Thursday, January 27, 2011

Great Absa Credit Card Lotto continued

Dear Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Absa Bank,
          Sorry to bother you again Maria, but after I wrote to you the explanations I have been getting for your Credit Card Lotto are becoming more bizarre by the minute. If you were still running the railways a crazy system like this would have trains going off the lines all over the place.
          As it is, it’s your bank’s clients who are going off their heads with frustration, not to mention the embarrassment of having their cards rejected when they know they are in good standing financially.
          What I told you last time was that ever since I had been given a new card with a super security chip it gets rejected at shops almost as many times as it is accepted.
          To add to my woes I discovered by chance that when I pay my entire card debt by debit order from my cheque account on the 10th of every month it is only reflected on my card three working days later. And during this period my card is blocked so I can’t use it.
          You were evidently too busy to answer my questions yourself so you put Wouter de Vos, the head of your Card Operation on to me.
          He explained that it was decided to put the three day hold on cards when payments were made by debit order or cheques because the payments had been made available without the money being cleared.
          Excuse my ignorance but how can debit orders and cheques be put in the same clearance category?  I appreciate that cheques might take a day or two to clear but surely debit orders go through instantly unless your bank is still using that computer model that Bill Gates perfected when he was in kindergarten.
       Here’s the real double Dutch from Wouter, Maria, We are supplying the correct information to the customer – payment is not cleared yet, even though it reflects as a payment on your credit card account.
          From my experience the customer has to be a mind reader to anticipate this because nobody tells him.
          The system, he said prevented fraud and reduced the risk of over indebting the customers. We’ve got nanny banks now because us stupid customers can’t stop getting into debt without the bank’s help. And of course preventing fraud comes way ahead of ensuring peace of mind for the honest clients who are in the majority by far.
          To confuse the situation even more he added, When the debit order is less that R5 000 the amount will be available immediately and I could phone the call centre to have my debit order hold lifted each month as my amounts were over this R5 000.
          If this was the case I asked him why couldn’t I have the block on my card lifted permanently as my credit limit was way above the amount I spent each month.
          Wouter then revealed that it was your humpty-dumpty system that was at fault because it can’t automatically pick up that the amount is available on the cheque account. They had asked your System Division to look into this to service our customers in a more efficient way. He added this encouraging note; Unfortunately we can’t confirm that it will be changed in the future.
          I suppose as you might have said when you were on the railways, That’s just hard lines for you Jonnie boy.
          The bumbling continued when I wanted an explanation as to what was the point of having a credit limit much higher than what I owed if my card was still put on hold. He said that after my last payment I had only used about a quarter of my credit limit leaving the balance available for use. In spite of that when I tried to use my card on the 11th it was rejected.
          His excuse: We had a few system problems causing transactions not be approved. That’s rubbish because it’s not the first time this has happened to me unless of course your system hasn’t been oiled for years.
          He told me that if my card was rejected and I knew there was enough credit available I should insist that the merchant phones for an authorization. Perhaps he would like to try this with me at a till on a busy day at Pick n Pay. We’d both be lynched by the angry mob waiting in the queue.
          When I asked how much your bank made in interest in the last year while it held money in this no man’s land between accounts he said interest was paid, Where the account was in credit at the time of the debit order. Ha, ha, ha pull the other one Wouter. In any case according to my statement you are current paying the grand sum of 0.20% on credit balances.
          After the launch of the chip card in 2009 certain retailers were having a problem accepting these,  Wouter went on. We are having discussions with the Card Associations (MasterCard and Visa) to address this matter urgently.
          What! nearly two years after the launch? That’s a new definition for urgent.
          Absa’s attempt at delivering exceptional service has indeed been damaged, Wouter conceded.
          He can say that again, Maria. But don’t you think it was pretty elementary to first ensure that the merchants had the necessary equipment to process the new chip card before it was introduce.
          And even once this huge blunder had been made why was it kept under wraps?
Good customer relations would have ensured that all your card holders would have been told of the problem before they stomped and raged at shop keepers for rejecting their cards when they knew they had sufficient funds.
          Your Consumer Watchdog,
PS. I’m afraid you lost Brownie points Maria by not initially answering the email I sent to you personally. You need to take lessons on top notch public relations from Michael Jordaan, the CEO of your rival bank, First National. He answers his emails almost immediately.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Papers that break their own Code of Conduct - continuously

Dear Prakash Desai, Avusa Group’s Chief Executive,
          Did you know that the editors on some of your Group’s newspapers like The Times and the Sunday Times don’t seem to be familiar with that well known saying, People in flimsy papers shouldn’t throw stones?
          I’ve just read the editorial in The Times. Under the heading JZ’s breach of ethics returns to bite him. It lambastes President Zuma for not naming members of his cabinet who violated Parliament’s, Executive Ethics Code by not declaring their financial interests in the stipulated time. He had also been an offender.
        Not unlike Zuma your papers consistently flout your own Group’s Code of Conduct.  How can they set themselves up as moral guardians when their own moral are so lax? 
          Like Zuma their breaches of ethics are coming back to bite them right on their smug, holier than thou, you know what. Once again they’ve been caught on my blog with their pants down.
          As the members of the South African Press Council sit idly by while this is going on it is left to me, the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman to spotlight these things.
       What’s the point Prakash in your Group declaring that its papers do not accept anything for free when The Times and the Sunday Times go on doing it?
          In the same edition that Zuma was taken to task The Times carried a glowing story by Jackie May about a tented camp at the Madikwe Game Reserve where rates start at R3100 per person sharing per night. It ended with this in italics; May was a guest of the Thakadu River Camp.
          This was nothing but a free advertisement in disguised. There’s no chance of readers getting a critical assessment of these places when the reporter has been enticed there as a guest.
          A few days earlier the Travel & Food section of the Sunday Times carried a report by Paul Ash on the opening of Club Med’s new resort at Sinai in Egypt. It too ended by telling readers that he had been a guest of the main subject of his report.
          Sinai, he wrote, was the site of the original wandering when Moses led the Jews out of Egypt. An 11th Commandment might be; Don’t go into a desert canyon wearing strappy sandals. 
          More appropriately I would say the 11th one should be: Don’t go on free trips when they are contrary to your paper’s Code of Conduct.
          A headline in the Review section of that Sunday Times was just as ironical as the editorial about Zuma. It was above the column written by Mondli Makhanya, the overall big shot editor of your entire Group. It said, Demands for ‘free stuff’ are damaging our future as a nation.
          It had nothing to do with your papers getting freebies but it was extremely apt nevertheless.
        I first exposed how your papers were ignoring your Code of Conduct in a letter to Phylicia Oppelt, the Editor of The Times, which appeared on my blog headed: What Code of Conduct.
          Afterwards Thabo Leshilo, your Group Public Editor who is charged with dealing with complaints commented, It does a good job of keeping us on our toes.
          Well it seems that even on their toes the editors of these two publications are unable to reach the high standards set by your Code of Conduct because even after my first blog on the subject the freebies kept on being accepted. 
          Whoever formulated your Code of Conduct evidently thought freebies could taint the reports that appeared in your papers and that’s why they were banned.
          So why does nobody stop the practice especially when the evidence is so blatantly displayed in print?
          Yours tenaciously,
          Jon, the ever watchful Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon Kindle  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Disappearing Nedbank Account

Dear Mike Brown, Chief Executive of Nedbank,
          Having made his fortune in the British horse racing world Ronnie Castelino, the scourge of bookies, was used to taking risks. But when it came to putting his money in a savings account at what is part of South Africa’s fourth largest banking group he assumed he was on to a sure bet.
You'd back that opinion wouldn’t you Mike?
          Ronnie and his partner Gayla live in Kent during the British summer and escape the winter to sunny South Africa where they have a second home in Cape Town. And for the last 10 years he has had an account with your bank.
          And as you know he was not just any old client. His status was such that he was allocated Liza Carelse as his personal banker to ensure that he got the best possible service. Everything had gone smoothly until last December.               
        That’s when that sure bet in his savings account turned into a rank outsider. He had won and lost on races like the Derby and numerous others but nothing had prepared him for what happened to his R200 000 ‘safe’ investment.
          It was too horrendous to contemplate. It looked as though his sojourn in Cape Town would be ruined as this was his spending money for his six months stay.
            Imagine how shocked and surprised he was when he tried to draw money from the account. It had just disappeared, every cent of that R200 000; all in one go.
          Anxiously he tried to get some sense out of your bank. That’s when the call centre horror of big business really kicked in. He described his ordeal to me like this, About six engaged tones, three to four recorded messages, two press this and press that and about five real people.
          What's the point of having a personal banker, I wondered, if even the top moneyed clients have to go through the same minefield as the riffraff when they have a problem.
          A greatly relieved Ronnie was finally able to speak to Carelse. This is what happen he told me. Her branch had a campaign to move ‘dormant’ money to higher interest bearing accounts so without contacting me she moved my investment from my Money Market Account to a new one I knew nothing about.
          In an email Carelse apologised for the inconvenience and stated, We have credited the funds back to your account as per your request. She added this comforting note, No funds will be debited to your account in future.
          The following day he received another email this time from your Complaint Specialist, Shea Blaauw. The unfriendly, ominous heading was Without prejudice. Presumably this was a legal escape route in case Ronnie wanted to take the matter further.
          After mentioning that the money had been returned and that Carelse had apologise she dismissed Ronnie’s complaint with, Without further prejudice to you, we wish to inform you that the points discussed are deemed final and sufficient to declare the case closed.
          But it wasn’t closed. Two days later another email arrived. This one was from Michelle Paddock (a good name to have when dealing with a racing personality), the Cape Town Branch Manager.
          She apologised most profusely for the stress and distrust cause by our recent actions in moving your Money Market Investment to an Easy Access Investment. Ironical name that when there was such easy access to his Money Market Account.
          She went on to say that all they were trying to do was to enhance the return on his investment. We have found that whilst we endeavour to contact all our clients prior to moving funds, this is not always the case and for this oversight I can only express deep regret and confirm that this will not occur in future.
          Corrective action, she said had been taken against Carelse and Ronnie’s new personal banker would be Mishkah Abrahams.
          He told me that Carelse had taken over when his previous, personal banker was promoted and, She did not contact me throughout her tenure as my personal banker.
          The help and response I received as a valued client left an awful lot to be desired and the apology was rather feeble.
        Surely Mike if you have a system that allows members of your staff to move vast sums of money around without the authority of clients you are asking for trouble of monumental 

          I see Mike that you have undertaken as part of your bank’s Ask Once Promise to donate R50 (a measly sum if you ask me) to an approved Nedbank charity every time this Promise is broken.
        Does it mean that in this case you will be donating, to be charitable, 17 times R50 or R850?  If so can you confirm this as well as the name of the charity and send Ronnie a receipt because you never know these days; things have a habit of going astray?
          Yours truly
          Would-be Banking Ombudsman, Jon

*   *   *
              The bank replied through Doug Hardie, the Executive General Manager of Client Services who cut my suggested R850 for charity down to R500. He gave a list of 12 charities for Ronnie to choose from and he decided on the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
         Banks don't give away money easily even if it's for charity. Hardie told me they had decided on R500 after going through the records to try and establish if Ronnie had actually made the telephone calls he said he made. This probably cost much more than the R350 Nedbank saved.
         As my original email was sent to Mike Brown personally he lost a lot of points by passing the buck to Hardie. He doesn't come up to the standard set by Michael Jordaan, the CEO of First National Bank who replies directly to emails sent to him.
         Nobody commented on how Nedbank can have a system that allows members of its staff to move large sums of money around without the knowledge of the client concerned.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blogged up in jail

Dear Blog Readers,
          I’m sorry that my updates have been down recently but I have been out of circulation. That’s the politically correct way of saying I was in jail.
          I was sent there for blogging in public. It’s worse than what Julian Assange has been doing behind bushes and all over the place.
          The Magistrate was very stern. He warned me that I could expect a much longer sentence if I continued to pick on the Press and point fingers at businesses that were not exactly providing top notch service.
          There’s a Press Council to keep newspapers in line, but nothing like that for blogs, so I will have to do it, he said in his judgment.
          Well he can blog off as far as I am concerned. If that WikiLeak chap is prepared to go to prison for his beliefs or his behaviour, I’m not sure which, then so am I.
          So you can expect my updates to keep on coming provided that Magistrate can’t read.
          Long live Free Blogs.
          Have fun and keep reading.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on  It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Swearing in Public

Dear Press Council of South Africa,
          It’s me again. I’ve noticed your ads calling for ideas on how to improve newspapers so I thought you would be interested in my five cents worth. Of course you may think my in-put is not even worth that. But while I ‘m all for listening to the other point of view this is my blog so you have no say. Here goes.
          Did you see that piece the Gutter Chronicle carried on me. It was all about the dispute I’m having with my neighbour because his dogs bark non, f….ng stop. The paper quoted him as saying, That little sh.t just doesn’t like dogs so he can get sc….d.
          And it had me replying, If that ba…..d thinks he can tell me to get st….d and nothing will bl…y well happen he must think again. I’ve had enough of his c..p.
          The point I’m trying to make is that isn’t it about time your office decided whether papers should dot or not dot. Surely as the so called free press, newspapers should have the guts to either print these so called unmentionable words in full or leave them out altogether.
           Who do they think they are kidding by censoring words by filling them with dots? What’s behind it? Are they trying to protect the morals of grown ups?
          You can’t possibly have anything more important on your agenda, so please hurry up and make a bl…y ruling before the Gutter Chronicle carries another report on my dispute. They misquoted me completely. I have never, ever said any words with a lot of dots in them.
          Now my ar…le of a lawyer tells me that dots are not actionable. To say the law’s an a..e would be putting it mildly.
          Yours Hopefully,
PS  All the alleged sw..r words in this letter are courtesy of my wife, who has been dotting mine for years.
*   *   *
BAN CYCLISTS on Cape Town’s Ou Kaapse Weg.
This mountain pass is too narrow for motorists and two wheel kamikaze kids who can’t recognise the danger for themselves.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wake Up Call to Cricket Administrators

Dear International Cricket Council,
          What a lot of slow moving, fuddy-duddies you are. My pet tortoise would show you a clean pair of heels.
          You are determined to keep at least one foot in the Bradman era when it took the Poms a year to get to Oz by boat. And tours lasted six months.
          Catch a wake up if you can. With Australia/England and South Africa/India test matches currently underway it’s long overdue. We are now in the hi-tech age so all LBWs, caught behinds, run outs and other not so obvious decisions should be reviewed by the TV umpire automatically. And he should have the power to immediately correct any mistakes made by the on the field umpires.
          Currently we have the ridiculous situation that in some test matches, but not in others, each side can have a certain number of challenges per innings, much like they have in tennis. They lose one if they’re wrong but not if the call is correct.
          Then on field umpires can call upon the TV umpire for help when it comes to things like run outs and dicey catches but not when they have difficulty in arriving at an LBW decision. So the result is that television replays show that batsmen are wrongly given out LBW almost as many times as they are told to walk legitimately.
          And it doesn’t help when you have international umpires still at it when they are nearer a century than most batsmen. Do you ever insist on having eye and hearing tests for these pillars of the game?
          The argument that it would waste too much time if the TV replay was automatic should be no-balled straight away because cricket is by nature a slow moving affair. Why do you think you can’t get the Yanks to play it? And why do you think that five days have been allocated to test matches if everybody was expecting a lightning fast experience like ice hockey.
          A batsman comes in, takes guard, and moves his bat around until the umpire tells him it’s where he wants it. Then he digs up the pitch to mark his territory; walks around a bit to see where the fielders are and waves to various girls in the stand. Then he tells the umpire he needs the sight screen moved because the bowler has changed his mind and decided to go round the wicket.
          Did you say you are worried about slowing the game down?
          Satisfied that the batsman is ready the umpire signals to the bowler to go ahead. As he runs up the batsman steps to one side signaling that somebody has walked across the sight screen. The bowler then has to walk back to the boundary and start his run up all over again.
          And you chaps are worried that permanent TV reviews will spoil the game. What matches have you been watching in recent times?
          Have you ever noticed how the umpires do their bit to ensure that nobody gets a move on? They don’t worry about the spectators. Who cares about them? They’ve already paid so they can wait. That’s why test match play is stopped at the slightest sign of failing light.
          These policemen of the game remain silent while a captain has a half hour powwow with the bowler and various players to discuss tactics when things are going against them. Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, specialises in having team conferences on these sorts of occasions.  
         The fact that a player’s entire career can be badly affected by wrong decisions which would never occur if the existing technology was used to its fullest extent has not dawned on you stuffed shirts who control the game from the armchair of some members only club.
          Wake up from your old fashioned dream. The way you are governing the game is Just not cricket; at least not the way it should be played in the current age.
          Jon, a lover of fair play.  
*    *    *
16 coming up 17 years after South African was supposed to have become a colourless society under the new Black dominated Government the independent DSTV network is conducting a survey for its SuperSport channels to get viewers opinions on its cricket commentators. And one of the questions asked is: Are you Black, Coloured, India or White?
          No provision has been made for the Chinese even though (before the days of political correctness) a particular type of ball bowled was called a Chinaman. Presumably that was a ball that went between the chink in the stumps.


Dear South African Jewish Board of Deputies,
          As the main representative of the Jewish community in this country can’t you get members of the faith to stop * squealing like stuck pigs every time somebody says anything that is in anyway critical of Palestine or is it Israel.
          I see in the The Times three stirrers David Hersch, Dr Joselle Reuben and Howard Joffee are jumping up and down protesting against none other than our own Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Arch, Desmond Tutu.
          According to the paper this perfectionist trio claim that Tutu made "false and bigoted"comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa after he investigated Israel’s human rights abuses against the Palestinians in Gaza on behalf of the United Nations. Not content with that they’ve drawn up a petition in which they claim that Tutu was dishonest in portraying Israel as a "racist society."
          Does this add up? They are saying that you can become an Anglican Archbishop;  winner of that insignificant Nobel Peace Prize; be awarded the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism; the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and  still be a "bloody liar."
          I’d be interested to know how many Peace prizes or any other prizes of any significance that have been won by any member of this trio. Perhaps one of your Board members can tell me?
          I see that our beloved Arch has really ruffled feathers among the chosen race. On one of his visits to Israel, according to Wikipedia, the open minded locals vented their anger on him. Here’s a sample written on the walls of St George’s Cathedral in East Jerusalem BLACK NAZI PIG.  Apart from what we already know about the Nazis, isn’t a pig supposed to be unclean or something although our family find it quite delectable, especially the crackling.
       Funny the writer should refer to the Nazi’s. Weren’t they scrawling similar things on walls about the Jews at one time?
          More recently top American criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz called Tutu a "racist and a bigot" at a conference in Durban. He has had considerable success defending high profile celebrities and among the people he has represented are Mike Tyson, Patty Hearst and he was also an adviser for the defence in the O.J. Simpson case.
          You would think that being such an eminent legal man he would choose his words very carefully. According to my dictionary a "bigot, is a person unreasonably and intolerantly devoted to a particular creed." To use a well known legal term, "Et tu Dershowitz."
          The petitioners, say the The Times, claim that Tutu never investigated the Sudan or other scenes of genuine, massive human rights abuses. Of course he didn't. If his mandate was to look at the goings on in Israel, he could hardly be expected to take a trip round the world.
          They also accuse Tutu of refusing to call Israel by its name by referring to it as Palestine which it was 20 years ago. What a crime. You know what the Nazi's would have done to him, don't you.
          The aim of the petition is to have Tutu given the made-in-Israel Jackboot as patron of two Holocaust centers in South Africa. And 250 like minded people are supposed to have signed the petition within 24 hours. At this rate the rapid growth of the Nazi party would have had nothing on the popularity of the anti Tutu movement.  
          Having sharpened his courage on the Nazi-like apartheid regime, our Arch is not easily scared. He won't step down and this is what he had to say: "These centers make an enormous contribution to our collective memory and understanding of the hateful and hurtful effects of prejudice and discrimination." How right you are Arch, and I can think of quite few people
who should should be compelled  to visit them regularly until they are completely cured.
          The learned petitioners want those other pillars of anti-semitism given the same treatment as Tutu. At least that’s what the authors of the petition seem to think about former South African judge, Richard Goldstone and Kadar Asmal, the one time Minister of Education in the African National Congress Government.
          Goldstone put his Jewish foot in it when he led a UN fact finding mission to Gaza and betrayed the cause big time when his mission reported that the Israelis and Hamas had both violated the laws of war.. I’m not sure what Asmal is supposed to have to done, but it was no doubt a serious crime like telling the truth.
         Mercia Andrews, convenor of the Palestine Solidarity Group, came out with this understatement about the trio: "They are an extremist voice." Referring to the Arch she said: "We require more such voices in the world."
          What I want to know Messrs Jewish Board of Deputies is there now a danger that if Tutu and his fellow transgressors were to step foot in that state somewhere in the Middle East will they find themselves confined to an Israeli concentration camp or …… ?
          Yours honourably,
          Jon, Fellow of Middle East History and Israeli/Hamas relations.
* That bit about stuck pigs is a commonly used term and has no religious connotations.
P.S. This is the email correspondence I had with the arch after I suggested he read this post.
Dear Archbishop Desmond Tutu  (it's about time I showed some respect),
Thanks for your very prompt reply. If we all had your sense of humour nobody would be fighting anywhere.
Dear Friend,
It's hilarious, barbed and very clever. Thanks for your piece on the on-going saga of being anti-Semitic when one points out wrongs of not the Jewish people but of the Israeli Government.
Love and blessings to you and your Gayle,
It's noteworthy that his "arch' does not begin with a capital