Customer grievances

Considering an HP laptop? Think again 82

Once upon a time, I purchased a fancy laptop from HP. And my life was never the same again in a rather unpleasant way, starting, the moment I parted with 65K of my hard earned money. This is the sordid saga of my tryst with HP. Read on, especially if you have ever so much as even dreamt of starting a consumer relationship with HP. My problems with HP started when I purchased a laptop from them 3+ years back in July 2006. It has been only a nightmare which refuses to get over. I would appreciate all the help I can get, in sharing this sorry tale with ppl who matter, in HP or out of it and planning to “purchase” HP.

Right from that time in July 2006, when I was given a different config than what was paid for (I was told by the person – Mr. Chandan – who took my order on the net/phone, that I would get a headset with mike along with the laptop, but got “earbuds” instead), TO the time I had to run after HP for first taking payment from me for extended warranty and then for more weeks for sharing with me my care pack warranty details (even though the money had been withdrawn from my bank account for weeks & no one reverted to my correspondence!), TO the time when I had to get my notebook’s problems actually rectified (which has been the worst experience which has still not gotten over) — it has just been a nightmare I would rather wake up from than have to deal with HP ever again.

Over time, my HP laptop predictably developed a lot of problems. The DVD drive would not read any media in spite of cleaning several times (forget burning any media), the card reader did not work, the fan had just stopped working, the laptop would get so heated up that one could fry an egg on it. And the worst was that it would just shut down without me powering it off! I was still trying to make do when one fine day, the display on the LCD just blanked out and I had to eventually get over the rightly founded apprehension of interacting with HP customer care and approach them once more. For getting repairs done, (this started in Jan 2009), I first had a brush with MM9’s service centre’s bad customer service to whom I had submitted my laptop for all the above mentioned problems. MM9 first returned the laptop saying that they had cleaned & dusted up everything and that now it was all ok. When I verified it, it was certainly not so! I have no idea how they could even try passing something off as OK when it was clearly NOT. Then they admitted that some parts were indeed not functioning and ordered those parts and told me to wait. I waited for a whole of 3 months and nothing happened at all. Then I wrote to Customer care and I was told by a Ms. Shivani Gogna, to go through the entire process once AGAIN with RT outsourcing since MM9’s contract for servicing personal laptops had expired by Mar’09! The lack of transition processes within HP itself, is not even something I would dwell upon compared to the problems they introduced in my life later.

As told to me, I submitted my laptop at the RT outsourcing service centre for fixing of the problems.  Ms. Gogna assigned someone called Mr. Harjinder Singh, for handling the tech related issues. In spite of there being people assigned for a simple job, the incompetent staff at RT outsourcing went ahead and formatted my laptop HDD without even informing me, leave alone doing it WITH MY PERMISSION! I am appalled at the way HP treats its customers. I was told to take a backup and submit the laptop. I took a backup of my “personal data”. However no one told me that my HDD wd be formatted and no one even asked me once whether they shd indeed proceed. This is not only standard protocol but basic common sense! Before submitting my laptop when I had shown reluctance in giving my HDD along with it, I was told by Mr. Gopal Singh, who heads RT outsourcing, that any installation or removal of software will happen only with my permission. The same protocol had been confirmed later by a Mr Jitender Das, who is Mr. Harjinder’s boss. However as can be seen no one bothered to contact the customer in this case at all! All the software, the settings, the tweaking, and a lot of licensed software for which I do not have installers anymore since they were taken from the internet via “free for a day” kind of schemes – are all gone. Such softwares are free only for a limited time and are paid softwares after that. If I add up the actual costs of these softwares that I got for free in such schemes, they would come close to the cost of the laptop itself!
To add insult to the injury, the staff at RT outsourcing, specifically a Mr. Deepak Jain (In charge – Bench operation) had the audacity to misbehave with me! Not only did he behave rudely on phone when I tried finding the status of my submitted laptop, he totally insulted me personally later when I went to the service centre to collect the laptop. After my HDD got unceremoniously formatted and I complained about it, amongst other misbehaviour, he had the audacity to say “tum ro kyon rahe ho!!” (“why are you crying” – a very crude way of describing “complaining”). I am shocked at their way to talk to a customer who’s rightfully complaining of what stupidity has been done at the hands of the incompetent staff. Is complaining equivalent to crying? He also made exasperated faces at me all this while! I can not even describe how stunned I am to see this kind of customer service. Not only this, he tried imposing his imagination (lies) on me by saying that I had “been told” that the HDD would be formatted. Later he had to eat his own words when he checked the mail that was sent to me by RT outsourcing which did not even use the word “format” anywhere in the content and which certainly did not indicate that my machine would be formatted, let alone my approval on it. Even after this he kept arguing with me that “taking backup” means “formatting of hdd”. It definitely seems HP has employed illiterate idiotic ppl as customer care front desk staff who care 2 hoots about customers & a decent service they are supposed to offer.
I am an engineer myself and I KNOW that formatting of the HDD was not even required to begin with considering the components that were changed. The change of card reader meant changing the motherboard. HOWEVER that does NOT require a formatting of the Hard disk. Verbally their engineer  Neeraj, who formatted the disk told me that he did it because he was unable to install the device drivers of the card reader! He then “supposed” that this was due to presence of a virus. In order to remove the virus from my HDD, he formatted it. Clearly HP’s incompetent staff has never heard of anti virus software. Nor do they know the words “processes”, “permissions”, “customer”.
When I followed it up in mails, Mr. Gopal singh had the audacity to send me a scanned copy of the “service call report” which stated that in case of HDD failure, the HDD “may require” a format. However he forgot that not only was there NO HDD failure and instead it was his staffs incompetency which led to the format, but most importantly, there were no signatures of mine on that scrap that he scanned!
Apart from all the extreme harassment at RT outsourcing, & the formatting of my HDD for no technical reason & without permission, they not only had never bothered to fix all the technical faults, they even introduced new ones of their own. The DVD burner which was replaced made so much noise that it was impossible not to notice it before saying that it works fine. Even the replaced parts are not tested & verified for their smooth functioning. Somebody in fact damaged my Altec Lansing Speakers which were possibly the best attribute of this model of the laptop. It’s amazing to note that they do not bother to run a check to see if everything is functioning fine before they handover the laptop!
I had to continuously follow this up, and get the speakers changed. After this ordeal I installed some of the software on to the now formatted drive. Somehow the drivers of my camera did not work at all on this disk anymore. HP took my laptop again and tried to rectify this by running some registry cleaners. However they were not successful in doing that. Ultimately they resorted to the only thing that they are capable of doing – formatting the hard disk. So another formatted HDD was fitted into my laptop on which once more I had to toil to install everything.
After this got done, I realised that some incompetent person at HP had damaged my laptop panel and then tried to do a botched job of hiding it by sticking the broken piece with feviquick! (I’ll upload pictures of this later, I have them with me). Once I got this panel changed their staff just vanished from my life as if the problems had finished!
During this entire ordeal, I followed up this matter with HP (Mr Harjinder Singh & Ms. Shivani Gogna to begin with) and asked them to communicate the following in written:
1. The technical reason behind the formatting of my laptop HDD (in written) stating why was it even required.
2. The action that has been taken against the person who authorised formatting of my HDD.
3. The action that has been taken against Mr. Deepak who misbehaved with me.
4. A response to how they are going to procure the software that I do not have installers for. The list had already been shared with them in writing.
5. The reason why no one even BOTHERED to test the DVD drive given to me. Surely with so much noise that it made, no one in his/her right mind would call it new. Action against the person who verified its OK status.
6. Action/compensation that HP is going to take/give resp. about all the inconvenience I have suffered so far at the hands of its staff, including loss of data, harassment and unavailability of my laptop causing me further professional loss.
Till date I have not received any response from them in writing. What I have got over the phone after my follow up ONLY, is that they will get back to me & that the person who misbehaved would be given a notice. They have expressed their inability to do anything about the other points. I have still not been told the technical reason for the formatting of my Hard disk in writing. I would like to know what HP can do for my loss and I would like HP to take the strictest action possible against not only the person who did not have the insight to inform me or ASK me first but also Mr. Deepak Jain, whose idea of customer service means first causing damage to customer’s equipment & then insulting the customer! Mr. Harjinder & Ms. Shivani Gogna do not believe in the written word. They in fact had conf calls with me and even went to the extent of talking about me as if I wasnt there “If she wants it in written, give it in written Harjinder” is what Ms. Shivani Gogna told Mr. Harjinder, a style I find quite offending & unprofessional. However in spite of this I have never received any correspondence about above mentioned matters.
After raising a lot of hell with these incompetent and unprofessional people, Mr. Jitender Das was roped in. He took care of the hardware aspect and then disappeared. I called him multiple times and EACH time I was told by him that he’ll get back to me, that he was in a meeting, that he would call me that very evening. I had even told him that I am already facing another problem in my machine! Yet it has been 2 months to those reminders of mine as well. In the interim I had also happened to talk to a Customer care representative called Mr. Shekhar, when my technical problems had not been rectified & the laptop had been returned full of problems. I had then narrated the whole saga to him (arnd May’09) and he told me that I would be given extended warranty free of cost. After this he completely disappeared. When I followed up again and again and managed to get in touch with him again after 4 months, he said that the matter had already been closed because his staff said all problems are ok!! I had to remind him that he is the customer care in charge, not the staff care in charge and it is highly unprofessional of him to let his “staff” decide whether my problem has been solved or not! Clearly HP hasn’t taught even their customer care ppl that one needs to ask the CUSTOMER whether the problem is ok and NOT the staff! All this in spite of the fact that he said he’ll get back to me with extended warranty! This time also I clearly told him that my machine has developed further problems. At times it doesnt start up at all. The light just goes on and off. If it does start its CMOS settings get reset each time. Obviously even technical faults in the machine are of no concern to HP. Both Mr Jitender Das & Mr. Shekhar from Customer Care, have not bothered to get back to me about anything. During this process I had even written to Ms. Neelam Dhawan, MD, HP India, and as expected I never received any response.
The last I heard from Ms. Shivani Gogna was in April while the last I heard from Mr. Harjinder singh was on 5th May. After that Mr. Jitender was the sole contact who vanished after early August and never got back in touch. The last I spoke to Mr. Shekar was 2.5 weeks back when he told me that he’ll get back to me in a week. Clearly the extra weeks has been no use to him except for perhaps formulating what seems to be clearly HP’s strategy to avoid the customer till their warranty runs out – in my case it finishes on 28th September’09.
Forget basic etiquette from HP customer care, if you buy a laptop from them, beware – you would be running after them for the rest of your life, till your warranty runs out. I will never EVER buy an HP product ever again and advise you to do the same if you want some sanity left in your life.
I have just been told by some internal sources at HP that my case has been marked “closed” in June and that my response has been written as “completely satisfied”. It’s appalling to see that HP is indulging in not only unethical but ILLEGAL activities by fabricating customer responses and closing issues of their own will! Least surprisingly, I am unable to log in another complaint from their site as I am getting an error in their scripts (tho I tried different browsers)


Beware of Airtel’s lifetime free IPTV scheme for existing subscribers – all hogwash 13

Airtel has been tomtoming their supposedly lifetime free IPTV scheme to existing subscribers of broadband, showing no extra cost except for installation charges of 3999/-. Even after asking several times from their executives selling this scheme to people, they insisted that there’s no monthly rental, this is indeed lifetime free at no extra cost, except that of installation. I also doubly confirmed that my existing connection of 999/- would not have any disruption or hampering in service & no extra cost and was confirmed the same. However since nothing of this sort is on airtel’s site as of now, I was still sceptical.
Finally after much interrogation, I agreed to fill up the application provided they show me this scheme on paper and not expect me to fall for it over what they claimed on phone. I speak from experience. right from the time I wasnt even an Airtel customer but they damaged my property to install someone elses connection TO my own broadband connection. As expected, considering how botched up Airtel’s services are, their representative who was given some other address instead of mine to go to & some other timing as well, arrived 5hrs late at my place without any scheme in written. This after having given them my address at least 4 times. When the rep finally procured their brochure & showed it to me, I realised that my existing speed of 384 Kbps will be downgraded to 256Kpbs if I were to avail of this scheme. I talked to their customer care again. I was told there is not much difference between 384Kbps and 256 Kbps speeds anyway. When I asked them why they are charging me more in that case, for the higher speed, he had no answer. He also told me that to retain my existing speed of 384 Kbps, I would have to buy a top up plan of 400/- every month. So here it is – their hidden monthly rental! All this after having confirmed on phone that my existing broadband services will not suffer or be hampered!
The customer care guy started by saying that I must be paying this to my cable guy. That’s not even logical. I pay much lesser to the cable guy and might as well retain my existing broadband speed, without shelling out 4K for some installation! Nice way of taking services back from the customer and then charging them again calling it lifetime free!
Beware of schemes that insult the intelligence of the customer. Jaago Grahak Jaago. Do not fall for Airtel’s hogwash


TOI believes – Flickr is for flicking 190

TOI thinks flickr is for flickingThis is shocking but unfortunately true. Our leading dailies make a business out of the photographs clicked by many of us. And they have the audacity to use them without permission , credit or compensation as well, even if they are against the copyright license. One of my pictures got “flicked” from my Flickr stream and got published in a weekly supplement of TOI’s called, “What’s Hot”, dated 18th July’08. I happened to take a look at this supplement quite by chance because it was lying around and I had nothing better to do.

 I immediately called up the editor of this supplement – a lady called Poonam singh – who said she will look into the issue. I wrote about 3 mails in all, asking for (a very meagre) compensation for the damages done as well as credit. For one, I never got a response in written – but of course that would mean acknowledging the theft. When I called up, I was told that it is common practice to “use” free images from the net! Flabbergasted at the audacity of this all, I clearly asked whether TOI staff was blind or illiterate to not be able to make out the clearly written statement on my flickr stream and my copyright license, both of which stated that my images can NOT be used without my explicit permission – ALL rights reserved. This is plagiarism in its full glory. Not only this, on asking for compensation, Ms. Poonam singh clearly told me that as a next step I could even go to lawyers and that this case will then be forwarded to the legal department of TOI. Huh? Was this a threat? Or a challenge? They actually go ahead, use an image with “all rights reserved” clearly mentioned on my page, have the audacity to state that this happens all the time – the “graphics designer may not know” and that I could go take the legal route?

Well, I clearly understand that it was not the editor herself stealing my image, but some downtrodden employee. But then undoubtedly, Ms. Poonam Singh, who represents the Times of India, is not performing her job of being an editor, if her employees are violating copyrights! Who is responsible for educating employees about copyright violation and the legal ramifications of it? How come the Indian publishing industry takes this so lightly, whereas the Indian IT industry (of which I am a part) takes IPR’s, patents and copyright violations so seriously that they throw out employees who download pirated mp3’s on their machines? I have undergone trainings on ethics a zillion times in my career. We have had several instances of audits, policies stuffed down our throats and what not. Why? Because the Indian IT industry takes this matter seriously. On the other hand, nauseatingly so, the Indian publishing industry takes this as its birthright!

The Indian Copyright Act, 1957; Section 63 – states that copyright infringement, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to two lakh rupees.
The law is on our side, the proof is in our hands and YET victims like us, do not do anything about this. After I shared my story on flickr, I shockingly realised that this practice is so rampant! I now know of many more cases like me, all of us bleeding because our creation has been stolen and used for a commercial purpose and we could do nothing but helplessly watch.

When I asked TOI for compensation, I was told that they will pay what they pay to their own photographers, which is a grand sum of 250 INR. I am tired of using this word repeatedly, but yet again, I was shocked and told the editor to keep this princely sum with herself. I was then offered 1500 INR as a “last offer” since this picture had been taken and used without my permission (such euphemism for THEFT). Just who the hell is TOI to decide compensation for MY piece of work? I do not exactly shout this from the top of trees, but like hell they need to realise a couple of things. That photography is not just a passion with me, it’s also a road to an alternate career for me. That I take it seriously, I spend money in equipment, in attaining knowledge, I spend time, effort and my resources to make a “creation”, which later I SELL. That I am at this juncture of being somewhat known in the Delhi Photography circuit (not just amateur but professional as well). That I co-administer a rather active group of Delhi based photographers, which consists of the likes of Dinesh Khanna and Pablo Bartholomew. That I also sell my prints to well known connoisseurs in the same field. Just how the hell can the Time of India value my piece of work? That’s like stealing my Mercedes and paying me for a Maruti, mind you, only because they happened to get caught red handed? Yes, I am expensive, but did TOI care? They just stole my picture without asking me how costly I am.

I have no idea, how many such images are being used on a daily basis – they could be anyones, but I do know that this nefarious practice is increasing day by day. I also plan to start a “morcha” against this kind of theft. I know of a lot of cases already and if you know of any, please get in touch. All readers of this post, I would request you to please share it widely, so that we can attack this disease as a people and not as an individual. The next stolen picture could be yours. I will certainly take legal action against Time of India. Even if it proves futile, I would not like to be in a state where I am doomed to wonder for the rest of my life – what if.

UPDATE – this issue has been resolved, thanks to all of you for your support. I have received the desired compensation, corrigendum as well as a written apology. I’ll be updating about the details in a separate post.


Killer highway


Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel” crooned the Doors. But it wasn’t just for the sake of crooning that they belted out this piece. It’s a very sane bit of advice especially while driving on killer highways like what NH-8 has become now. NH-8 was never a typical highway (At least not in the recent past and not in the NCR area) since it always had so much of traffic and too many arteries merging into it. With the opening up of almost all the flyovers on the highway the situation has improved somewhat (only to some extent and only at certain times of the day). But there are still lots of bottlenecks to be sorted out.

Thankfully now that I don’t have to commute to Delhi at least on weekdays I am spared the misery that some of my colleagues daily go through – the misery called being stuck in a traffic jam ON a flyover. That apart, I have had my fair share of misery being stuck in traffic jams caused just because of traffic waiting to cross over to the other side of NH-8. But the hazardous way in which some of the things are functioning really make me wonder whether we were better off earlier.

1. The speed limit on the roads is 50km/hr for LMV’s! What? With NHAI vehemently claiming a 20 minute journey from Delhi to Gurgaon. ie. from Dhaula kuan to Rajiv chowk, did they forget to do their basic maths right? Anyhow when the roads are empty, who’s stopping people from clocking 120 km/hr? That too people who are STARVED for some real driving in gears beyond the first.

2. Cyclists/Rickshaw wallahs/stray pedestrians on the flyovers – just when would this menace stop? Finally some graphic boards have been put up which show that cycles/rickshaws arent allowed on the flyovers. I dont remember seeing anything for the pedestrians though. And anyway, who’s stopping the above mentioned menaces from coming onto the flyovers? No one. Exactly the problem. What does one do when one is at a high speed, in the rightmost lane and suddenly there looms ahead a cyclist or better still a pedestrian who’s got some real estate plans on the right side of the road and hence is guarding territory?! One ends up braking or swerving dangerously.

3. Forget the smaller mosquitoes. Who takes care of the LMV’s and at times trucks/cranes/construction machines standing on either side of the road? That too with no indicators/blinkers/indicative boards on? I have actually seen accidents on NH-8 which have happened due to this reason, not to mention luckily avoiding some myself! How much IQ does it take to realise that if you have overshot a particular turn you dont just brake in the middle of the road and STAY there. You get driven over if you do that. Getting to one side of the road is the least you can do. And driving a few kms extra never hurts as much as another vehicle banging head on would.

4. Coming back to pedestrians, my only question is, guys why do you need to CROSS a damned flyover? Whether it is the peak or the trough of the flyover, pray tell me why? Aren’t you aware that you aren’t exactly flourescent? I may not see you but at least you can see a big vehicle coming towards you at high speed with bright lights? Why do you have to scurry across the road like the three blind mice? And for heaven’s sake, at least decide on which goddamn side you want to run to, before you start the scurrying! Agreed NHAI has done absolutely NOTHING in providing pedestrian crossings but there are enough peaks in the flyovers for you to cross UNDER from. When we talk of such delicious temptations like crossing the road from anywhere, anytime at whatever gait one pleases, how can two wheelers be far behind? Cyclists and even scooterists and bikers ALL, indulge in this tribal dance to get to the other side, at times even jutting out their dangerous behinds from the dividers. The pity is that the only ones who are actually bound to go straight on the road end up braking/swerving violently! Even though NHAI has put up some ubiquitous NHAI boards in the middle of the roads to deter pedestrians, does that help? No. They forgot that man is the descendent of the monkey. In the month of february alone, pedestrian deaths were already at a maximum on NH-8. Even poor animals have learnt to stay away from NH-8 after being splattered occasionally. Why can’t you?

5. Now why just talk about the ones who use the flyovers? Let’s talk about the ones who constructed them and are still in the process of taking care of the most important details, bit by bit. Yeah we’ve got milleniums to keep doing the left over bits even after the flyovers are being used for daily traffic. Fine, so NHAI forgot that the electricity poles they erected on the divider would probably cost them a pretty penny when it comes to consumption. So while changing them, NHAI also chooses to forget those poles lying on the road waiting for some commuters to do a pole vault? And if they have to dig a cemetry for them poor poles which never saw the light of the day (or night), why cant they at least keep that humungous dump of mud somewhere else, instead of on the fastest lane on both sides, that too without any warning/indication of any sort? Ok, you got the precious real estate there and we can even overlook your guys picnicking there in their undies, but the least you can do is put up some of those ubiquitous boards of yours or some indicators which are helpful to commuters like us? And while we are at it, please learn a thing or two from DMRC and put those boards so as to aid us and not to cause more accidents!

6. The biggest menace of all – us. Lane driving is something that clearly no one wants to do in Delhi! In all this time of driving on the highway, I have barely seen any drivers giving indicators before changing lanes or even driving in the correct lanes to begin with, whereas I painstakingly like a fool insist on indicators. I actually think no one bothers to even see those indications! Why are autos and other threewheelers/twowheelers always in the righmost lane? Why don’t ppl simply understand that the rightmost lane is the fastest. If you cant go beyond the first gear, move over to the left lane! Pity, here people dont even respect the lines drawn on the road – also known as lanes. Looks like the only “lane” they ever got acquainted with was Lois! And what’s with people sitting out picnicking on the divider with their feet sticking out on the rightmost lane? Yeah you might have got the costliest pedicure done but please keep your booties to yourself else you just might not be left with them!

7. Traffic police – half of the times the traffic lights under the flyovers aren’t working and you aren’t there either for some manning of the signals. And did I say earlier you were weak in your maths? If one has to cross a certain distance to get to the other side of the traffic signal, would you time your traffic signal thus, that the moment you reach halfway, the traffic signal changes and then all the directions end up doing a close waltz, in the said ballroom of your making? And where are the stop lines? With bigger turns and bigger angles (at times multiple turns under the same flyover) arent you supposed to indicate CLEAR stop lines and signboards and traffic signals calculated to enable commuters to at least *get* to the other side before playing chameleon?

My only conclusion is – It is so dangerous to drive in the rightmost (or even leftmost) lanes of this highway that I prefer driving in the middle lanes. One never knows when one may encounter a pedestrian, a cyclist, a jaywalker, a picnicking bunch with various paraphernalia or body parts sticking out into the rightmost lane, a pole (for vaulting or not is left to us), a mud heap that appears like a mountain looming large (thanks for the landscaping), trucks, cranes or other LMV’s/HMV’s wanting to encroach on NHAI property or ubiquitous NHAI boards that are kept parallel to the roads direction which means they are invisible boards and they cant be seen. In a project that’s already 2 years behind schedule, when NHAI does implement the toll part of this project onto us commuters, I am sure the situation would get even more dramatic and chaotic. There’s still a substantial time before all these issues get sorted out and actually make the Delhi-Gurgaon drive smooth and safe to say the least.


Cheque check 3


Ah, The sweet smell of putting someone in their place. Customer care is one thing that definitely falls under the category of providing exactly the opposite of what they promise. Be it any commodity or service. As if life isn’t tough already, the things one buys, ensure that ones hands are full with the associated PITA’s (pain in the a$$ for the uninitiated) that come totally “free”. I finally got some respite from ICICI’s customer care. I have been their customer now for more than 7 years now – savings account, home loan, demat account, bonds and what not. Or it could have been even earlier by virtue of my parents having bought some bonds in my name when I was a kid. Anyhow in this particular episode, the problem was that I had tried to make some partial prepayment towards my home loan sometime last year. Since I wasn’t in the country, I had asked my parents to make the payments using the cheques from our joint account. My mom signed a cheque and went through the formalities of partial prepayment. ICICI quietly rejected the cheque without even informing us that it had bounced. When substantial time passed, we realised that the amount had not been deducted from the account and found that the cheque had been supposedly bounced due to signature mismatch. This was most ridiculous. My mother’s signatures were on the postdated EMI cheques too and they had no problem whatsover. Moreover everyone in our family is ultra careful about such procedures. I asked my parents to try again. This time my dad signed a cheque from the joint account and went through the formalities of partial prepayment. Again, ICICI repeated the same saga and rejected the cheque (quietly again) with no reason. No one bothered to inform us that it had bounced in the first place. I went around asking my savings account branch what was the reason for dishonouring the cheque, which they were able to provide to me much later after personal intervention. Again it happened to be “signature mismatch” which was most ridiculous.

Finally I went to the Jhandewalan branch of ICICI to discuss the issue with them. Due to two cheques having bounced, they wouldn’t even entertain any loan prepayments till a fine was paid for them both. I paid an exhorbitant fine of 757/- for 3 cheques (one was dishonoured many many years back and we didnt even know about it). I told the customer care that I just didn’t believe that the cheques would have bounced due to a signature mismatch and this seemed just a strategy to mint money on the side, more so because I didn’t have any proof of the cheques with me and I was just expected to take their word for it! After paying the fine for the bounced cheques, I made a 3rd payment which fortunately ICICI’s signature matching officials didn’t have anything against this time. I also lodged a complaint with them, demanding to see the bounced cheques and really confirming how the signatures on those didn’t match the counter signatures stored with the bank. As expected this was a lengthy process (god damn their mumbai headquarters). The cheques and everything had been sent to the mumbai branch and would take some time procuring. Even before this I had already been harassed enough to shuttle between their home loan branch in Jhandewalan, New Delhi and my savings account branch in Gurgaon – with both of them putting the onus of producing cheques on the other! Eventually I managed to put in the complaint and I was told that I would be called when the cheques come in. 4 months passed and no cheques ever came in. I eventually visited the bank again and told them off. I showed them the receipt I had of the complaint and the signatures of the employee who was to get back to me. She tried selling me some crap like “I forgot it that day and then my machine got some virus so I lost all the data of that day’s customers”. I gave her a piece of my mind about how she could be that non-serious and how she even expected me to believe that her machine, belonging to one of the biggest banks here, dealing with precious data like people’s money and finances, had some local data which was not even backed up?!! That was utterly preposterous. To top it all, the cheques could not be procured at all, since 6 months old cheques were purged anyway. So there was supposedly no way I could have even set my eyes on the cheques to actually see whether the signatures mismatched or not. I made yet another complaint and demanded that they refund me the money which was charged as fine, emphasising at the same time, that the amount they owed me was much more due to the additional loss incurred with my partial prepayment not being made on time due to some supposition that had been imposed on me. This time I wrote to the customer care of ICICI through the web and escalated this issue. I was told that scanned copies would be made available to me. But after some days I was told that since they were not able to get scanned copies either, they would refund me the extra fine charged. Finally I got back the fine that I was charged. And I decided to forget the losses incurred due to late partial prepayment (something to the amount of 6K or so), since the judicial system here can not really help me quickly. Had this bank done something like this in maybe US of A they would have been sued left, right and centre.

My tips to other grieving customers – as far as possible, make sure that you are told/given everything within your right and as long as you are not losing your sanity trying to get it. A lot of companies have such bad customer care that they just get away due to the sheer ignorance of the customer. But if they continue getting used to this, we will never be able to improve the seriousness that’s required in providing good customer care.