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Operation Muppetation

Over two years ago, I closed my bank account with HSBC because they were not so much unhelpful as scrupulously useless. You can actually smell the apathy and unfulfilled potential from the street.

I wasn’t looking forward to persuading the bank to give me a clearance letter stating that my car loan of six years prior was closed. However, contrary to expectations, it took only minutes to make the request and sign a form. The document was ready on the appointed day; I paid Dhs 50 and left triumphantly waving my letter. Whilst marginally tedious and failing to qualify as a Kodak Moment, the whole experience was not fulsomely awful.

Until Husband told me it was the wrong letter.

Since I had agreed to transfer the car yesterday evening, there was no option but to return to HSBC. It was mid-day. I had to park the car in a tree and hike three miles on pavements that were melting in the heat. Having already spent the morning at the bank, and had my brain tortured by HSBC’s Customer Neglect Centre for ten LONG minutes, I arrived at the bank in what you might call spicy humour.

The lady who processed me was still in situ.

“My dearrr-”

“Don’t you my dear ME!” I snapped. This, it turns out, is not a prologue to constructive conversation leading to better mutual understanding and personal development.

Ten years in the Middle East has taught me that the louder one shouts, the better one is understood. Within a short period of time, the entire bank understood me pretty well – with the exception of its employees. Eventually, after working my way up the ranks of management to a dizzying level of ineptness, it turned out that the HSBC Bur Dubai branch did not issue clearance letters for car loans. For that, I had to go to a totally different building, which closed in an hour.

“Is there anything else I can assist you with, Madam?” enquired the Branch Manager as he fingered his comb over.

“Yanno, the question implies that you have already assisted me, whereas in fact all you did was charge me Dhs 50 for a useless letter and remind me EXACTLY why I closed my bank account with HSBC in the first place which, although possibly counting as significant personal achievements, did not actually ASSIST me AT ALL.”

“Please do not hesitate to call-”

“Oh like yeah and I’ll have a nice what’s-left-of-the-day, will I?”

In Deira, I arrived at the relevant office 40 minutes before closing time. At this point, I projected the personality of the Incredible Hulk in a pique or, if you prefer, a raging bitch.

“I’m here for a clearance letter. Car loan, six years ago-”

“Six year?”

“That’s correct. Here are the details: model, registration number, chassis number-”

“Sorry Madam, is closed.”

“You’re not. You shut at 3pm. It is currently 2:12pm.”

“Yes, but the letter, it take time-”

“Thirty seconds to access my record on the computer, twenty seconds to print out the letter, five seconds to sign it. I calculate that at less than a minute altogether – now, that’s what I call customer service.”

“But this file, it is old file-”

“So what?” I barked. “It’s on the computer system, isn’t it? Not as if you have to rummage around in a pile of boxes under the stairs-”

“But the man, who get the file, he is in meeting-”

“You’re telling me there’s nobody else IN THE ENTIRE BUILDING who can access my file?”

“Yes but no, the department, they are in meeting-”

“I’ll wait.”

“The meeting, is long meeting.”

“Listen,” I leaned in confidentially – although this proximity came with an inexorable urge to grab the front of his dishdash, scrunch it into a ball and staple it to his face. Repeatedly – “I’m not leaving here until I have a clearance letter clutched in my five sweaty fingers. I’m. Not. Leaving. You see that yucca over there? That’s what I will eat. You see that corner? That’s where I will sleep. You see this stapler? Don’t tempt me. For the moment, I’ll wait here. Ok?”

As I threw myself into a chair, my mobile rang. It was the HSBC Bur Dubai branch.

“Ms Niam? This morning, do you pay Dhs 50 for a clearance letter?”

“Yes.”

“There is problem. Our system will not accept this payment.”

“Woah, back up. Just- ok- would you- sorry but- could you remind me exactly why I give a toss?”

“<silence>”

“You know I paid cash, don’t you?”

“Yes. But our system, because your account it is closed, it will not take the money.”

“So you want to return it? Great! I accept cheques – with the appropriate amount of interest, of course – let’s say 8%, shall we? I’m feeling generous. You can make it out to Niamh Shaw, and mail it to One, Upyer Bum. That’s U-P-Y-E-R space B-U-M.”

“Maybe I will call you back.”

“Oh, please don’t.”

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