I am a great believer in online banking and am one of the few that find it convenient and reasonably safe but this month I am beginning to think that our grandparents and great grandparents had the right idea - the mattress is not so bad.
It does not talk back to you, cajole you into spending money that you don't have, lose your money, find enterprising ways of parting you with your money while earning them a tidy sum.
I am one of these persons (average you might say) that makes sure that every month, I ensure that I make my monthly payments to clear my credit cards, loans, et al that exist because that is the kind of person I am, whether it leaves me enough for my egg and chips for the rest of the month or not.
This month, one of these monthly transfer orders went astray. My sending bank (SB for easy reference) deducted the money from my account to pay a credit card issued by another bank (RB for easy reference) - routine you might say since I've been doing it the same way for a little over a year. Wrong!
RB never got the money. So they called me.
Ma'am - you have an outstanding balance.
Not possible - I have a standing instruction with SB and you should be getting the payment any day now.
Three days later - they call again.
I am beginning to get annoyed. Its bad enough that I have to be creative in the kitchen to make the pennies last (ok maybe I exaggerate a little and a little dieting does not hurt anyone; least of all me), but now they are harassing me for being good and paying my bills on time.
I have already paid. I go online to my account with SB and double check this and read out my account reference details to the lady from customer service.
But we have not received the money.
What would you like me to do? I cannot pay you again - I don't have the money. Besides, between you and the other bank, you've lost my money. Surprising, since my transfers to other accounts and payments have gone through and reached everyone else. Except you.
If you could just find out from your bank what the reference number is - we could try to trace it at our end.
Ok, let me check with them.
So I go to SB. The lady double checks and looks at my account and go into whatever system they have and in the end they ask me to go to their customer service department at the other end of Dubai. I looked suitably horrified and said:
This is an online transaction - is it really necessary to go halfway round the world for this?
She was really contrite. I am really sorry but yes. She does not know where it is, there are no maps or directions, the only phone number they have is a call center number (I did not believe that for a minute and I was right not to) - but she asks around and I get some details and since I have been in this city forever, I take a chance and decide to drive there immediately to get what I am looking for - a reference number I can give my receiving bank. Of course, she fails to mention that this branch in the boondocks closes at one.
After driving around in circles - I get to the bank at 1.05 and the security guard says I have to come back the next day. I was partly conscious that he did not deserve it but my hormones took over and I lost it. I demanded to see someone; that I have been driving around in circles and that the matter was urgent, etc etc and that I had the right. In the end, some one turned up, calmed me down while pointing out the guy was doing his job (boy was I a bit embarrassed about that) but I was still on a mission not to be fobbed off.
A couple of very nice Emirati ladies talked me through my problem and promised to take care of it. I thanked them, called RB and kept them informed and updated on the reference.
Two days later - I follow up with SB. Nothing. Oh - would you agree to a charge of AED 15 to investigate? You lose my money and I have to pay you to find out what happened? Yes. OK - as long as it gets me what I want.
Next day - the RB calls. I apologise but I still have not heard anything and hope to any time soon.
I call SB - they are waiting on a reply to their request for information from another department. How long will it take? Hopefully by the end of that day. I inform RB. I empathise with a ping pong ball.
RB lets two more days go by and calls again. Sorry but we still don't have your money.
I apologise and call SB. Someone answers the phone and wants to take a message or put me on hold. I refuse to let them do that - I want to speak to someone and DO NOT want to be fobbed off. So they do pass me on to the right person and I tell her that I am at the end of my patience.
Put yourself in the other bank's position and understand what they must think of me when I say that I am waiting for information. What do you think they think? That I am trying to fob them off.
She is sheepish and miraculously I get a reference number. I call RB triumphantly (soon to be shortlived).
Really sorry - here is the reference number from SB on the transaction sent to your bank.
She thanks me and takes the details. 5 minutes later her supervisor calls me.
This is a third party reference.
We cannot do anything with this - you have to use this to chase your bank.
My temperature is rising.
But you asked me for this reference number and you knew all along that I was referring to a transfer.
Calm down madam -
I cannot calm down. Between you and SB you have lost money and now this is going to show up on my records. I have been going back and forth and your customer service asked me for a reference number and I have given this to you. Why don't you first check with your transfer department and trace this transaction?
But we cannot do that
You asked for a reference and I have given this to you. Now you tell me that this is not enough to help you. I am speaking to both banks and neither of you want to take responsibility or help me to trace this money.
After that - the conversation kept being repeated from both ends until I had to hang up before I got any angrier especially with his patronising tone. I did say to him that all the banks were encouraging people to use the online services but they did not want to take responsibility when things went wrong.
The more I experience these - this is just one of many - my mattress starts to look a lot more attractive.