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Standard Bank below Standard

05 February 2013, 13:00

So I'm on my way home from a nice relaxing weekend in Struisbaai, and stop to draw some cash as we're entering Cape Town, and the ATM spits out a rude piece of toilet paper stating there's a technical error because my account is unavailable.

I rush the last leg home to log into Internet Banking, only to find my account is "not available" and has been set to "zero" funds. Being a Sunday, there's nobody to call, so I send an email, and make a note of the business banking and customer care call centre numbers.

While I was lying in bed that night, I was quite thankful for small mercies. Imagine I'd run out of petrol and got stranded on the way home in some dorpie like Napier? Imagine I went out for dinner and couldn't pay the bill?

Monday morning I phone, and I'm told that I need to FICA. I did this 3 years or so ago, and my details are still the same, but apparently not according to their records. Apparently a letter I didn't receive in the post was the only form of "warning" I was issued in their lock-down of my account. So I juggle some meetings and head off to the Standard bank Constantia branch and head to the business banking section.

I tell the lady at reception I want to speak to a business banking manager (she asked which one, I said I don't know because apparently they rotate them every month - probably to ensure you can't build a relationship with a real live human being). So I take my obligatory number in the queue and have a seat with the rest of the cattle.

45 minutes or so later they attend to a STUDENT who arrived 15 minutes after me. So I go speak to the receptionist, and tell her I have a meeting soon and can't sit around all day. She makes copies of my FICA documents and tells me she will have a manager sort it out, and give me a call at the end of the day to confirm.

So I go about my daily business (cash strapped) and get back to the office around 4:15pm. I check my account - still deactivated, and no calls from the bank. I phone business banking, they don't know anything, and can't put me through to my branch, which apparently closed at 4pm anyway. They send an "urgent email" directly to one of the business managers there, requesting that they phone me first thing on Tuesday morning. So I retire for the day as helpless as an ant in an airtight cookie jar.

This morning I check my bank account, still zero. I figure okay, let's give the bank until 10:30am as I'm sure they have a list of stuff to get through. 11am I phone the customer care center and ask to be put through to the branch after having told the same story over again. Since my branch refused to answer any of the ringing phones at their desks, the oh-so-polite call center agent checked to see if she could get a "temporary lift" on my account. Nope, apparently only personal accounts can be lifted temporarily, not business accounts. The logic, I tell you, would make Doctor Spock soil his undies. Not only are new students more important than business accounts that have been with the same bank for about 10 years, but it seems Oom Koos' brandy and biltong fund takes precedence as well.

So now I'm at the mercy of the polite customer care agent, who will no doubt do nothing more than send an "urgent email" to the troop of Aardvarks who are dishing out loans to students in glee, and far too busy to attend to the problem of their misadministration of my business account.

Anyway, I'm going to go rob a few bergies for cash and head off to get my "Standard W@nk" Tee-shirt which I'll be wearing while I speak to the next clueless business banking manager.

I can't help but wonder how many money laundering Nigerian drug lords have gone through the same hassle I have.

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