM as a pain in the neck and they get no other ancillary business) in Manila, but I vowed never to give them business until the two women I had run-ins with and who gave the dumbest answers left the bank. I am HAPPY TO SAY that my “dopey” antenna definitely works, as the TWO MANAGERS with the same first names did EVENTUALLY leavw the bank… But with phone service like this, I think I will stay with another bank for now… And all of the HSBC folks at the Taguig building reading this post can probably take a guess at who those managers were that caused a client to move elsewhere. I still have some documents and letters to the CEO and Managers from that exchange… In the end, professional, honest managers with high integrity and a service bent will always be successful, I hope. Nitwits should have their entry visas to paradise cancelled for good. :)

    Sep 20, 2013 | 11:25 am

  31. mitzuy says:

    MM – The same thing happened with my daughter who now lives in Manila – she had to go on Skype and talked me through activating her card from Australia. I called HSBC from Sydney and as soon as I got through I activated her card. Grabe gyud kaayo.

    Sep 21, 2013 | 12:46 am

  32. RoBStaR says:

    I can truly say banking in the Philippines is similar to getting your wisdom tooth pulled all at once.
    Scenario 1: Data was compromised at corporate HQ, so they decide to lock my ATM card without prior notice. Luckily I had a few cash on hand to make it for a few more days. I called the hotline to find out what was going on with my ATM card since there was no notice. They then proceeded to tell me the above excuse, but couldn’t quite say how it was compromised at HQ. I then inquired why wasn’t I notified via text or email since they have those information and sends me garbage promotion all the time. They apologized and couldn’t explain that as well. Since you have to apply in person to get a replacement ATM card, I go to my branch and request a new card, and wanted to withdraw some money since I was running low. You just can’t fill out a withdraw deposit and hand that in since I have a checking account. The process would be for me to write a check to myself to be cashed. Who carries a checkbook around nowadays? Since I didn’t have my checkbook, they wanted to charge me P25 to use their check in order for me to get some money. I just laughed at the teller, and reiterated the fact that you guys locked my ATM at no fault of my own and you want me to pay P25 to get some cash out? Requested for the manager and was finally waived.

    Scenario 2: I had issued a year’s worth of post dated check to my landlord. His place got broken into and those checks were taken. I call the hotline and try to cancel the checks issued by providing them the numbers and was told I had to go to my local branch to personally apply for that.
    Next day, I go into my local bank and they tell me thank you for providing the checks numbers but it’s not a guarantee that it would stop those checks from being cashed by the bank. So if someone wanted to deposit the stolen checks to his bank or whatever means, and despite you warning your bank about those stolen check numbers, YOUR bank will have to charge you P1000 per checks refused. uh???? so the reason for me notifying my bank of stolen checks is what??? apparently means nothing. The only way to safeguard yourself is to close your bank account and open a new one. Ok, that makes perfect sense.

    Finally back in NY, I opened a checking account online without ever having to visit a bank. I can take pictures of a check and have that deposited into my account while sitting at home. Went to the bank and had an ATM card issued in 3 mins (not 3 days) since I could not wait 3 days for the mailing to arrive. Convenience…it’s somehow lost in the Philippines.

    Sep 21, 2013 | 8:49 pm

  33. Nick Roberts says:

    I bank with HSBC in the UK and I always notice my calls going through to a call centre in the Philippines (I suspect Commonwealth Ave in QC). I’ve never had anything but great service from them, so quite surprised HSBC can’t offer the same service to the local market (I realise they are completely separate subsidiaries though…)

    Sep 24, 2013 | 12:02 am

  34. cheryl says:

    Security Bank is the same! I was calling their hotline a few days ago, and they do not have an option to talk to an operator!

    Sep 24, 2013 | 2:11 pm

  35. jayme says:

    My brother is out of town and has lost his card. Im just trying to find the international number to call so he can report it. I’ve been on hold on their hotline for almost 20 minutes. Their customer service/call center is crap!

    May 23, 2014 | 10:04 pm

  36. hk says:

    I cancelled my HSBC platinum visa card because of bad service. Last June, they asked me to cancel my card because of suspected internet fraud and I requested for a replacement. I was only able to get hold of the card replacement by December (after 6 months). I called for the activation of my card but when I tried to use it at the malls, it didn’t work. So I called and reported to them the error. They said the magnetic strip was damaged and they will replace my card with chip. No replacement arrived in 3 months. So I called again and they said my address is not secured and I need to give another address. I told them that ever since for 6 years this is the address for my card and I dont have an alternate address. Right there and then, I asked to just cancel my card. I also dont want to pay for 5k annual fee for a card that I wasnt able to use for almost a year. HSBC doesnt know how to value their clients. I was never delinquent and I always pay the whole charged amount on time. Worst customer service ever. They didnt even tried to stop me from cancelling my card. Lol.

    May 23, 2015 | 10:40 am


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