No Problem

My wife and I had invested ten thousand pounds in a Guaranteed Income Bond offered by the HSBC Bank in London. It had a term of twelve months. I tried for weeks to get the requisite form to roll it over.

With two days to go before the Bond expired, I at last received a form. It stated clearly that the minimum investment was £25,000. I only had £10,000. So on September 20th I sent a message to Mark, the Premier Relationship manager of the branch office: in view of this minimum amount could I roll over the ten thousand or should I find another investment? I didn’t want to send this form in and find the amount cannot be accepted. No reply. I sent another email. No reply. I then phoned Customer Service. No, you have to deal with your branch. But they won’t reply. Who else can I speak to? All you do is refer me to the branch and they won’t answer. Sorry we cannot answer technical questions. You have to speak to the Premier Relationship manager.

By the time I had finished trying to discover what the rules were the deadline had passed and I therefore put the money somewhere else. But by doing so I had foregone a higher rate of interest, which was not the end of the world, but nonetheless irritating. Did they not want people to take up their bonds with the higher returns? If not why did they not say? At this point I received a message on my answering machine from Mark. The number he left for me to return his call turned out to be Customer Service again. No, they couldn’t put me through to him. By this time I was annoyed and told them if I didn’t get a call back from Mark I would complain directly to the CEO of HSBC, the only thing to do to get people’s attention. Mark phoned back immediately from London:

Mark: Mr. Hanrott, I understand there is a misunderstanding.

Me: No misunderstanding. I have been unable to get answers from you to a simple and legitimate question, so I have put my money elsewhere.

Mark: No problem. I phoned and left a message asking you to phone me here.

Me: Yes, and I phoned back, but had to speak to customer service because it is impossible to speak to you on a direct branch phone line.

Mark: No problem. I sent you the forms to roll over your bond.

Me: Yes, they went to my sister in Somerset. When I finally got them I discovered that the minimum investment was £25,000. I then sent you an email to ask if you could roll that over or whether I should find another financial instrument at a lower figure and a lower interest rate.

Mark: No problem.

Me: I sent you two emails, and you replied to neither of them.

Mark: No problem. I was out of the office.

Me: You keep saying “no problem”. I understand that this is a figure of speech imported from the United States, but it does not quite describe the situation. There is a problem. Problem one is my time that you and your company have wasted. I have a limited time on Earth and a low level of patience.

Mark: No problem. Had I not been out of the office this would not have happened.

Me: Here is a second problem. You have deprived me of an advantageous rate of interest by effectively stopping me rolling over a Guaranteed Income Bond.

Mark: No problem. The original bond was most advantageous for those on a higher income tax rate. You shouldn’t have been a bondholder in the first place.

Me: That bond was recommended to me by your branch. I wouldn’t have known about it had I not I had gone in there for advice.

Mark: No problem. Maybe it was appropriate at the time.

Me: Meanwhile, it looks as if you don’t know whether you can roll over a £10,000 bond or not. Shouldn’t you find out instead of just ignoring the customer?

Mark: No problem. I’ll find out for you whether you can roll it over then.

Me: No, no. It’s too late. The bond has expired. I have been onto Customer Service twice and have sent you two emails about it. When you are out of the office no one deals with your messages. This is poor management.

Mark: No problem. Although I can see it’s a problem.

Me: The financial world is imploding, Mark. Banks are going out of business. The stock market is in chaos. No one can borrow and no one can lend. And along comes a customer with £10,000 and instead of putting it sensibly in a trunk under the bed where you financial wizards can’t get at it he wants to invest it in your bank. In return for this favour you fail to reply to your emails. May I remind you that self-destruction (or suicide) is against the law?

Mark: Please come back anytime if you need help, and I hope you will choose HSBC for your future investments.

Me: I think this incident has been an example of very poor service. However, on this occasion I am not going to make a formal complaint to the CEO of HSBC.

Mark: No problem. Have a nice day.