Yet Another Moronic Run-in with HSBC Philippines Phone Banking…

Jerk Magnet Returns. Just a relatively innocuous post to help the many HSBC Philippines customers out there who have what might be considered “unisex” names and who are getting their card renewed right about now and are experiencing some unusual delays. God forbid you carry a name like Alex, Angel, Jules, Jordan, Kyle, Sam, Chris, Taylor, etc. If you are biologically female, you may suddenly find yourself with a hairy set of weighty gonads, or if you are male, suddenly experience call center “castration” performed on you by some asinine clerical worker that decided to change your sex with the accidental or intentional press of the wrong button.

We have two male crew members with supplementary HSBC credit cards with modest credit limits who have had them for approximately 10 years. They work brilliantly for filling the car with gas, buying medicine, booking airline tickets, getting groceries or picking up light bulbs and tools at the hardware. My logic has always been, if you trust staff with your children and your vehicle, why wouldn’t you trust them with a credit card to help make your and their life easier and more convenient?! Never once have they misused the card and on many occasions the card has been particularly helpful. We started off with Citibank cards, but later switched to HSBC because the latter presumably could put varying limits on supplementary cards, which Citibank could not at the time.

So a new card arrived over the weekend for one of the crew. He has one of the “unisex” names in the list above. He calls the bank, waits for 10 minutes, talks to a phone banker, gets the runaround, they find out he has a “Premier Card” and try to transfer him to “Premier” phone banking which is in fact, busy. After another 5 minutes or so, he finally gets on the line with “Ash” and I only name the phone banker not to single her out, or to blame her for anything, but because appropriately, her name is CLEARLY one of those potentially UNISEX type names. And I only say she, as she seems to have a female voice, but in this day and age, can you really know that for sure over the phone? For all I know, he has an unbelievable falsetto and wears stilettos? In fact, I have never come across an “ASH” before. Is it short for Ashley? Ashmore? Stash? Anna Samantha Helen? Ashram? Or worse, if they have evil ancestors, ASHTRAY or ASHOLE? At any rate, this isn’t about Ash, but it is about HSBC and someone at HSBC responsible for the error…

So Ash asks me a whole bunch of questions, clearly this wasn’t a standard card activation, and when I couldn’t answer the question “do you know when you first got an HSBC card?” I said, “No, I cannot recall, I have had the card for decades” she put me on hold. She returned to ask me my wife’s full name, the mailing address, my birthday, etc. and finally said, “Sir, the card is now activated, but the problem was/is, your assistant is a Ms. in our files, but it’s a Mr. that called to activate.” I said, my assistant is a Mr. and to my knowledge has always been a Mr. and he has been a Mr. from the time I put in the application. I thought to, but didn’t add that, he has a Mrs. and several kids and I am sure his nether regions look markedly different from her nether regions, assuming she was in fact biologically a girl. At any rate, they asked me for birth certificates, etc. and I just put my foot down and lost it. Before exploding, she says, “Mr. MM…” to which I said, “how do you know I am a Mr.?” and she says “because it’s in your file” but then I said “your file says my assistant is a Ms. but he is a Mr.” and well, she couldn’t categorically state why she called me a Mr… and I am pretty sure I never had to drop my boxers at an HSBC branch so they could categorically state I was indeed male…

I told her to talk to her supervisor and have the supervisor call the head of phone banking and for them to FIX THE PROBLEM while I waited on the line. When I asked them to check the records, they agreed he was previously a MR. in their files, when I asked them to check the statements, they said they don’t indicate gender on statements, when I asked them if when the card used the cashier asks for gender, they said it did not. So I said obviously, the ONLY POSSIBLE source of the error is at HSBC, sometime between the last card and the issuance of this new one. Some computer (no, a machine couldn’t be that STUPID) or some clerk decided this Mr. was now a Ms. and forget the complications born by this simple mistake when the card was being activated!!!

DUHHH?! Finally, after a few minutes more on hold, now some 20-25 or more minutes since we first started calling the bank, Ash says it is all okay and the gender will be changed on the records without need for a birth certificate or any further bother on my part. Is a birth certificate even a requirement for a new card? NO?!. So the bank allows the applicant to chose gender without asking them to drop their trousers or skirts to make sure it is the biologically accurate designation. Geez, and isn’t it the United States that just allowed people NOT TO CHOOSE MALE or FEMALE and put NON-SPECIFIC if they want to? What do you call those people if they are not a Ms., Mrs., or a Mr. or a Master? Non-Specific Alex Smith?

It seems like a simple matter. But the amazing thing is, why don’t banks just put the gender or the client on their bill or whatever the main base of information about the client is? Or totally NOT care what the gender is so it never comes up again. That way, the gender is right from the beginning, and will remain the same unless the client requests that it be changed. Why is there some human intervention between card renewals that futzes with this information when it DOES NOT affect the banking relationship in any way? Instead, if 10,000 people (out of millions of HSBC card holders in the Philippines) with the same problem waste half an hour correcting it (and I am sure others don’t lose it like I do and they do submit birth certificates and spend hours more to correct it) that’s a good 10,000 man hours of time wasted, 5,000 for the client and 5,000 for HSBC phone bankers. Take an airline website that takes reservations. They ALWAYS ask for gender, as it helps in check in to ensure that the passenger on the ticket is the person using it. And it helps if the plane crashes, to identify bodies, so they collect that data easily and only inaccurately if the passenger mistakenly presses the wrong gender on his or her reservation…

It’s just all so STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!

And I am pretty sure the folks at HSBC will read this post, as dozens of them read my last banking rant here and HSBC response here, so I hope they actually DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS to correct the INANE ROOT CAUSE that wastes a phenomenal amount of client and phone banking center time. And for the word by word exchange, listen to the tape of the conversation this morning and note the amount of time wasted. I really wish I had the foresight to tape this morning’s conversation, so I could put it on youtube, and get a few hundred thousand hits… Remember MM, record all calls to call centers, and let them know up front you may be recording them for “quality” purposes. Hahaha.

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16 Responses

  1. Had a similar experience with my Citibank cards – the credit cards reflected my correct full name (MYE) while the Billing Statements sent to me had my married name as my middle name while my maiden name appeared as my surname (MEY). I’ve brought this to Citibank’s attention several times for several years but the same error still appeared every month.

    Finally, this March 2014 and if only to set the record straight, I called Citibank and asked what needed to be done to have my name corrected on the Billing Statements. The first Citibank phone banker said I needed to fax my birth certificate and 2 valid IDs to a certain and address it to the Accounts Processing Division. I informed him that even if the error was committed by Citibank and despite the fact that I have been raising this with Citibank for several years, I will fax the required documents. My secretary dutifully faxed the documents the next day. A week later, I called Citibank to check and another phone banker answered (another male named Chester). I had to do the whole spiel again and he told me that my name has not yet been corrected. He then told me to e-mail and fax my birth certificate, my marriage contract and 2 ids and to address the e-mail and fax to him so that he could process the correction. I called after a week and explained the whole situation for a 3rd time. The 3rd phone banker (he/she) said that my name was not yet corrected and that there was nothing he/she could do about it. I then asked him/her if he/she could just check with Chester. He/she then informed me that Chester was already off duty. I then asked him if it was possible for him to contact Chester and then give me a return call regarding the matter. He/She snappily answered that he/she was still on duty until 7:00 pm and that after work, he/she has a personal life. As we were obviously going nowhere, I requested that I be transferred to his/her supervisor – he/she then stated that he/she was a bank officer authorized to transact on behalf of Citibank. If only to end the call as I was getting stressed with his/her “pleasant” attitude, I asked that he tell Chester to call me and he agreed. A week later and no call from Chester or the “pleasant” phone banker so I called Citibank again. This time, a female phone banker, Michelle, answered. I told her the whole spiel (the 1st time for her, the 4th time for me) and she politely told me that my name was not yet corrected. She also offered to check on why it was taking soooo long. As I was simply exhausted/frustrated at what was happening and to avoid any further unpleasant encounters, I just stopped calling Citibank.

    At last, my April Billing Statement arrived and it was corrected this way – MYEE – yes, they’ve switched my maiden and my married names but now, my married name appears twice…for now, that’s how it will be then… sorry for using your blog for my comment/rant… I just couldn’t help it….

  2. i think CSRs sometimes use “screen names.” thus they don’t really feel that they “own” the problem nor are they too invested in helping resolve it. so even if the customer is going ballistic on the other end of the line, sila parang “whatever, that’s not my name, so it’s not me you’re mad at.” pero di naman lahat.

  3. In a colder month this would probably make for quite a funny story, but now that we’re in the middle of a very hot summer, it’s understandable that tempers are much shorter. I know that was an infuriating situation but at the same time, to a casual observer, it was also a bit amusing.
    In my whole college life, the name on my class cards was wrong, and I couldn’t understand how that happened. A third name appeared on the cards, although it wasn’t mine. I didn’t bother to change it until I was about to graduate since I didn’t want to be embarrassed if they pronounced my name wrong. After graduation, one of my friends went up to me and admitted that as a prank, he had added the name in my application form when we were freshmen. Every time we got our class cards, he and some of other friends would be laughing for no apparent reason. Four years later, I finally knew why.

  4. MM, the ghost month came early huh. What a way to start the first day of the week!

    I had my fair share this morning too.

    I was at the Food and Drug Administration first thing this morning to submit additional documents for a promo I was applying for. Having been notified late last week about the needed documents through email, I went through the list several times just to make sure I didn’t leave anything out. Only to be told, when my turn was up, to submit the email sent to me otherwise they couldn’t accept the documents. I was initially stumped. Why would I have to submit an email as proof of what they were asking me to submit?

    I just stood up, left, and argued to myself the stupidity of it all. It would have been futile explaining the flaw in the process to someone whom I felt would never get it or would end up making it harder for me to get my permit. This was at 8 this morning. Far from any internet cafe. I had to travel close to 10 km away in BF to print the email sent to me as no mall was open at that time.

    Returning after an hour and a half, I find myself submitting to someone else who didn’t even bother to ask about the email.

    God has a funny way of testing us with the way we deal with his other children. . .

  5. I have to console myself that part of the problem lies in the vernacular where there is no differentiation between male or female, hence when translating to english, a she is a he and a he could be a she. Not to mention our new word of the past 10 years or so when greeting someone entering a restaurant (my staff guilty here too) or store with an obligatory “good morning mam/sir” even if it is only a single person entering. It’s as if the ease of remembering “mam/sir” is better than trying to train one’s brain that one is likely (for the most part) either to be a “mam” or a “sir”. And are “mam’s” who are mistakenly referred to as “ms” less offended than the “ms” greeted as a “mam”? And what of non-gender specific citizens, how do we properly greet them? Yes, I do see the humor in this, but no, this is not rocket science to fix…

  6. MM,

    I’m thinking HSBC’s service quality has taken a hit due to that large fine ($1.9B) they had to pay for allowing itself to be used for money laundering Mexican drug money in 2012.

    Locally, I think they have downsized, too and shortened the operating hours of its call center. Depositors got a minor scare earlier this year when its London branches refused large withdrawals from clients if they could not justify why. Huh?

  7. i had to stop at the dissection of Ash, i was laughing so hard! will read the rest of the post when later when i’m more composed. ;-)

  8. and i still don’t get why forms here routinely ask for “Religion”…it’s not as if this was information vital to the approval or disapproval of your application for whatever.

  9. I hate the new word – ma’am/sir! Why can they just say good morning, welcome to zubuchon! Or just good morning?

  10. No offense intended, but from our corner of the world I must say these occasional descriptions of business and banking in the Philippines leave us gobsmacked. You are quite right to rant, but I wonder if you have observed improvement over the years.

    It is Germany that has provided a third option for indicating a child’s sex on a birth certificate–it is applicable in specific situations, such as children that are intersex (a condition that much more common than the average person thinks…roughly one out of a thousand births). It is a temporary legal status, as the children are generally expected to end up male or female at some indefinite point in their future. This is to allow the child to determine his/her gender according to how he/she self-identifies later on.

  11. I’m sorry, I just had to comment on the “religion” field in application forms. I put “none”. It has never been an issue so I guess they put it there out of habit? Haha!

  12. So many customer service arms of banks and utilities have really decided to go on the dummy train. My current title holder for dummiest is BPI and Globe Telecom. They both tell me on separate occasions that “we called your house and your guard said Ms. X didn’t live there.” One, we don’t have a guard. And two, it’s the same line — in verbatim– for two supposedly independent subsidiaries, albeit the same conglomerate!

    HSBC used to be really good with customer service too. But they’ve declined tremendously in the last two years. I had a card from Manila sent to the Cebu branch and they couldn’t find it in their files, even when the Manila branch had a confirmation from the Cebu branch that they received it.

    It’s all really frustrating. And it makes you wonder sometimes if they do it on purpose just to detract you from talking to customer service.

  13. It’s just all so STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!!!

    Hahaha….I like that!

    They can be more stupid than that and do things like pry open your bank details and write you letters than insults your intelligence.

    You judge this letter the Bank wrote me. Is this “gross ignorance of the Law or crass Stupidity? Or both? Letter of Reply of HSBC for the unauthorized release of client bank balances.

  14. Typo. “They can be more stupid than that and do things like pry open your bank details and write you letters that insults your intelligence”.

  15. “HSBC used to be really good with customer service too. But they’ve declined tremendously in the last two years. I had a card from Manila sent to the Cebu branch and they couldn’t find it in their files, even when the Manila branch had a confirmation from the Cebu branch that they received it”.

    This is funny! Hahaha. I am however not surprise. My next post with attachment of the blunder that that Legal Counsel and Compliance of HSBC committed will floor you all. It is the “mother of all blunders”. My lawyer is in the process of getting a certified true copy of a sworn answer executed by a certain Joel R. Cruz from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that would be used in a multi-million civil suit against HSBC Philippines

    Suffice to say here is that the disclosure of my bank details by the legal counsel and compliance officer, Raissa Katrina Marie G. Ballesteros not only violate the R.A 1405 and R.A 6426, but the certification supposedly issued by a certain Joel R. Cruz, Vice-President, Network Services carries a signature that is clearly a forgery. Can you believe that! In a sworn answer to the Office Special Investigation, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Joel R. Cruz said that “The alleged signatures above the type written name Joel R. Cruz in said certifications are not mine”. he could not have signed the certification on said date as he was on leave. And in support of this claim, he was able to secure a certification from the Human Resource Department to prove that he was indeed on leave. Now, can you beat that! This not only funny but scary!!

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