Monday, April 13, 2009

Recently, I read about a friend's bad experience with Citi Financial due to mistaken identity. This reminded me of my own bad experience with Citibank due to their publishing a wrong telephone number in their advertisement.

I want to share my experience with Citibank ...
the bank that never (let me) sleep (s)!

About fourteen years ago, I used to live in a locality that had telephone numbers beginning with 371. My number was 3712484. Now, as most of you know, -2484 are the last four digits of Citibank call centres, as CITI codes as 2484. No matter. Then, one fine day, Citibank published a half page ad on page 1 of the Mumbai edition of ET (Economic Times). The ad simply said: Get Loans at Low rates
against your shares. Call (you guessed it!) 3712484 NOW!

I remember that this was during the second stock market boom after Harshad Mehta's stint ,,, the KP10 boom, if you will. Mumbaikars were sitting with penny stocks like Himachal Futuristic, Silverline Industries, Pentamedia Graphics etc ... and all these were priced above 1000-1500 per share, with PG being priced at 2700 per share!(Today, barring HFCL, the other stocks, including Mazda, (KP's darling stock) have all sunk or vanished.)

Phir kya ... the home phone started ringing non-stop from 7.00 a.m. onwards! I looked at my own number on the front page of ET at 8.30, by which time, my wife and I had already fielded not less than 70-75 calls. We tried calling Mumbai's own citi call center, which we knew was 2022484 ( I had a credit card from citi, so I had the call center no), but we could not connect. And, our own phone never gave us a second chance to use it for an outgoing call!

Remember, there were no cell phones back then.

By about 10, our patience had reached breaking point. Finally, I connected to the citi phone center. They were as surprised as we were, and one of them immediately recognised the number to be citi's number for New Delhi. I demanded rectification on an immediate basis, but they, obviously, could not do anything right away. About 11.30, I got a call from their head, one female officer called Anjali something. She was profusely apologetic, and said that they would publish the new number in the next day's newspaper, and in the meanwhile, we should just wait and suffer in silence.

I was shouting at her by then. I asked her to send someone "decent" to take all my calls, and to stay with me till the menace receded. She was willing to do even that, but then, she had a brilliant thought:she sent me a box pack of an advanced telephone answering machine manufactured by Philips. The person who accompanied the box was knowledgeable and helped us to set up the whole thing. He also handed me a letter signed by ?Anjali, and then left.

Over the next few days, the calls gradually stopped. However, citi never sent to take the machine back. We used it for the next five or six years, before it malfunctioned and had to be thrown away.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A new financial year begins

Isn't it a funny twist of Fate that a new financial year begins on All Fools' Day? I am a practising professional, and as per Indian tax rules, I am required to file the returns of each financial year by the end of August of the second year of the two years that the financial year pertains to. For example, I must file the returns for the F.Y. 09/10 by August 31, 2009. And so on. Now, to tell you the truth, my Chartered Accountant (C.A.) has never filed my returns on time, and I am forever running to his office and seeking time with him to clear the accounts back-log and planning ahead for the next F.Y. This March-end, we finally submitted (with whopping late fees), the returns for the F.Y. 2007/08. Two more returns need to be filed now ... and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Financially, the last twelve months were a complete disaster, and not just for me,but for almost all people in India and also all over the world. American citizens were the most hit, but no one anywhere in the world was spared. The inflow of cash is not a worry as much as is the inflow of patients, which is something that can cause doctors to get extremely bored and incapable of action.

I would have written more, but that will have to wait as I have too much other work at hand.