HSBC is DEAD to me

First off, let me start by saying that early on in the blog I wanted to post a lot more about likes and dislikes. I wanted to really harp on terrible customer interactions with companies and flesh it out into kind of a business lesson.

But then I started to see every blogger doing this shtick. I think that there is too much complaining on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. The more and more I read, the more and more I start to think that these people are whiny brats. And that’s how a lot of social media complaining comes across to me–as terribly whiny.

Also, I wanted to sort of foster and harness good karma. I think that too much focusing on small negative trivial things can seep into the psyche.

I did actually go off on a rant against Verizon. Well deserved. But I decided to remove the posts because the tirade I threw really isn’t the person I am in “real life.”

Then there is this. I’ll trade the karma demerits for the therapy this vent is surely to provide. I’ll sacrifice my reputation to go off on this vent. This story must be told.

This will be challenging to write as there is so much going on.

First the background:
My wife and I had/have a home equity loan out. The term was 10 years. Being in a good financial state and being that we are averse to wasting money by paying interest, we decided to knock the loan out much sooner.

We accomplished that task, paying all but $2.20 off within 3 years. Pay attention to $2.20, because that’s going to be an ongoing theme.

When I checked the loan documents, I noticed that there was a considerable penalty fee for paying the loan off before 3 years. Uh oh!

So I called HSBC, and the representative advised me to not pay off the $2.20 yet, rather wait for the 3 years to come up (which was only a few months away). It didn’t sound right to me. I asked him a few times to confirm, and he did as well as reassure me that this was the right thing to do.

Ok, so I thought my summer will be spent not worrying about the $2.20 I owe. Being that I’m hyper organized and efficient, I made a reminder in my calendar to deal with the $2.20 once the full 3 years was up.

Soon after, the nightmare began.

First we got a letter in the mail saying that the loan is in default. And that we are at risk of foreclosure on our house. Did I mention that the balance on the loan is $2.20?

After reading this, a big WTF dawned on me.

So I grab the phone, and call up HSBC Mortgage.

Apparently because I didn’t make a payment the previous month, the system kicked out the form letter. Mind you the letter’s tone was very threatening. For such a threatening automated letter, there should be some sort of check. For instance something should have checked the principal balance,which if I haven’t mentioned yet was $2.20.

$2.20. Yes, less money than I have in my change jar. My home is in risk of foreclosure over $2.20.

At this point I had the feeling the letter was just an error. The representative told me it was! But. And a big but, the rep tell me that they can’t stop the letters! They are automatically generated whenever you miss a payment date.

I was told to ignore the letters. I was told not to worry. There was nothing they can do to stop the letters.

So I did. I didn’t worry and I ignored the letters.

It’s kind of hard to ignore the deluge of letters we were getting. But I did.

Then the nightmare began. Yes, I already said the nightmare began already. But this is the REAL nightmare.

We started to get threatening calls from HSBC’s collection department. I try to be calm and patient, I really do, but it’s hard when someone calls you threatening to foreclose on your house, submit negative credit reports, issue late payment fees, and to top it off they don’t have access to the information they need to see it’s an error. AND they don’t have the access, authority, and know-how on how to resolve the issue.

What then starts is a classic “you need to speak with x department” pass the buck approach to solving an issue, which HSBC is well versed in and employs to perfection. This often leads to being passed back and forth between departments. My replies “I just spoke to them, and they told me that you (YES YOU!) can fix it” are met with a lot of dead air.

At this point, there were a lot of “we’re sorry sir,” “yes we see your principle balance is only $2.20,” and “no you shouldn’t be getting letters and calls, your loan is not in default.”

Over and over I’m told to ignore. Don’t worry. We’re fixing it now.

The whole month of June and July were spent going back and forth with them. Why? Because after each “don’t worry” there would be a call soon after saying “no we don’t see the notes, the loan is in default, etc.” At least once a week. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Time to make the doughnuts. Insert other idiom here.

The month of August was miraculously quiet. Ahhhhhhhhhh. I can sleep at night knowing some dumb system isn’t threatening my financial livelihood over $2.20.

As quiet as August was, September began another assault from the HSBC goons. This time, the calls degenerated more. Partially because I was beyond annoyed, and partially because it appeared that the people calling me had even less information about the account than they did in previous occasions. I couldn’t just tell them to “check the notes,” which would work in most other instances. This time my “check the notes” was met with “I don’t see any notes” and more forceful insistences that the loan was in default. It also seemed that the new breed of goon refused more to STOP and LISTEN to what I was trying to explain to them.

This got me boiling. But there is an end in sight!

You see, the 3 year mark finally has passed. On Monday I called to settle my $2.20 in debt. The $2.20 that has had me held captive by the HSBC goons for months. I get the final amount, which includes the lein release fee (damn government!). I give the rep my payment information. It’s done, right? Not quite. She tells me the payment will take a few days. She tells me she put in a “work order” for the payment. Ug. More dealing with calls from the goons probably.

I’ll write out a series of business lessons at the end of this post, but one I need to get off my chest (or off my fingers) is that a rep should never ever ever ever ever ever promise that a problem is resolved unless is 100% is. I was told several times that I would not get any more calls. I did. I was told the problem is resolved. It wasn’t. I was even told that my payment would go through in a few days.

Sure enough on Tuesday the goons call looking to break my legs collect their $2.20. More foreclosure threats. More threats to report us to credit agencies.

Mind you that each time I talk to collections, they either try to transfer me and it gets disconnected or I’m told they can’t transfer me. Either way I have to then call HSBC directly. So after the goons threaten me again Tuesday, I call. I’m told the “work order for your payment hasn’t gone through yet, it will by the 16th.” Ok, I guess.

Goons call again on Wednesday. Same process. I’m told the work order didn’t go through yet.

Goons call on Thursday. Hey, today is the day the “work order” should have went through, right? Finally I let this goon have it. Actually she was a persistent goon who started out by not listening to a word I was telling her. I don’t think I let out any f-bombs, but a few other words I’m not really proud of probably slipped out

Remember, all of this is over $2.20. At this point the time, effort, and resources the HSBC goons have put forth to collect the $2.20 surely well exceed the $2.20. Yes $2.20.

This last persistent non-listening goon turned out to be not so much of a goon afterall. A testament to her persistence I guess, she took charge and worked with me to get to the bottom of it. The lesson here is that employees should be empowered to resolve issues. Unfortunately she fell victim to the lesson I mentioned before (never ever ever ever ever ever promise that a problem is resolved unless is 100% is).

She put me on hold, went over ALL of the notes in the account with her manager. She saw the massive disaster this account had become. She criticized (indirectly) other reps for not doing what they should have, which was to put the collections (of $2.20) on HOLD. She apologized profusely and told me she spoke to someone else at HSBC who was escalating my “payment not gone though” issue with their manager. That’s the part she fell victim to.

Apparently no one ever looked into it. Perhaps I enjoy the stress of dealing with HSBC, because Friday I called just to check on the status of that last payment.

Here is another lesson. Don’t outsource to India if a language comprehension barrier is going to be an issue for a word like… like… like… PAYMENT.

First the women I spoke with on Friday did not see all of the notes. It’s funny how you can become so familiar with the imaginary screen the person on the phone is seeing that you can tell them what notes should be there.

Second, there is no record of anyone looking into it today like the persistent one promised (remember never ever make promises your company can’t keep).

I try to calmly and clearly explain to her that on “Monday, I called to make the final payment. I gave the rep my payment information. She created a ‘work order’ to complete the payment, which should have gone through yesterday.” I explained to her that “I spoke to someone last night (the persistent one) and she said someone was going to look into it today.”

I was met with “but sir, you didn’t make a payment.” Here’s where the language barrier and semantics came into play. I could not make her understand that although the payment wasn’t processed (BY HSBC, NOT ME!!!!!), that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a payment. I let her know that the issue isn’t me making the payment, IT’S HSBC PROCESSING IT!!!

Man stuff like this makes my blood boil.

Sure enough after a lot of explaining and a lot of futility explaining to her the semantics of the word payment, she transferred me to her manager.

At certain points during this entire ordeal, there were breaths of fresh air. One was the persistent one at least trying to get to the bottom of it. Another one was this manager, who explained TO ME my entire account history (instead of me having to explain it for the 20th time). Phew. At least he has all the information. And he seems like a nice fellow.

Sooooooooooooo. He uncovers that the rep I spoke to on Monday DIDN’T PROCESS THE PAYMENT CORRECTLY!!! Holy $#!t. 3 straight days of nonsense and this if the first person to see that it wasn’t processed the right way! All along this mistake (on top of the calamity of mistakes) becomes MY PROBLEM TO RESOLVE! I have to do the handholding. I have to do the explaining. I have to make each department talk to each other. I have to FORCEFULLY MAKE them LISTEN to me.

Plenty of broken promises. Too many apologies. This is an utter disaster. HSBC makes me sick.

So the manager re-does the payment and assures me he did it the right way. We’ll see. After all of this, I don’t believe it. I don’t think this is the end.

I went through this with Verizon. There are similarities, although that was about a missing set top box, not my financial well-being. So there are big differences in severity.

The overarching similarity in these disasters is that one department refuses to speak to the other. Rather the customer has to do it. This often results in both departments saying that only the other department can solve it. If dept 1 can’t, and dept 2 can’t, and you keep transferring me back and forth, WHO THE HECK CAN GET TO THE BOTTOM OF IT?

The second similarity is empowerment and access to information. Don’t have someone call with important matters if they don’t have all the notes from previous calls and they don’t have the power and authority to at least take the first step in resolving the issue. “My manager isn’t in” and “no there isn’t anyone else here to help you” are utterly unacceptable replies.

The third is LISTENING. I’m a {expletive}ing customer! Listen to me!!! With both ordeals it wasn’t until I got really heated and loud that anyone would just shut up and listen to what I was saying. Both times it was 100% the company’s mistakes/fault. Both times I had to get to the bottom of it for them.

Lastly, can’t someone see the process through? I mean if the final payment wasn’t done correctly (by the HSBC rep), shouldn’t someone there fix it? Shouldn’t they let me know? Shouldn’t they not have ME DO ALL OF THE FOLLOW UP WORK?