This photo has been censored to protect the innocent toothless lady
Sri Lankan has some cheap (Rs 27,000 with tax) flights to London. Me being the geeky nephew, I become de facto travel agent for my uncle. However, what should be a simple procedure took ten attempts, four computers, three emails, four calls to the bank, three trips to the bank, two passwords, one key token, and hours of time to complete. There are two systems at fault here, one is the Sri Lankan online booking systems – which randomly rejected 50% of the computers we tried. The other is HSBC, which imposes draconian security measures on a country of 575,000 credit card holders and 200,000 Internet users. I’m all for security, but some stuff just goes to far. I also think that the Sri Lankan Airlines online booking system is poorly designed but I’m more angry at HSBC for making Internet Banking and Shopping so ‘secure’ that no one can use them.
In my experience, this is how you buy things online. You go to the site. You enter your product information. You enter your credit card info, and the check bits on the back. Plus the billing address. I have trouble remembering my own info so I have to look it up sometimes. Click purchase. Done.
Sri Lankan Experience
Go to the Sri Lankan Air site. Enter all your info, which takes about 5 minutes. Click ‘Buy Now’. Wait another 2 minutes for the page to load. The page returns this cryptic ‘Booking Failure’ error which gives me no information as to what went wrong. Try again. Try again. Try on different browser. Call the travel agent. She succeeds on her computer. Now the credit card doesn’t work. Now we move into stage two of ass pain.
The Sri Lankan Airlines site is defective. It’s not reading cookies or something, but worst of all, it returns unusable error messages. It doesn’t work on my laptop, but it works on my mothers. It worked on my Uncle’s office machine, but then it stopped working. In the time it takes to gather all the banking passwords you need the connection times out and you have to start over again. It sucks and I would rather pay a travel agent to avoid the headache. However, that is nothing compared to the mindfuck of using an HSBC Credit Card.
The HSBC Experience
My experience with HSBC has been pretty bad. When I opened my account they gave me ice cream. That was good. Then it got bad. For one thing, you need a ‘reference’ to even open an account, which I find kinda backwards. Then they gave me a credit card which is not really a credit card. They asked me for a 100,000 deposit and I have a 100,000 credit limit. I would understand, but I have a steady paycheck and the account is linked to my parents so it doesn’t make sense to me. Plus they’re holding onto my money and collecting whatever interest there is. Wtf. In Canada I could literally get a $10,000 credit limit card at a baseball game. Perhaps they don’t understand the meaning of ‘credit’.
As another experience, I sent a check to this guy in India who couldn’t cash it. It got returned to HSBC Pelawatte. That branch called me literally 15 times to come pick up my returned check. But I don’t want my returned check. I just told them to cancel it and leave me alone. I honestly felt like they were harassing me they called so much, about a non-issue. Just cancel the check.
Finally, this is not my experience, but a friend of mine made a deposit into someone’s account in Indonesia or somewhere. Not a huge (business) amount, maybe $1000. HSBC accidentally issued two payments. In order to sort the problem out, HSBC Sri Lanka froze the individual’s bank account in Indonesia. More accurately, they requested that her bank freeze the account (which they shouldn’t have done), but that was the effect. She was walking around and went to an ATM and suddenly she couldn’t withdraw money, all because HSBC screwed up. It was a small amount, but HSBC imposed the most severe response, which they have a pattern of doing.
Another thing is that freaking keychain they force you to wear. I’m quite happy with my current keychain and I’m not changing it, but that means I effectively can’t use Internet Banking anymore. To login to Internet banking you have to enter your name and password. Fine. Then, however, you have to enter a randomized code from this keychain within 5 minutes. Now in addition to worrying about losing my wallet, my cell phone or my mind, I also have to worry about this dinky plastic keychain. Not to mention that there are like less than 20,000 Internet Banking Customers and even less Internet criminals who could use Internet Banking. It’s already nearly impossible for HSBC clients to use, so I’m not too worried about criminals. Seriously, I can’t even login to my Internet Banking account now, and I’m me. That’s amazing security. Nobody can use it.
Not to say that the security measure may not be useful, maybe it is. However, I have dealt with banks with many more customers than HSBC Sri Lanka and they have never made me so uncomfortable as a user. My Bank of Montreal account did begin asking me for secondary passwords, but that wasn’t a physical item they forced into my overstuffed pocket. I even spoke to someone at HSBC (on an unrelated matter) and he said that yes, the security dongle was probably overkill. The Internet Banking is so small and the potential for fraud so low that they could go with less severe security, like that used by huge banks in other countries. Or not.
This HSBC Experience
Anyways, my uncle was trying to put the ticket on his HSBC Credit Card. He’s had it since the 1993 so I wouldn’t think this is a problem. However, the card fails. Now we realize that we have to call HSBC to somehow activate the card for Internet Banking. This, to me, is the end of Internet Shopping in Sri Lanka, as if it isn’t already hard enough. I have never in my life had to activate a credit card for a specific vendor channel, and this makes casual internet shopping a righteous pain in the ass. So he calls the bank. He tells them that he now needs to register for Internet Banking and get that damnable dongle, even though he doesn’t have a banking account. It’s just a credit card. Whatever. Plus plus plus, in order to even get the dongle, he has to preregister, using a PIN number they gave him in 1993 (!). Just to repeat, to even start the process, he has to dig up a piece of paper from 1993 which had no use at the time. Otherwise this process is going to take weeks and he won’t get his ticket. Wtf.
Luckily my uncle is organized and is able to round up this archival document under some passports and dinosaur bones. So he enters the pin. Great. Now we have to wait till a working day to collect the damnable dongle from the HSBC branch. This is Saturday. Wait till Monday. Uncle drives to HSBC and collects dongle. He enters it into HSBC website at work. We’re not even done yet. In order to shop online he has to activate the ‘Verified by Visa’ service which gives him another incomprehensible password. To reiterate, you need a token to get the password to get the password to make a purchase. It’s like motherfucking Lord of The Rings getting this airline ticket.
Now he has the passwords. All two of them. And the token. We’re ready to go. He comes over to the Samarajiva Internet Cafe after work and we try it. Again the SriLankan site fails on my computer and gives me no reason why. I walk over, get my mother’s laptop and try again. For some reason it works. We enter the credit card. We enter the check bits on the back. We enter the ‘Verified by Visa’ password. We wait. We have a plane ticket. Wtf.
In short, the SriLankan website is unacceptably buggy and it drives me crazy. In long, the HSBC Internet Banking/Shopping service is the most draconian and unusable I’ve ever seen and it doesn’t bode well for online shopping in Sri Lanka. There is a balance between security and usability that they don’t seem to understand. That line is intelligence, and it involves thoughtful security that enables rather than disables your customer. The current HSBC Internet services thoroughly disable anyone without a geeky nephew, and even that geeky nephew is too pissed off to use them. That’s not good security and it’s not good business and I wonder if Commercial or Sampath has done better. Maybe HSBC can do better, but this experience was terrible.