February 2008

The innocuous Chat in a Train Journey

A couple of days back I had an opportunity to take the train journey from Tambaram Sanitorium to Guindy. I first boarded a vendor compartment in a hurry but since no seats were there, I alighted at Chromepet and went to another second class compartment which had seats available for occupying. There was one old man who was sitting next to me. He was asking me how many stations to pass to reach ‘Mount’. Mount is the short hand name of St. Thomas Mount.

I told him you need to count five stations (Pallavaram, Thirusoolam, Meenambakkam, Pazhavanthangal) and alight at the fifth station, which is St. Thomas Mount. I also assured him that let me guide him when the station comes. When the next station came, he was again asking me. But this time, he added one more interesting clause. He actually wanted to get down at the station only on the return journey. He was actually travelling to Mambalam. I told him Mambalam is third station from St. Thomas Mount (Guindy, Saidapet, Mambalam). He should have actually stopped there. But he was adding a few more interesting facts which I did not want or he should not spell out in a publicly crowded place.

He was telling that he wanted to visit GR Thanga Maligai and Sri Kumaran Stores for some purchases. I really felt pity about some people who innocently spell out their plans in public and this makes easy for pocket pickers to make good booty. Sometime back, I have also written an article in Mouthshut.com on Security at ATMs (Chennai). I think people should know about holding lips tight to strangers and in public places on valuables and other information.

No Frills — The Power of Private Banks to Grill The Customers like Chicken
Yesterday I received the quarterly statement of accounts from HSBC India. It also carried a few pamphlets like the following: 

  1. No-Frills Account
  2. ATM Card issue (in lieu of Debit Cards)
  3. Passbook Issue

The No-Frills account is a great boon for all sectors of people to own a bank account. This should be a great vehicle to cultivate the small-savings habit for the people. I would also recommend Rediff’s Article in this regard. But I see something fishy in the way private banks attempting to make good a booty with this noble banking trend. They somehow lay a lot of terms and conditions making it complex for the layman to understand so that they can loot away the savings that they deposit in the accounts with them.
The Rediff Article itself stands testimony of how ICICI and HDFC are trying to make good booty from this. I would also like to recommend a read of ‘Nationalized Banks — Truly Caring for the Society‘.

I have a few more interesting updates regarding HSBC Bank attitude towards ATM Card and Passbook issue: 

  1. When I approached the HSBC Adyar branch for the passbook, the girl over there took one printout but lamented that she is running out of passbook file for more than fortnight. She could not answer me on she has not cared about the required inventory keeping.
  2. When I wrote to HSBC Contact Center, I got a weird reply that passbooks are not issued now.
  3. When I wrote to HSBC Contact Center regarding ATM Card, they were saying that only debit cards are being issued. When I reminded them of the website updates and tariff notifications, there is no reply.

To close a bank account,  it takes 15 months. That is ICICI!!
Close our interesting antisocial moves of ICICI Bank like in ‘Banking for the Booty‘ and ‘ExpressIT-ICICI Credit Card Felony‘, there is another interesting tell-tale which involves the handy work of ICICI bank in having stretching an account closure operation which should be just less than a 45 second work to take more than 15 months (an year and a quarter). And my Inbox.com had to exchange seventy emails to complete the task at least as a reminder to them.
It all happened that I had an account for my mom in ICICI Bank Vidyodaya branch (Nungambakkam/T. Nagar). About the third quarter of 2006. We approached the parent branch (Vidyodaya) and gave a signed instruction to transfer to Selayur branch. They promised about a seven day ETA. But till March, when I left for US, nothing moved. After my return, when I wanted to check the status, Vidyodaya branch staff was having a different story to tell. “When was the instruction given?”, “Which date?”, “Can you give another instruction so that we can process it? You also need not date it. We would take care of the loss of previous one.” were the responses from ICICI CustomerCare. Vidoyodaya staff had another strategy to escape from me. If the account holder is called, they would say since I emailed them, they want to talk to me. When talking to me, to escape the spurt of queries that I pose and tight-corner them, they would say they would talk to the account holder.
They managed to continue this fun till August 2007. When I again reminded them of the pending request and this time drew the attention of Head Service Quality, it was Phase II of the fun. They were unrelentingly managing the same fun show.  All along the account had been steadily incurring negative balance since we didn’t want to operate the account as long as it was with such poorly managed branch like Vidyodaya.
In September, I contacted Velacherry branch. There was one interesting guy called Surya Prakash. He was giving a different story like ‘Account holder should come’. Then within minutes he was confused on the account closure procedures and then he was redirecting to nearest branch and parent branch.
I let go this fun for a while at least patiently waiting for whether the branch would do some background work to set things right.
Come January and again a steep negative balance instruction came. I just thought better to close off the account. But this time, Vidyodaya had three interesting dadagiri staff (Aparna posing as branch manager, Jayakumar appearing like a drunkard and Nithya, looking as if she was sitting to entertain and mesmerize Jayakumar). I doubt whether Aparna was a branch manager since her percieved attitude problem made me doubt that way.
When I took the counter service token and met Nithya, she was really egoistic and she even refused to take up the application form. I really didn’t know what she wanted to whisper over the intercom to Jayakumar (Counter Number 3 yesterday) and he was giggling and then asking me to contact Aparna. Are they trying to fool around the customers? I think if they really wanted to do such activities, they should do with local finance organizations and not with Internationally Recognized Branch like ICICI. The intercom facilities provided by ICICI is for legitimate business purposes to serve ICICI and I don’t think it was a wise gesture for her to misuse towards tormenting a customer.
Aparna was again one more distinct identity of how bad a customer relationship can be broken down. She was adamant and was pronouncing the following arrogant sentences:

  1. CustomerCare can reverse but she can not (or will not ?) do. It seems to be her wish.
  2. Go and complain to customercare and she does not seem to care or least bothered to.
  3. She arrogantly told the names of the trio when demanded for.

For (2), I just gave a very calm and collected reply to her: “I don’t just talk to CustomerCare. ICICI Bank as an institution and organization is more dear and near to me. I don’t want to waste time with you anymore. Learn to be loyal to your organization which is feeding you everymonth with wallet-full of wealth”
My simple query is ICICI branch is paying them in good only to serve the organizations goals (http://www.icicibank.com/pfsuser/webnews/Code_Commitment_Customers.htm) but given by the arrogant, inconsistent attitude and reply of the staff, we ought to seriously ponder over and place a check on such parasites’ that prey over the organization’s goals.
Vidyodaya branch had been the good when it was extension counter of Nungambakkam and when Bharathi, Lavanya etc staff were there. I had the privilege of opening one of the first few accounts as part of Agenda Net Marketing. But the current state of Vidyodaya branch with such poor quality chaps and staff seems to be really challenging eyesore to ICICI branch. 
I wrote this incident to headservicequality. Now they took the full query in investigation. Velacherry bank offered to look into the issue trying to address at least the small malady that their staff did. And the account got closed the third week of January.
But even two days before closing the account, I got a reply from CustomerCare about paying the negative balance when the branch had waiver clauses builtin if there were problems because of them.
Now this incident is again one more strong emphasis that we should not depend on ICICI for any banking relationships.

More and Walmart
Sometime back I had a visit to More supermarket (part of Aditya Birla Group). It had interesting comparisons with Walmart chain of super centers in US in more ways than one:

  1. Multiple Payment options
  2. Neighborhood (Small) Centers
  3. Door delivery options

I think, the Retail market in India is quite interestingly getting more customer-friendly. Interestingly, they also have now opened a new outlet just near my house. So I can share more reviews on various products as time progresses.

Chennai Cops — Stage Comedy Shows Throughout the City
I am not sure whether it is the mission or vision of Chennai cops to entertain people in all regards but the way it goes with the day-to-day activities of Chennai cops prove beyond any doubts and speculations that they are just jokers instead of being a guard to the law and order. Two incidents:

  1. Comedy shows in Guindy Halda Junction
  2. ‘Y’ turns all over the city

Whenever you reach the Halda junction near Guindy, you can see at least a bunch of these jokers trying to block your route. Even if you have all legal documents on hand, they somehow find some lame excuse out of the blue to at least extract at least a minimum of twenty rupees from you. Remember this is the same place, where my friend gave alms to a traffic cop after bargaining in an interesting vein. The alms amount of twenty rupees.
The next interesting thing is about ‘Y’ turns all over the city. The current Commissioner of Police (Nanchil Kumaran) seems to be having some great affinity to letter ‘Y’ of English alphabet. Something like Numerology, he should have contacted some astrologer who should have guided him that way. Most of the city arterial junctions are like ‘Y’ turns and oneways leading to utter traffic chaos and crazy one ways. Some of the interesting ‘Y’-intersections are:

  1. Ashok Pillar
  2. Panagal Park Kumaran Stores Junction
  3. Saidapet Little Mount Junction
  4. Guindy Raj Bhavan Junction
  5. Guindy Halda Junction
  6. Guindy Alexandar Square Junction

Reckless Commercialization Spree; Unrelenting Greed; Lowering of Humanitarian Values
A few days back we have been discussing about “Value for Penny“. Perhaps, in close relation to that topic, I wanted to discuss three related topics that I have been planning to discuss out it.

  1. Commercialization of Yoga
  2. Commercial Advertisements of Hospitals
  3. Bad culture in Chennai People asking “What is your salary?” to every one.

Let us discuss each on these in little to more depth.
Commercialization of Yoga
During one of my weekly Thursday trips, I came across a unique advertisement near Chamiers Road (Pasumpon Muthuramalingam Road). The advertisement was like Yoga class franchisees that have been setup all over Chennai. Once upon a time, I remember, the Yoga classes were considered very holy. We ought to observe and follow Yoga exercises only during the morning hours. But this advertisement claims to have Yoga classes anytime from dawn to dusk. Aren’t they trading off the holy customs for commercial gains?

 The hoarding I saw was that of Asana Andiappan Yoga Research Center. I called them to find out more. The guy who picked up the phone didn’t know the details about the various yoga asanas that I cross-checked.
Commercial Advertisements of Hospitals
Sometime during last Wednesday, during my trip to Egmore Connemera Public Library, I saw an advertisement about Bones and Joint Hospital near Valluvar Kottam. They were talking high and low about surgical procedures, cost benefits and all those crap. But I felt that it is actually infringing the age-old saying Health is Wealth, which I feel should be emphasized more than a commercial advertisement of hospitals.
Bad culture in Chennai People asking “What is your salary?” to every one
I have a lot of examples of people asking about “What is your salary?” even after a couple of minutes conversations? This comes very close to IT fraternity. At least in Chennai, the people have low profile mentality that they think IT people earn more and work less. These jerks do not realise about the pains involved in more acute mental stress and strain. Of course, you however, can not cast pearls before swine right? And so is you can not ask people to realise of their query. They should cultivate and learn of their folly from within their own. A few examples of me and a couple of my friends (compiled):

  1. Once my friend, working in Cognizant Technology Solutions was in a bus from Central. He had some good T-Shirt which showed a company product. He was telling that there was a stupid Metropolitan Transport Corporation Ticket Collector who after checking the tickets was actually moaning and groaning to him as if some dog bit him while he boarded the bus to check the tickets “Uh! Oh! Nothing else. Where are you working? What is your salary?. Uh! Oh! Uh! Oh!”. He actually told me that he missed out carrying his handy cam so that he could have videographed him so that I could have published a live of the scene in YouTube and shared across to you.
  2. Very close to this writing, I had a similar incident with another Metropolitan Transport Corporation guy. He was actually reporting to his duty. Even just seeing the program printouts, he almost put a similar query. I just brushed him out ignoring him. He was bearing a very scornful and angry face.
  3. Sometime back, I think I have shared about a security guy asking a fresher who was reporting to an interview in a famous IT Park in Chennai. I think that security guy has got scoldings from his supervisor. He wanted to vent out his anger on some one. This new guy was asking him the route to a particular company. Instead of guiding him the route, he angrily asked “What salary?”. Luckily, since I was in the nearby area, I interfered and guided the fresher and also took the name of the guard. I went to the security desk near the entrance and reported. I am not sure whether they investigated the incident or even they are part of this low profile group.

The Government of Tamil Nadu, which has tall claims regarding the heritage and culture, should also think of improving the culture and mentality of people. Seriously. It is a dire need of the hour.

Why should we avoid HDFC Bank?
A few months before my tenure with my previous organization began, I had to open an account with HDFC Bank. It was with Nungambakkam branch. Initially, my the then organization used to give us the monthly salary through Citibank Checks. I normally deposited them in this new HDFC Bank since it was en route and withdrew from the ATM card. After a while, when we had our own salary account with Standard Chartered Bank, I chose not to close this but at least to maintain a minimum balance and keep running it.
Time went along but then the rapport and trust with HDFC bank came down step by step. Simply put a few of the following failed to accomplish: 

  1. No valid response regarding renewal of ATM Card. The website says availability of ATM card in lieu of Debit Card but the branch and phone banking are emphatic on debiting a costly issuance + annual fees on debit card stating that ATM cards are not supported. When I quote that your website promises otherwise, you only witness a grave silence from their side other than an autoresponder.
  2. When you opt for Fixed Deposit in any branch, the agents crowd around soliciting for mutual funds. I have recently quoted about an interesting quotation about Mutual Funds in my other discussion about ‘Value for Penny‘.
  3. When I chose to close a fixed deposit, one branch says base branch; base branch says nearest branch and sometimes I get replies “4 Working Days”.
  4. Last year, before I travelled to US, I thought of getting the TDS Certification and submitting a Form 15H for tax exemption. But one of the Velacherry Bank staff (Lakshmi Seshadri) was busy giggling with her colleague more than responding to customer queries. This issue went to sleep for a while.
  5. This january after a long sleep, this was put to a period. I forced a three step operation:
    1. Break the deposit at ITC Center, Anna Salai and took some amount there and transferred to my other account.
    2. Took my other amount by cash withdrawal at my parent branch.
    3. The parent branch was refusing closure of account. Hence I lodged a report to CustomerCare and filed subsequent closure requests at Selayur and Tambaram Sanitorium to have it closed.
    4. You may ask me “Why do you withdraw at three branches?”. The simple answer is that Chennai these days are filled with pocketpickers. If they observe you withdrawing full fixed deposit, you risk losing it. You ought to distract them to stay safe”.