The Bank and Customer Service

I set up an account last week at the bank that the university picked out so that my pay can be directly deposited. I have no idea if this bank is typical (I would guess that it is), but the concept of customer service is pretty lacking.

First, let's start with the hours. A lot of places close in the middle of the day here when it gets so hot. But then they open back up in the evening when it has cooled down. The bank is open from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. Period. So, if you want to go to the bank, you have to take time off from work. They are open on Thursday (remember, the work week is Saturday-Wednesday, so Thursday here = Saturday in USA) from 8:00 to 12:00, so if you don't want to or can't take time off from work, you can always wait til the end of the week.

Next, when creating your account, the bank will not tell you about ATM cards, checks, applying for credit cards, internet access or anything else unless you ask. When you do get an ATM card, you have to go to the bank to pick it up, which means you have to take time off from work or wait until the end of the week. You also have to go to another part of the building to pick up your PIN. Neither of these places asked me for any ID before they handed me this stuff. This was also true the two times I made a counter withdrawl from my account. I had to sign the form in three places, but did not have to show ID.

So when I picked up my ATM card and PIN, the bank employee told me that the card would not work until about 4:00 that afternoon (I loved the precision of "about 4:00"). So that evening I went to the mall to buy a couple of things for the house and tried several ATMs. Always got the message, "Your card is invalid". I figured, maybe "about 4:00" means several hours after 4:00, so I tried every hour until after 8:00, always without luck.

I also tried calling the 800 number on the card, and got the usual "all lines are busy" message that I have heard in America so often. However, after about a minute on hold with teeth-grindingly bad on-hold music, I get the message that all agents are still busy, so I should call back later. Click. I finally got through about 8:00, and the very helpful agent told me that my card was not connected to my account, so I needed to talk to the branch where I got it tomorrow.

Tomorrow comes, I visit the branch and have to demonstrate to the employee that it doesn't work. He makes a change in the computer, calls a number, says now it should work. Nope. I go back in, he makes another change in the computer, makes another call, and now I am assured that tomorrow (which is today) at 8:30 it will work. So in 24 minutes, I can take time off to test this out (and no doubt be disappointed again) and then try again to get them to fix it, or I can wait until after work today or tomorrow, and then not be able to tell them until tomorrow that it still isn't working.

I'd tell you the name of the bank, but I'm not sure about the law of defamation, slander, or libel, so I'm a little hesitant to name it. However, if you do a Google.ae search for the bank's slogan, "The Bank That Cares", you will probably be able to figure it out.


m said...

in general banks here are never that bad , it is most probably a problem with that particular branch that you chose to open your account with as the same bank will have more than one branch within a city and their customer service can vary!

m said...

oh and new timings(commenced from jan 2005) for all banks in the UAE are till 3.00 pm sat. to thursday .

secretdubai said...

Oh god - I think that was a bank a friend of mine had a terrible, terrible experience with.

The most critical thing for you and your husband is to repatriate (or get an off-shore account like HSBC Offshore) your funds as often and as soon as you can, each paycheck. Do NOT leave a huge amount in your UAE bank account. Because if there is ever a visa issue, or a job change, and you have outstanding loans (or even bills like Etisalat) they will freeze your account.

Even if you don't have loans, they freeze as a precaution, and sometime require you to prove you don't have loans. I know a family that had to live off credit cards for several months because all their cash was frozen. Their (emirati) bank manager was so concerned for them he offered them a loan from his personal money - because his hands were tied in terms of freeing up their account.

This practice stems from the huge amount of expats who have taken out max loans and then fled the country, so you can kind of understand it, but do take precautions.

Brn said...

This bank has clearly not gotten the message about the hours, because they (the branch I opened the account at anyway) are not open until 3:00 anyday, much less everyday. But at least my ATM card works now.

Some co-workers advised that I move my money out of the country as fast as I can too, though they didn't go into a lot of reasons as to why. It seems like someone also told me that a bank went belly up a few years ago, and with no FDIC, everyone lost everything they had.

Bu3askoor said...

What a bad experience ... i hope everything is better now. Oh and welcome to UAE :)

Keefieboy said...

I wouldn't worry about defaming your bank, it's what they are for, and if everything you said is true then there shouldn't be a problem. But I did the Google search and I've never actually heard of that one! Scary.

In my experience, banks in the UAE are one business sector that just don't understand the concept of customer service at any level.

Marcus Aurelius said...

I'll name it for you! The Union National Bank formerly known as the BCCE formerly affiliated with that famous institution the BCCI. A colleague in the English Dept took all of her BCCI deposits out the summer before it went bust. She used the cash to fund her vacation and she was glad she did (this was the same woman who took a summer vacation from her job in Kuwait in what was it now? 1990?).

I had an account with that rotten bank because as you state it is the default bank that does business with the U (IIRC Sheik Nahyan the Minister of Education has a major interest in the bank). Arrrgggghhhhh! I set up a standing order with them and they couldn't execute it reliably. I finally left.

I went to the Mashreq Bank and was very happy with them. I even managed to get setup at the Mashreq's bigwig branch, up on top of Shar'a Khalifa (IIRC that is where it was, at least at that time). Still had the hour problems and they did not have the convenient ATM at the Jamaah Islamiya (where I spent most of my years there teaching) but it was well worth it.

Also, not bad advice on getting your wealth sent offshore. You don't necessarily have to send it back home, you can send it elsewhere. I had some accounts in the Channel Islands and two worked out fairly well for me. I was buying pounds-sterling on a monthly basis and when I finally sold them for $ I made out well. Another account changed their rules and allowed me to cash out in advance and this was just before the USA Stock Market collapse.