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OPINION:
Tangled in a Web of Banking Technology

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Contributed by Stanislav Kelman
osOpinion.com
February 7, 2002


Chase's motto is, 'The right relationship is everything.' Perhaps that is precisely why I'm taking my business elsewhere.

In This Story:

Don't Bank on It

It's Out of Hand

Running in Circles

Can't Beat the System

 Related Stories

Over the past few years, I've been finding myself moving more and more of my life onto the Web. For instance, I do all my banking online these days. It has gotten to the point where I write perhaps one paper check per month, mostly to charity causes. I get many of my credit card statements and other bills online.

This method worked particularly well during the anthrax scare, when snail mail was really slow to arrive. Furthermore, the e-mail notifications that I set up for myself safeguard my credit rating by reminding me to pay on time.

Don't Bank on It

The multibillion-dollar investments that the banking industry has poured into Web-enabled systems finally are paying off. After a few years of trial and error, services from the likes of Citibank, MBNA, American Express and Discover have gotten up to speed.

Others, however, have perhaps had the misfortune of hiring too many high-school dropouts turned Web developers, who still have no clue about what they are doing. For many banks, the Web has become a marketing tool first, with services lagging far behind.

The dark side of this situation is that everything is automated to a point where no one can really interfere with the way the systems work. If anything goes wrong, as it occasionally does, a snowball quickly can turn into an avalanche. Then, you might as well give up and forget it.

It's Out of Hand

One example of this turned into a personal horror story when I got a new credit card from Chase Manhattan Bank. As I always do, I immediately went online and registered my account. What surprised me from the very beginning was how badly designed the site was, and how often it had to undergo "scheduled maintenance."

In fact, in order to check my balance, I had to register in one place and then enter all the same information again for a totally separate bill payment service. Worse yet, once I was done with both, I had to copy the payment address manually from the first site to the second one.

Running in Circles

Plus, in a real stroke of idiocy, the second site was not properly set up to recognize Chase's own credit cards. Therefore, the company ended up printing out and mailing a payment to itself, which took much longer than the claimed "two business days to ensure on-time electronic settlement." Then, Chase decided that I had defaulted on my payment. Without any advance notice or warning, the company promptly suspended my account.

I must have talked to at least two dozen people in Chase customer service, but to no avail. Even after the payment finally reached its destination a week later, they refused to remove some of the multiple accumulated charges, penalizing me for what was clearly their fault in the first place.

I spent hours shouting and cursing at them, but that didn't seem to help. There was literally nothing that anybody could do about it. In the end, I realized that their computers simply took on a life of their own and were well beyond the people's control.

Can't Beat the System

All I could do at that point was to stop using the credit card. I just got fed up with those prerecorded messages promoting Chase's "free and secure online service" every time I called to complain about it.

Luckily, I have plenty of other credit cards. But this whole incident left a really bad taste in my mouth. Chase's motto is, "The right relationship is everything." Perhaps that is precisely why I'm taking my business elsewhere.

Besides, if anybody was wondering about reports that IT investments have had a disappointing impact on productivity in the banking industry, now we know why. Clearly, they were just paying the big bucks to the wrong people.

Talkback Forum


Author's background:
Stanislav Kelman is a self-admitted Internet addict and a long time osOpinion contributor. He maintains a list of his past technology-related editorials on TechOpinion.org. He also invites you to visit LetItBe.org, a site where you can learn more about him than you might care to know. Stanislav would love to hear your reaction to his opinion columns, so feel free to drop him a line at osOpinion@LetItBe.org.

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