I have just had the most incredible experience with HSBC telephone banking services. Unfortunately, it was incredible for all the wrong reasons. It began with a simple lapse of memory on my part. I was buying tickets on trainline and it asked me for my security number (on back of card), I didn’t have it to hand and thought I could remember it. Turns out I was wrong. I gave the wrong answer and next thing I knew my card was declined. Every time I tried to buy the damn tickets – “Declined. Please contact your card issuer.” Sigh.
This was at around 7.30pm on a Sunday, but thankfully(!) HSBC has a helpline that is open from 8am to 10pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Since it was not any of those days, I trudged to the phone.
HSBC has a general number and a textphone number – same hours. I tried the textphone number. No answer. I called the same number via typetalk and got a recorded message to try the general number. Operator suggested I call without the 18001 prefix –i.e. it was a textphone. Sigh.
I called the general number and then the fun really started. What follows is so amazing I still can’t believe it happened. I jumped through all the security hoops and got an advisor, who immediately said they needed verbal consent for the operator to be part of the conversation. What?
I asked for clarification, but was informed by the operator that she had already gone to ask the manager what to do. What? After five minutes (yes, I timed it) she came back and said she had spoken to her manager and that she had to give me another number to call. I expected it to be the textphone number and sighed again, preparing for a brief argument over the lack of answer from it. Instead she gave a number I didn’t recognise, and said that I could get a sign language interpreter there. I said I didn’t understand, why would I call a sign language interpreter to make a call to HSBC, surely it would have the same issues as a text relay call? She said they had sign language interpreters, lipspeakers and text to speech operators and I had to call that number. Her manager had said that they “don’t deal with these calls” and she mentioned verbal consent twice.
When I got a word in edgeways, I said I didn’t understand it, but if I called them, should I call this number via text relay or call them text direct? She clearly didn’t understand the question even though I asked it twice and rephrased, making it clear that I meant do I call via a relay call or direct to a textphone? She just kept saying that I would get a person and they could get me a sign language interpreter, a lipspeaker or a text to speech operator. I got a note from the operator saying that the woman had said she had only told the manager she had got a call from someone who was speaking on behalf of someone else, and had perhaps not mentioned typetalk. Realising I was being thrown a bone and thinking that perhaps there had been some misunderstanding, I said that this was a typetalk call, that typetalk is a recognised and official service and that HSBC lists its prefix on its letters. At this, she got very shirty, and said that she had explained it to her manager and she had explained it was typetalk and even managed to throw in a “whatever”. I could almost see teenage eyes rolling on the other side of the phone. I asked for the number again and her name. Her reply? “Most definitely” and gave the number and the name, clearly wanting rid of me. I thanked her for a bizarre conversation and hung up.
I called the number, and got a recorded message that they were only open from 9am to 5pm. Surprise.
I called the textphone number again. And again. It rang from 7.56 to 8.01 and from 8.02 to 8.13.
I decided to google the number I had been given. Words fail me. She had given me the number for *drum roll* Action On Hearing Loss formerly RNID communication services.
Then I went on a textphone marathon, calling the textphone number five times from 8.38 to 8.58, and the last call rang for fifteen minutes straight.
At this point I gave up and swore I would sue. Equality Act, equal service for disabled customers, my arse.
At a quarter to ten, I decided to give it another try, as I really needed those tickets, and rang the general helpline via typetalk again. The experience couldn’t have been more different. I got a helpful advisor, who told me that the transaction showed up as failed, but my card was still active and maybe if I tried again it should work. All that for nothing, but that last phone call took all of five minutes. Was all the preceding bullshit really necessary?
I’m cooling down now, but I have had issues with HSBC before, as I am sure they noted on my file – in fact their last letter apologising for the inconvenience that they have caused expressly said that a note saying that I am solely a textphone user has been put on my file. After a good night’s sleep, I’m going to refine this blog and turn it into my latest complaint to customer services, dosed with quotes from the Equality Act 2010. I’m still considering threatening legal action, but the problem with threats is sometimes you have to back them up. On the other hand, I’m sure I must have collected enough material by now…