On Friday (28 June 2013) I received my salary, this month’s salary was a bit plumper than others on account of the raise I had received from my company, the name of which shall remain confidential.
So on Saturday morning (29 June 2013) I woke up at 7am to get to my friendly ABSA branch to avoid the Nazi style concentration camp the bank can become by month’s end.
I activated my internet banking and was forced to set a limit, after being kindly informed by a consultant that I can increase said limit at anytime over the internet (this turned out to be false). Reluctantly agreeing I set my limit at R10 000 and promptly paid my rent (R4 000) in the bank before being evicted and having to join so many here in CPT in staying on the street.
Then I was off to Bayside Mall in the Tableview area bristling with excitement at the few thousand additional Rands I had increasing the weight of my debit card. I was on a mission to buy the biggest, highest definition LED TV I could afford!
After dealing with the massive mess that is attempting to buy a TV without a TV license, which is a separate article all on its own. I will say that it’s ludicrous for me to pay for SABC channels I have never watched a day in my life! Regardless, I am now the proud owner of a government issue TV license in support of the world-class content SABC channels provide.
Little did I know that there existed a conspiracy by South Africa’s banking Oligopoly, to end my premature joy and embarrass the hell out of me on 3 separate occasions, one in front of what I like to think could have been my soul-mate (blond hottie that was a straight 10/10 standing behind me at the till to pay) had I not financially crashed & burnt right in front of her big blue eyes after my debit card was declined... I may never recover!
Being 12pm on a Saturday all ABSAs had drawn their bridges over the water moats and sealed their siege gates, forcing all the peasants in the real world to fend for themselves. So standing next to a trolley about to break under the weight of a 40” Samsung TV and with limited options I asked the branch manager to keep my TV until my return, after forcing said manager to promise (which in legalese is a verbal contract I might add) I hurried to the closest ATM and tried to draw the required amount only to be prompted: “Daily Limit Exceeded”, okay? Why couldn't it tell the blonde bombshell and me that in the store instead of flashing on the screen in all capital letters: “DECLINED – DECLINED”, which translated into English means: “Sir, you are broke! Why are you trying to buy this expensive TV when you have NO money?”
With tears welling up in my eyes there was hope yet! I recalled the ABSA consultant telling me I can increase my daily limit online. Trusting in Game’s management (Game being the store I attempted my TV purchase) I rushed home in what can only be viewed by other drivers as a crazed lunatic recreating a racing scene from the first Fast & Furious film. Upon arrival I kicked down my apartment door as there was no time to fiddle with keys and got onto ABSA’s website, after an hour or so of trying to decode their overly complicated security measures I was in and increased my limit from R10 000 to R15 000 and double checked to ensure my action was successful.
Upon returning to the Game store I realized my TV and trolley was missing from the customer service department where it was left. No big surprise there, nor was I shocked that the manager I entered into the verbal agreement with had staged a disappearing act. Of course it was the last 40” Samsung TV in stock and all other equals cost a considerable amount more. This was enough to take me over the tipping point... So after throwing a fit that would make any 9 year old boy proud the staff at game offered me a 42” LG at the same price. I happily accepted the substitute and proceeded to the check-out again. I want you to now picture the attention in the form of stares you receive from people when you are about to purchase many people’s dream Television set. Now picture the elation you yourself would feel as you think about how crisp the high definition Bluray movies will look or how realistic the graphics of your favourite PS3 games will feel on your brand new 42” LG LED TV.
That’s exactly how I felt before my damned debit card spelt out those 8 evil letters for a second time: “DECLINED!” Feeling my blood-sugar levels drop my head became faint, my eyesight went dime and as I took a deep breath I raised my fists in the air, tilted my head back and gave out a mighty roar followed by the words: “damn you ABSA bank, damn you all to hell!”
I was now beat, clearly increasing my limit online had failed me, and ABSA Bank had failed me. Leaving Bayside Mall left me with the bitter taste of defeat in my mouth and 1 thought running through my mind: “I work far too hard every month earning a salary just for ABSA to place 100 restrictions on how I can spend/access my money”
So I awoke the following day (Sunday, 30 June 2013) after a recurring nightmare about what had transpired the day before and realised that I had the opportunity to go and get that 42” LG monstrosity because I had reached my daily limit yesterday and today was a new day. Now for a third time I stood in line with the TV feeling strong and grinning like an idiot. How on Earth was it then possible for my debit card to be rejected again? I knew I had more than enough money in my account to purchase the damn thing! Again I returned to the ATM for it to spew out the same garbage it had done twice already: “Daily Limit Reached”
Something had gone horribly wrong here, a new day a new limit right? Obviously not.
I felt sick. I actually felt like throwing up the wimpy I had consumed prior. Knowing now that I wouldn't be able to afford more food I battled to keep it down.
For ABSA to take what was supposed to be a great and joyful experience for me and turn it into this nightmare scenario was something I had not been accustomed to before.
Feeling as helpless as a refugee I called my mother to aid me in my battle against ABSA and their tyrannical rule over my cash flow. She called their “customer” (aka slave) support line to be informed that they can help me but I would need to call them myself, which is understandable as she doesn't have the authority to make dealings over my account.
Now it got really strange because each time I try calling the number: “08600 08600” on my Iphone it automatically calls my grandmother (true story). Realising that something out there in the universe was prohibiting me from fulfilling my destiny of buying this TV my mother said I should take it as a sign and just leave it all to save my sanity. I almost agreed with her but I realised what I had known the entire time... It was the bank. This clearly evil entity was the cosmic force blocking my entertainment happiness and Zen.
Again I arrived at home, picked up my land line and called Mordor.
A word of advice to ABSA management; when you and your failed system leads to one of your clients frustration skyrocketing to levels that surpass those reached when trying to repair your internet connection with Telkom or finding out why your whole street is without power from Eskom, the last thing on earth said client wants to hear when contacting your customer service is an automated voice saying “Hi there! Welcome to ABSA”.
Still, a smirk appeared on my face a few seconds later when the Automated voice system of the banking Gods alerted me to the fact that “this phone call is recorded”, immediately I recited every curse word in the English language to inform ABSA’s ruling monarchy (along with the NSA) that they had done me a massive injustice!
When I got through to a human I could tell from the fear in their voice that they were being held against their will, forced to assist the bank in their nefarious plots against their clients. Not having the time or energy at this stage to assist my fellow man in their freedom, I continued to ask this serf how I could achieve my own financial freedom and get the money required to purchase my little piece of Mecca, I was sent from pillar to post. They even said: “if you get cut-off during the call transfer just call this number again”, I did get cut-off and was forced once again to listen to their banking Gods sugar coat this organisation with a polite voice and perky attitude.
*With all the money ABSA (owned by Barclays of England) makes they can’t fix a small phone line connection error that causes such frustration, and they obviously know about it as I have their staff informing me of the technical errors inevitability.
After getting them back on the phone they droned on about how I needed to draw half of the amount at the ATM and do the other half through internet banking which would have got me nowhere because being a Sunday, Games head office was closed and they would need to issue a reference number to the store before any sale via internet transfer could be facilitated.
When the fool asked me why I couldn't just make the purchase the next day (which was a Monday and Games head office would be open again) I said to him: “not only do I have work the ENTIRE day, not only did I want to make the purchase over the weekend, this Sunday was the final day the TV set was on promotion”. I then asked the young gentlemen if he would pay for the difference in the price once it was reverted back to its original cost. Obviously a trick question because we both knew he was not getting paid for his slave labour.
Realising the phone call was nothing but an exercise in futility I promptly wished the gentleman the best of luck in his captivity and put down the phone.
What was clearly supposed to be a daily limit seems to be more like my new weekly limit or perhaps the limit just never reset due to technical issues? I don’t know because nobody I spoke to over the phone could help me or even tell me what my current limit was, why increasing the limit didn't work?
The sheer complexity of ABSA's systems and protocols, coupled with the poor training their staff receives leads to a cluster f***k of frustration, mistakes, confusion, violent outbursts, waste of peoples petrol that ultimately falls on you as the client to sort it out with their low level cronies (which the Monarchy uses as a convenient buffer between you and the royalty above).
My last option is to travel to the closest branch (the ABSA across the road from Bayside Mall) on a day they choose fitting to open their doors and accommodate the peasants. I will need to travel with gifts of myrrh and frankincense, short on money I have nothing left but a few coins to appease the banking Gods into releasing a small pittance of my ABSA allowance with which to feed my hungry stomach.
So my final question to ABSA’s monarchy is after spending approximately R60.00 on petrol (which nowadays equates to a few teaspoons of the black gold) and R65.00 labour (per hour x4 hours) trying to sort my life out after you kindly threw me into a dark hole without any means of escape; multiplied by compound interest (because I get the feeling it’s what you would do to me). How will you be compensating me? I think cash because to transfer it to my account after the trouble I have had would be a cruel and unusual punishment which is protected against by the Geneva Convention.
And another thing, when banks like ABSA control the most important resource in our lives (our money... our financial freedom), you would think, nay, you would expect that they would be open 24 hours 7 days a week to accommodate us, their clients. Not have every one of their clients scramble and plan their day according to ABSA’s ridiculously restrictive trading-hours. While I realise this practice is industry wide, I am not Standard or Nedbanks client, I am supposed to be ABSA’s client but after this experience it doesn't feel that way at all.
Naturally I am now conducting research and trying to find a bank that isn't as restrictive as ABSA and strongly advise all ABSA clients reading this article to do the same before you yourself (if it hasn't happened already) have a similarly painful experience with them.
BY: Richard Barreto (Former ABSA Client)
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