You might have seen the impressive image-building ads of the ICICI Bank, and not too infrequently read news of its CEO Kamath receiving some or the other award.
The reality is not quite aligned with the picture this generates.
Here are the concrete details.
The same Mr. Ajey Deshpande I mentioned in relation to the PTC (see below) had convinced me the virtues of having a Gold card of ICICI bank, when I was working with SunGARD in Pune in early 2005 (for five months). That’s how I have an ICICI credit card.
Since I was not making money after I left SunGARD, the bills accumulated; the matter went to a collection agency; and my father began paying Rs. 6000/- per month for my credit card bills + interest. This went on for some time. Then, one day, he told me that he had waited for me to repay back the bill only because I had asked him to hold on “just one more month.” However, now that IIT Bombay’s Prof. Shevare’s Zeus Numerix had also cheated me, and so, if it was he who was anyway going to make the payment, why wait? If the world had come to pass to this stage, he couldn’t help it, he said, but at least, to him, it made sense not to pay any further *interest*.
So, in the month of April 2008, he dipped into a couple of different bank accounts of his in which he had squirreled money in the past, and handed over the collection agency man, three checks towards the full and final payment of my credit card bill + payment. (He did so when I was not at home—else, I would have asked him to collect the amount in one account and then make payment via a single check. This thought happened to be the first to have passed through my mind as soon as he mentioned that he had made good on the bill via three checks.)
My apprehensions have come to hold true.
It has so happened that out of these three checks, two checks (the very first, for Rs. 22,000 odd and the *third*, for Rs. 10,000/-) got both cleared by my father’s bank and also (wonder of wonders!) got reflected in the ICICI Bank’s internal system.
However, the *second* check (by way of date) for Rs. 50,000/- that my father handed over to the collection agency man simply does not (as of this writing) reflect in the ICICI Bank’s system.
So, what does ICICI Bank do? It not only prepared faulty statements showing amount still due to be collected from me, it also started making phone calls.
Phone calls, mind you, not letters in black and white.
Before we go further, consider these relevant facts:
(i) The ICICI Bank asked the same employee of the collection agency who had collected the check, to visit us. Accordingly, he came to our house and spoke with the ICICI supervisor on *his* phone and confirmed to them that (a) his records show that such a check indeed was physically received by him which he had put in the normal routing to the ICICI Bank; (b) the check had the correct credit card number (mine) written on it; (c) that everything was normal from his point of view. During this visit of his, I, too, was present, and I spoke with the Bank supervisor who promised not to call us. (These BPO folks have a habit of calling only in the afternoon when my old parents (esp. my ailing mother) is taking rest/nap.
However, the harassing calls of the ICICI bank continued. I call them harassing because each call center employee acts as if he does not know anything, as if no prior call had ever occurred (which, hey, less-intellectually-gifted Kamath, CEO of ICICI Bank, please note), and are not willing to listen to the facts—let alone the merits—of the case.
(ii) My father then visited his bank on which this check of Rs. 50000/- was drawn. The clerk confirmed that it had been presented to them and cleared. However, due to some software glitch in *that* bank (IDBI Bank—another public sector thingie loved by Prakash Karat, I suppose), he could give no printout.
We were condemned to respond to the call center ever-freshies with no systemic memory, only by calls.
(iii) I requested again and again that ICICI Bank should (a) stop calling us because it leads to nowhere and (b) send us a letter and confirm the issue in black and white—should they want so.
The Bank of the intellectually-less-gifted Kamath, CEO, did not respond to our requests.
(iv) The matter had, some time in between, visited ICICI Bank’s Ahmedabad office because one of the callers said that he understood that the Bank should send a letter to me, but that none from their Mumbai or Pune office was responding to him.
I suppose he expected me to respond when his own bank was not doing so.
(v) My father went to IDBI Bank (on which the check was drawn) and got, after a month or so (and after fourth visit or so), his Bank passbook updated; an entry in this passbook now did show that an amount of Rs. 50,000/- indeed had been deducted from the account.
Thus, the check had, in fact, been encashed, even if the ICICI Bank did not say so.
(vi) I then went in person to the ICICI Bank’s office at Ghole Road. (The last time I visited, it was on Apte Road.) There, a good-looking lady asked me to visit the credit card department (but didn’t know who—which manager—should I speak with); the credit card department said that I should go to their collection office in their Bhandarkar Road office (but didn’t know who—which manager—should I speak with); the security men at their Bhandarkar Road office didn’t bother who was visiting where (he did not ask me). After a couple of enquiries, I finally got to their collections department.
The collections department people (names to be inserted here later) asked me to give them the details of check—its number and the bank. I refused. I asked them to make the request in writing before I could oblige.
They, like all other employees of the ICICI Bank, refused.
Instead, they paraded me to their “Operations Office”. There, a guy who did not look like a Manager (but looked more like a peon, had no cabin or office, did not show ID card, and did not have the manners to sit down before talking) called himself a “Collections Manager,” and asked, in a belligerent tone, if I had the Xerox copy of the check with the correct credit card number (of my account) written on it.
Notice, I said belligerent. And notice his emphasis on the legal aspects—not on helping the customer.
I refused to answer his question. (Indeed, I might have it—in case the matter goes to court.)
I identified that he was not being helpful, to which he retorted that I could do whatever I pleased. I left “his” “office” then.
Rather than go home, I went back to the Ghole Road office. The good-looking lady, again. The direction to go to the credit card department again… I knew this was not going anywhere. So, finally, I asked someone that I wanted to talk to the top manager—a single person—in Pune. Since he was not available, I happened to talk with the next in the line, one Mr. Ojha. He listened to me patiently, and told me that he looked after Loans, not Credit Cards. He suggested calling or writing their customer service.
(vii) Last week or so (I forgot precisely when), I received a call from ICICI Bank, Bombay. One Mr. Vikram Patil, another “Manager”, promised to send a letter to me, and said that there won’t be any further calls.
(viii) Apparently, Prakash Karat might have called Kamath (the same intellectually-not-really-as-gifted-as-you-and-me-would-like-him-to-be CEO of ICICI Bank) today. So, Kamath, perhaps might have called his “Managers”, who might have called his ever-ready, ever-fresh, ever-un-systemic-memory-less, the-promise-of-India’s-future and Kanwal-Rekhi’s-Darling very very young, BPO employee. The latest one in *this* series continued the tactics of his predecessors—he asked me the number of the check for Rs. 50,000/-; did not listen to my point (rather, talked himself to make what I was saying get drowned in that phone conversation) to the effect that I will give all the details, perhaps even the Xerox of the check, as soon as they sent me a letter in writing. He did not respond to *that* part.
Needless to add, I believe ICICI Bank is only making phone calls but not writing a letter in black and white precisely because they are NOT interested in having the matter settled. They are interested only in keeping the matter dangling because that way, the political bosses (perhaps communists, perhaps BJP+, perhaps factions in the ruling coalition including the local Kalmadi-Pawar rift) can keep harassing me and my family.
Enough said. Kamath (and I cannot even address you Mr. Kamath—not so any longer), if you have any sense of shame left, give up at least one of your numerous trophies, will you? Just return it to whosoever gave it to you. Or was the idea behind giving such trophies also, just to nurture relations so that your Bank might come in handy in harassing men like me, Kamath? Answer that question or give up one of your trophies/awards/whatnot.
And, stop those harassing calls.