The poor, poor man. In the country for all of two months, he has the misfortune of cold-calling to sell me a loan or a credit card (or both) on behalf of the finance company he works for.
To say that I wasn’t happy does not get across the level of sub-zero tolerance I had reached. Full disclosure: I’d just come off a 40-minute downward spiral of a call to do with red tape and Catch 22s, and then him. I told him that if he didn’t explain exactly how he got my details, I’d be putting the phone down and calling the police, and proceeded to dramatically count to five. He blabbed.
Within 15 seconds of answering the call I had his name, the name of the company he works for, what he was selling and his mobile phone number, which I repeated back to him. I knew that he knew my full name and had my mobile phone number. But have no clue what else he had access to.
He told me he had been given a list of 40 people’s details by a friend who works in a bank. He needs to recruit at least four people a month – get them to sign up for a card or a loan – or he’s out on his ear.
He was allegedly given the information. No money changed hands. And I believe this. It’s probably someone from the same village as him back home who is in a “let’s get through this” club. The first time it happened I thought that someone at the bank (a different bank) must be selling people’s data. But now I realise that’s not the case. There’s an air of desperation out there – people want to keep their jobs (the bank staff), keep their homes and cars (clients getting into more debt) and corporations want to both benefit (gain from people needing money) and make sure they survive the downturn (make money).
And that’s where the clubbing together comes from – people who are connected, who have few degrees of separation, will come together in these tough times. And if that means breaking the rules and handing out lists of data to help their third cousin once removed, who they just met, they will, with the knowledge that the same will be done for them.
But that’s not what today is about.
I want to contrast the above, information to do with me floating around various banks with whom I have zero banking relationship, and my bank.
This is how I had originally started the article – just before my back-to-back calls of horror:
Sigh. Another call. Another interruption. Another “insane” question. This time it’s someone at my bank. She wants to know my account number. I was on the road. I explained I didn’t have it to hand, nor is it committed to memory.
Then I pointed out that I have been a customer for 16 years, she has my full name, email address and telephone number. Surely the bank’s system allows for her to find out my account details?
Worrying when you think about it. On many levels, including access to information.
She is either too lazy, or unable to find my information in her system. It’s the only bank I’ve been with since I set foot in the UAE.
The farce is that the call was in response to an email I’d sent that had a shouty OFFICIAL COMPLAINT as the subject.
Here’s what’s happening: I am being fined every month for not submitting my company trade licence, along with an official letter stating the PO Box number and other basic formalities.
The only thing is, I did submit this. Months ago.
The person deemed my account manager never ever replied to any emails, and was never at the receiving end of a phone call. Plus she was actually costing me because I needed official confirmation of certain banking information, by way of a letter from the bank, to comply with another bit of life happening.
But this disregard for customer needs seems to be the way to go if you want to move up in the local banking world. I discovered that she had been whisked off to a bigger, better role at HQ. I just hope it isn’t dealing with people who need anything from a bank.
It smacks to me of a disconnect that is so deep that it screams we’re heading for disaster. When a company forgets what its purpose is, when staff are assessed on internal process and benchmarks, with scant regard for the client – the reason they exist – then we’re all headed somewhere bad.
As though to confirm this, I just got an email from the woman who called asking me for my account number. She’s now requesting my trade licence. Yes, there is official acknowledgement that the bank received it, but it appears it was never put into the system, and seeing as my newly promoted former account manager is on leave, according to the email – no doubt celebrating her bigger title and better pay – the onus is on me to resubmit.
I’m thinking I wish the young man still going through his list of 40, for Dh3,700 a month, worked for my bank – he definitely understands the value of data.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh