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It couldn't have happened at a worse time. Reaching for my wallet on the eve of an overseas trip, I discovered it was gone.
Not in the left pocket, not in the right. And not in the back. I checked again and again, in the futile hope it would magically reappear.
The stress was immediate. Cortisol flooded through the body, increasing the heart rate, shortening breath and tensing muscles from the neck all the way to the extremities. I cursed my carelessness. In that wallet were credit and debit cards essential for the trip.
The flood of stress hormones did their job, helping propel me back over the places I'd been that morning. But it was to no avail. The wallet was gone and the cards would need to be stopped and replaced. And that process was where the real anxiety began - and where it continues a whole month later.
This is a tale of two banks. The main one I use, ANZ, and the old one, NAB, with whom I still had a credit card reserved for emergencies - a card that was also in the lost wallet. The experience and help offered could not have been more different.
The call to the ANZ was answered by a person whose Asian-American accent, most likely Filipino, was as hard for me to understand as my Australian accent was for her. After explaining what had happened and that, no, I didn't have the card number because the card was lost, she abruptly said the cards had been stopped and that to get new ones I'd have to visit a branch with two pieces of ID. Never mind that this would be impossible because I'd be overseas for three weeks. Two weeks in Thailand, returning to Sydney for one night, and flying out to the US the following morning. She had all the empathy of a lamppost and drove my stress levels to just this side of a stroke..
We'll return to the ANZ shortly.
The call to the NAB was answered by an Australian fellow, who listened to and understood my predicament. Quickly and efficiently, he assured me a replacement card would be sent out within seven days and delivered to my mother-in-law's address, from where I could collect it on the way to the US. The card arrived four days later. This despite the fact I'd hardly used my NAB account for years. And it got me through the week in America.
Back home and still needing those ANZ cards replaced, I called the bank again and once more a Filipino voice answered. I'd still have to visit a branch, she told me, but I'd need to make an appointment - online, of course, via a link which seemed deliberately designed to confuse. Another hoop to jump through in order to access my money but at least there's a branch reasonably nearby. If I lived in one of the many towns where branches have been closed down, it would be another story. Still, the process will consume the lion's share of the morning.
These words sit on the ANZ's website: "Once you've spoken to one of our team members for lost or stolen cards, they'll cancel your card and organise for a new card to be sent to you within 5-7 working days, if you're located in Australia."
I call BS.
It's no secret the big banks are raking it in. ANZ's half yearly profit for 2023 was $3.81 billion. Its full year profit last year was $7.14 billion. NAB's half-yearly profit was slightly higher. Profit, however, is just one measure of a bank's success. Customer service is another.
ANZ would do well to understand that lost or stolen cards involve a lot of anguish, which should not be magnified by directing distressed customers to overseas call centres. And it might look at the wording on its website which, from my experience, is utterly misleading.
HAVE YOUR SAY: How do rate your bank when it comes to customer service? What areas could be improved? Do you find overseas call centres frustrating? Have you ever changed banks because of poor service? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Microsoft will invest $5 billion to expand its footprint in Australia in the first major announcement of Anthony Albanese's visit to the United States. Over the next two years, the single-largest investment in Microsoft's 40-year history in Australia will boost artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing infrastructure, the tech giant announced on Tuesday.
- Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan has hit out at a "sexualised" cartoon published by a major Melbourne newspaper to make a political analogy. The Herald Sun ran a cartoon depicting Ms Allan on the runway for Melbourne Fashion Week wearing no clothes with blurred-out areas across her chest and hips on Tuesday.
- Cricketer Fawad Ahmed has shared heartbreaking news of his four-month-old son's death after a "long struggle". The Pakistan-born Australian cricketer and his wife welcomed their second baby in June but the child's short life was plagued by "a painful and tough fight", he said on X, formerly Twitter.
THEY SAID IT: "I don't have a bank account because I don't know my mother's maiden name." - Paula Poundstone
YOU SAID IT: The eerie similarities between world affairs now and 50 years ago suggests we have failed to learn from history.
"From that wonderful apres World War I anti-war song Green Fields of France," writes Ross, "... the 'killin' and dyin' has all been in vain, For young Willie McBride it's all happening again and again and again and again and again'."
Arthur writes: "It is governments who are failing to learn from their mistakes, not humanity. Just as Ian wrote, bad treatment only creates more bad treatment. Governments have to listen to the people they govern. The referendum here in Australia sent a strong message that providing a Voice to Parliament is useless unless the government listens and filters the noise out from the real message. All Australians want reconciliation and the gap to close but the government is listening to the wrong people. The same can be said on the world stage. In dictatorships the governments listen to no one but themselves. I am sure if a poll was taken both Jews and Palestinians would vote overwhelmingly for peaceful solutions to the ongoing problems and be adamant they do not want war."
"Always has and always will be wars among humans," writes Alan from Ulladulla. "World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars ... then Hitler had other ideas. We never learn. Power and the desire for domination is what corrupts us. And 'might is right' is the usual response. The trouble today, as you have observed, is that the atrocities of collateral damage is being presented to us on a daily, and hourly, basis via our phones, tablets and news media. This immediacy of news, whether factual or not, tends to exacerbate the situation and fans the flames of 'righteous retribution'. It won't change."
Daniel writes: "I've often thought that we should remember our collective war history with a minute's silence for each horrific event every day. Unfortunately, that would mean we'd be silent all day."
"Climate change is likely to exacerbate tensions and civil unrest across the globe whether this is direct (as in claims for land; water) or, indirect via the political divide," writes Anita. "I see individual rights taking a backward step in the number of newly formed fascist regimes. Reporting, of course, adds to the immediacy of revelations to an online audience, hungry for news."
Hilary writes: "Brilliantly written, John. Yes, I remember 1973 and the oil crisis. I was living in the Netherlands at the time. It was the 'Car free Sundays' that I remember."
"In 1973, I was in Year 11 in high school," writes Sue. "I'd just met my future husband in our modern history class. We were studying the rise of Hitler, how he had taken control of Germany by manipulating the German people through propaganda and cultural fear. It was necessary to start a war to protect Germany from attack and control by other countries, he stated. The names of the countries involved are different but that manipulation, fear and anger are the same as in the 1930s, or throughout human history for that matter. It's a miracle the human race keeps going at all! The Rolling Stones are a classic example of man's ability to survive against all the odds!"
Ian writes: "I was a young adult in 1973 and remember the times well. But, for me the most frightful day was during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. I went to school that day wondering if I'd ever be coming home or be blown to bits in a nuclear conflagration between the US and the USSR. Fortunately, neither Kruschev nor Kennedy were nutters and Kruschev backed down (or so it seemed). But, it has since been revealed that a Soviet nuclear armed submarine sent to Cuba was attacked by a US warship. Luckily for all of us, the Russian submarine commander acted against his military protocols and did not respond with a nuclear torpedo. We were all closer to Armageddon than we realised at the time. Today we have two warring nuclear powers led by governments (Israel and Russia) who both have a profound sense of self righteousness. To me, this makes them both dangerous to the world as bad things can happen very quickly. So yes, we are still living in dangerous times."
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