The story they begged me to write
Samuel Potter has been amazed at the number of people who have asked him to write a story about HSBC in the UAE.
March 13, 2011 3:51 by Samuel Potter
In my year or so of editing the Kipp report, I’ve tried not to harbour many grudges. I’ve tried not to get personal, or be biased in whatever I write about. I do admit, that occasionally I lose my temper and use the site to vent, but when I do I always try to make sure I’m venting about something that plenty of other people might agree on. And when they disagree, they’re always free to respond – in fact I encourage it.
That could be why I’ve shied away from this subject for so long, because I suspected it might be a personal grudge which no one else shared. However, after a strange little weekend, I can no longer avoid it; I have been begged – literally, begged – to write about HSBC here in the UAE.
And not just by one person. This weekend alone, four separate people have mentioned HSBC to me independently. That’s why it has been strange. In various different social circles people have been whining about this specific bank, and telling me their stories of woe. And over my years here in Dubai, every so often other people have told me about how HSBC has failed them. Like I say, if it was just me I’d leave it alone, but it isn’t just me. It’s lots and lots and lots of people. And they’ve asked me to write something.
Like a friend of mine who had a car loan with HSBC. He saved desperately to pay it off early, because he could no longer face the monthly calls from the bank telling him his cheques were unacceptable. He wrote them all out at once in the presence of the HSBC bank manager, and they were acceptable then. But for some reason, months down the line, they were suddenly unacceptable. HSBC called him dozens of times, often when he was abroad (he said he’d been called at three in the morning because of time differences). They insisted he come to the Jebel Ali branch (miles from where anyone works, let’s face it) to give new cheques. He told them where to go, but said if they sent a driver down to him to collect new cheques he’d write a few out. After a few days of pointless arguing the bank relented, but the whole episode repeated itself monthly. Isn’t it funny how the cheques were unacceptable, but not so unacceptable that HSBC couldn’t cash them after a day or two of him refusing to visit the branch?
Or how about a woman I met at the weekend who was offered an account upgrade by HSBC. The new account came with lots of benefits, she was told, so she said okay. She was then informed that to upgrade her HSBC would have to close her current account and open a new one. “But,” my new friend said, “I have standing orders and direct debits on my account, won’t this be a problem?” She was assured that it would not be a problem, and that all standing orders and so on would be transferred. You can guess the rest – within weeks, debt collectors were chasing her as her arrangements had evidently not been transferred. In a country that locks you up for bad cheques, this is pretty serious. Trying to resolve the issue over the phone she was put on hold by HSBC for more than two hours. She had other stories about the bank, but I don’t have space here.
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