Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Goodness Gripes! Or "How Modern Convenience is an Inconvenience in the hands of the Ignorant"

Ah, technology!

I love my Debit Card. It allows me to use my cash AS IF I have a credit card, yet without the charges and pitfalls I associate with credit cards.

There are some things, though, that I did not know about my debit card, until a sequence of events bit me in the butt one fateful day. I decided to pay for my petrol at the pump by swiping my debit card there one day - for about RM50 of petrol. Having about RM300 in the account, I was comfortable in the knowledge that I could immediately after, go grocery shopping for RM250.00 and safely use my card to do so. 


What I didn't know is that if you swipe your debit or credit card at the pump, the bank takes a float of say RM200 or more in order to cover your possible consumption of that much petrol. Your float is returned ONE DAY after the transaction when details of the real amount you consumed is balanced with the bank.

SO I happily went to the supermarket, loaded up RM250.00 worth of groceries for our open house event, went to the cashier and couldn't pay. Ok, I thought, I will get them to wait while I go get cash from the ATM machine about 30 metres away. What? I was about RM200 short. I had to make them unscan all my goods while other customers waited behind me. Yes, I was embarrassed, but more perplexed, since I was sure I had not made a mistake. And those poor customers, who were very kindly waiting for me to undo my folly.

When I got home I called my bank who proceeded to inform me that this happens when swiping at the pump. In order to avoid this, I would have to go into the station and swipe at the counter, whereupon my requested amount would be charged only, and not more.


It was with this experience in mind that my behaviour was coloured today when I stopped for petrol on the highway.

I had just dropped someone off at the LCCT and needed a snack - so I decided the Petronas gas station opposite Sepang F1 track would be the best place for me to get snacks, top up my touch and go card and petrol.


I had RM80 in my purse. I thought, if I use the modern convenience of my debit card to withdraw cash from one of the two ATMs here, I will be able to hold on to my cash notes. Unfortunately, both ATMs were OUT OF SERVICE. Typical, I thought, but not a big problem. I had a DEBIT CARD! I could do practically the same thing except pay at the counter instead of getting cash out especially for this transaction.

So I get my snacks and go to the counter. My cashier is a newbie, pleasant, but had to ask how to top up my TnG card. Her associate, more experienced and probably chronically and constantly harrassed by assholes in this neighbourhood, gruffly told me that I can only top up my TnG card via cash. Thinking it was rude of her to get angry at me when she could simply inform me, I decided not to get TnG and just get some petrol along with my snacks. So, RM30 of petrol and RM5.20 for snacks.

They swipe the card and then tell me that I must go and pump first before I can sign the transaction docket.

Alarm bells go off. Firstly, I would never leave any of my cards with an unsigned, open bill. I know not to o this because it is pure common sense that while I am gone, any kind of illegal purchases or information or identity theft could take place - and the bank regularly advises against this. For God's sake, this is the 21st Century! How can anyone not know this? Or know it and then knowingly ask me to do the opposite?

Secondly, due to my prior experience, I knew that the only reason they would ask me to pump first before signing was because they would not finalise the transaction until I had pumped the mount I wanted, which means that it was possible that the transaction would involve this afore-mentioned one day float. 

When I refused to do that on those two grounds, Harrassed Rude Cashier Number Two proceeded to tell me that THIS IS HOW IT WAS DONE.

So I said, fine, please cancel the transaction and I will pay by cash. She told me it was not possible to cancel the transaction. Laillahailallah!!!!! May the good folks at Petronas forever be embarrassed that this level of ignorance exists - and I was to find out, permeated the management too!

Even if I had no reason to, I have the choice as a customer to cancel the transaction. Inconvenient as it may be, and even if I were wrong, or misguided, or obnoxious to them, it was a perfectly acceptable request, and of course, POSSIBLE.

At this point I decided I did not need to be treated like an idiot by idiots and raised my voice, saying that they could not ask me to leave unsigned open dockets and furthermore that the transaction would involve taking a float that would render at least RM200 of my money unusable for a day. Now imagine me, with my limited Malay, saying that at rapidfire speed to two young girls in language they would understand!! I look back on that moment and am momentarily impressed by my non-stammering effort.

I insisted they cancel, and finally, after much grumbling and an unwelcome comment from a third, older lady at another counter, that yes, THISISHOWITISDONE, they cancelled it and I paid in cash.

After I got my petrol, I got in the car and realised that while I had a receipt for my cash payment, I did not have any evidence or paperwork showing they had cancelled the transaction, so I decide to call the bank.

A very personable customer rep called Yaakob took my call and found out that they had not cancelled it. I asked him if he could cancel it, but he was not able to as it is the prerogative of the vendor. He told me I must go back and ask for a void receipt. Due to my suspicious nature, I had not yet left the gas station, and thank goodness because I think I would have really spat the dummy if I had had to make a long U-turn. So I went back in, deciding that this needed to be settled quickly and without anger because I could see that ignorance is not the same as stupidity, and while these girls were ignorant, they were intelligent enough to understand me earlier and deal with me on that level of understanding about the float, etc.

When I went in and explained that they needed to give me a void receipt and why, they were quite willing to handle the issue, but did not know how. So, they turned to a supervisor, who seemed to be on a break, chatting to an elderly relative I assumed, in the cafe section. This fourth lady proceeded to make the ugliest face of impatience and intolerance that immediately put me off her personally, before she humped herself over to the counter to try to understand what was going on.

After a short explanation, she proceeded to say THISISHOWITISDONEHERE. I could have rolled my eyes at her and blown her a raspberry, I had had enough of that pathetic excuse! 

I explained that this was what the bank advised me to do, and could she or could she not give me a void receipt?

They eventually decide to do it, but lo and behold! I find out out that they have actually charged me for the snacks on my card! All RM5.20 of them! So I pointed out that I had already paid this cash earlier along with the RM30 petrol, a total of RM35.20. When I point this out, they offer no apology, but make me sign a docket for RM5.20! So, they had overcharged me anyway, and HAD left the docket open, despite saying they had cancelled the transaction. 

Bodoh ke? Tak tahu ke? Bodoh sombong sampai tak boleh mengaku salah? Kesalahan itu, mencuri namanya!

They return to me RM5.20, at which point I say (out of concern for the balancing of their books at the end of the day, stupid me!), do they want my receipt from earlier in return for the cash they have just taken out of the till? They look at me like I am the Cosmic Idiot. But then, they do what I say. And so I leave, thinking I have my one cash receipt for RM30 of petrol, and my signed, closed docket of RM5.20 for snacks.

I get home, check my online details, and find that they have charged me for RM35.20!!!!!!!!!!!


So of course, I check and re-check, you know, sometimes these things take a few hours to update in the system. About an hour later, I call my bank again, and re-tell my whole story. They promise to call me back after investigation.

Someone calls me a few hours later, asking how they can help. It occurs to me that if they have been investigating, surely they would know what it is I want them to do? 

Anyway, I ask if it is normal practice for gas stations to ask their customers to fill up BEFORE they sign their docket at the counter, and my customer rep says, it depends. So then I ask the same question in a different way - would my bank encourage me to leave an open unsigned bill AND my card with an unsupervised vendor? Definitely not, she said. So, I said, was I within my rights to ask them to cancel the transaction? Yes I was. 

Then she explained that the imbalance would be corrected within 16 working days. Ok, I thought, that is long. I asked if there was a record of my complaint or a log of my two phone calls today. She said no. Then I asked what happens if the situation isn't righted, how would I refer back to this call/complaint? I guess she was not used to customers protecting their rights, because her tone began to assume the tone of the lady cashiers - THISISHOWITISDONEHERE.

Ooooo, I do not like it when frontliners talk down to their customers, especially when the customer in this case, is right.  So I calmly said, why is it that this mistake is being borne by the customer? What if it had been RM3000? I simply want a reference number, a log of this call, a report or something. She took a while to look for this for me, but it seemed that she came up with nothing, because all she came back with was that I could refer to the date and time of call. 

Utterly defeated, I thanked her and hung up. I mean, it's only RM30. And this is Malaysia, I should expect this - meaning I should expect less? And despite the fact that the two corporations I was dealing with were a major Malaysian bank and petrol vendor, we all know that national pride has nothing to do with the inadequacy of proper customer service - I mean, that requires the kind of training that requires mental ability in order to grasp financial concepts and customer service ideals. THISISHOWITISDONEHERE.

When you say, THISISHOWITISDONEHERE, you're really saying, "you don't like it, go somewhere else".

I see why so many have heard that implicit message, and left.

So this is my passive-aggressive gripe - really, a way of time and date-stamping my report, isn't that sad? - and I thank you for listening. I hope I haven't made you irate. I hate being made irate by these inconsequential things. I just don't like being patted on the head by condescending people who are being paid to make sure the customer is happy.

Oh, sorry, that is NOT how it is done here.


It's now about 9pm on the same night. About half an hour ago I received another call from my bank, from a customer rep very politely referring to the ongoing investigation and would I please lodge a written report by fax, with the following Care Referral Number attention to Ms So-And-So?

I was very happy to hear that and was treated nicely by the rep, and it was obvious that the previous caller, whilst purporting to help, really was not properly equipped to do so, despite the system being in lace to do so. 

So it begs the question: with obviously adequate procedures to handle such complaints, why isn't there consistency amongst the reps? It's down to attitude, and unfortunately, some just slip through the cracks and get away with non-helping.

I hope that my report gets a quicker result than 16 working days!

Hi all, an update: a day after my little adventure, I checked my account to find that the transaction was reversed, finally. It took much less than 16 working days (am wondering now where on earth that number came from) and puts paid to my contention that a day's delay might have happened if I had gone through with the original transaction. After I realised this I faxed my bank to inform them that I was aware of this. And I received a call from my bank today to confirm this. As far as the bank is concerned, case is closed.

As yet, I have not heard back from Petronas since faxing them both the original complaint/report, and then yesterday faxing to inform them that the transaction had indeed been reversed, but my complaints about the behaviour of the station staff still stood.


Shareen Mohd Saleh said...

Oh dear. I completely understand how you feel, 'hun. Being in the customer service industry myself, I have personally worked with people who couldn't care less about other people and stupid Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) that makes no logical sense. Take heart that not all of us are like that. I always try to put myself in the customers' shoes. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you", right? ^___^

pye:rudz said...

those "services" you received were simply dumb and rude. clearly not a customer-oriented approach.

mamasan said...

Thanks Shareen, i have definitely come across the good eggs that simply make my day in the customer service industry, tho it's a pity they don't stand out as much as the bad ones! unfortunately it's a thankless industry to be in, but as you say, there are some who couldn't care less and I wonder why they don't choose something else that doesn't involve customer "interface"!


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