No one is learning much of anything in the retail and banking sectors in this economy. Shops are still chock-full of overpriced goods produced by Third-World fingerless children, Afghanistani Heroin floods the streets at a hometown near you; and then there’s the altars of capitalism…

Open Letter to HSBC

To Whom Receives This at HSBC:

Have you ever walked into a bank, shop, or leprosy clinic and got the distinct feeling that gloom and doom was getting closer with every step deeper inside? Well, that’s exactly how I felt today at your Glasgow Branch, West Nile Street.

No one was at the front counter, so I waded through a dawdling bunch of other customers to the center, where (I think) the Branch Manager guy was immersed in a chat with a young (I think) customer service woman. Both gave me and my partner the distinct impression that for us to interrupt, with our, well, banking business, was unwelcome.

What followed was an onslaught of How can we NOT help you…

My partner began to explain that we’d like to open a new joint account, to which the woman proceeded to give us a laundry list of reasons why, she thought, we’d wouldn;t be able to open a dialog, much less an account. It went something like:

Her: : “Do you have an appointment?”

Us: “No, … pause… (implying could we make one)

Her, shrugging her head and scornfully: “You’ll need identification”

Me: “I have it”

Her: “Well you have to have proof of address”

Me: “I have that”

My Partner: “I’m already an HSBC customer”

Her, opening her notebook: “Well, what kind of identification?”

No smile, no ‘how can I help’, no friendly anything – just her horrible scowl on her face. We were told that there were no appointments until tomorrow (although the manager man, and around 3-4 other employees were doing absolutely nothing but standing around). That, and your lovely representative did little more than say “phone telephone banking”. Ok, I’ll get right on that.

This unprofessional quizzing did little more than put me off to your bank completely, and make me want to run as quickly as possible. (And there’s nothing more delicious than the repeated ‘up and down’ looks of judgment and reproach.) After conceding to your gatekeeper that we wouldn’t want to open an account today, we proceeded around her to make a deposit. The woman behind the first teller window proceeded to shout “Can I help you, can I help you” over and over while we tried to prepare the deposit from five feet away at the writing desk. We took it to the window, where she snapped at us that we didn’t have the right slip. No eye contact, no helpful hint, same rotten attitude and scowling face as she mumbled to herself, punched the keys and tossed the slip back at us like the second-class customers I guess we were.

Little did any of your front-of-house know that I have a business I was looking to move my banking for, as well as my own personal accounts. I’d wanted to use HSBC because of the fantastic, friendly, helpful service I’d gotten at your new Edinburgh Branch – without even being your customer. I thought it would be a joy to go to my bank for such help. I thought that, since times are tough and you are in need of new customers, I’d at least be, well, somewhat important to you. As a publisher, I am now happy to tell my 23,000 magazine readers that you don’t want any of us.

I come from a very large retailing family, customer service being the number 1 point of difference. If you pay me, I’d be happy to go in and teach a seminar to your employees on West Nile Street how to make the customer want to do business with you – which is, probably the only way you’ll ever get me within 10 feet of your bank again.