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Getting lost in the ‘wired’ world

india Updated: Jun 21, 2007 12:47 IST
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In this new world of techno-wizardry in communication, the banking industry, the dealer of the thing which makes the world go round, has taken to the internet like duck to water, while the customer, the fish-out-of-water, makes that great leap of faith straight into the duck’s belly.

You, the prospective customer, wanting to open a savings bank account, choose the nearest bank which offers or promises to offer most of the new age facilities. In your infinite stupidity, you check the box which has the word Internet against it, anticipating an operate-from-home, paperless and hassle-free service. Only, you realize a little too late that the bank’s staff, steeped for aeons in the public-sector culture, are well-versed in the art of getting everything down on paper and in triplicate and of losing all three copies in a sea of files heaped next to the desk-top pc and the mandatory cuppa.

If you think that just checking the ‘Internet’ box on the application form will automatically entitle you to this service, you must either be an ET, mad or one of the staff. You should know that to get this facility up and working, you need to follow a series of procedures involving reams of paper, the use of which the Internet was born to eliminate.

You have to first submit to the bank a written request asking them to enable the Internet facility. This, the bank duly and diligently loses. Since they have lost it, they have no way of knowing they had received it in the first place and so they can’t possibly tell you they have lost it. In the meantime, you wait for maybe two or three weeks as you know they have to send your request to Mumbai where the bank is headquartered.

Now, Mumbai is a wannabe financial hub of the world and this is where most banks have their head offices. But, for you the customer, this is not going to make much of a difference as having your letter lost in Mumbai is not going to make it any less lost than having it so elsewhere.

When you haven’t heard a beep from the bank, you follow up with a phone call to the branch. They ask you to send a request once again as they haven’t received any letter so far. You remind them that you have a bank-acknowledged copy of the letter which fails to cut any ice. You are caught in their net; you have no choice but to do as they say. You call up the customer care centre just to vent your spleen which makes you feel much better. This time around, you courier the letter as you want to live up to the term “home-banking”, even if the bank doesn’t. They lose it again but this time admit it is their mistake, regret the inconvenience caused to you and request you to please send the letter once again.

Finally, you get the passwords, both log-in and transaction, in a sealed envelope. You log in to your account immediately and change the passwords. At last, you have a full-fledged secure Internet banking account - is what you think. Until you get another set of passwords by mail.

You are flummoxed by the bank’s dual service, but you take care, however, not to call up the customer care centre for clarification, as you strongly and possibly rightly suspect that it functions as a separate cell, independent of the bank. You go to your computer and as expected the old passwords don’t work. You have to log in with the new set and once again change them to your own choice.

You can now access your account from the comfort of your home, check the balance, get a statement for a period and even make transfers – is what you think. Until you try to transfer a lakh to your other account with another bank. You know well enough not to transfer the amount to any outside account until you are sure that the act is carried out safely and correctly. The message box immediately springs to action and warns you that transactions above Rs 25,000 require a written request to the branch. You go to the mirror and start swearing at your image (advantage of home-banking!).

Your written request to increase the ceiling for transfer from Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh is accepted and acknowledged. Please read paragraph 6 and come back.

You wait a couple of weeks and try transacting. You try the darnedest tricks to hide from the message box but it has found you! It now says that the transaction facility is not yet activated and you have to send a written request to your branch.

Will somebody make a ball pen which can shoot?


The writer can be contacted at chandrax@gmail.com.

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