The idiocy of people, part #1

The idiocy of people, part #1

May 02

I recently had the burning desire to replace my Virgin Money credit card. Little did I know that these masochistic tendencies would be too much for me to bear.

On the 13th of April I phone the Virgin Money call centre to start the process of replacing my credit card. The call centre answers, we have a relatively pleasant conversation. By that I mean that the conversation didn’t immediately excite in me the urge to kill.

I gave the call centre lady my latest contact details; my phone number and my email address, though I believe the arcane art of emailing may have been above the limited ability of the half-trained monkey on the other end of the phone.

The card would be issued, I was assured, but I would have to fax through my FICA documentation. No problem, as it happened, I had all of the documentation on me. For the uninformed, ‘FICA’ requires you to prove where you live, for some reason that nobody fully understands. If you do not personally own or rent the place where you reside, things get… complicated.

Luckily, having the documentation, I faxed it all through to Virgin Money immediately and being an eternal optimist that thinks the best of humanity, fully expected my card to be delivered promptly.

Eight days later, having received no card, I phoned Virgin Money to find out what the story was since clearly there would be a story.

“Sir, the card could not be issued”, the call centre rep expelled, “your account is in arrears by R250”.

“Er, since when”, I asked.

“Since your last payment”, it uttered.

“Why didn’t you tell me when I phoned on the 13th”, I enquired.

“Er… I don’t know… I must apologise for the inconvenience”.

“Why did nobody call me to tell me the card would never be issued”, I enquire.

“Er… I don’t know… I must apologise for the inconvenience”.

“Bloody retarded idiots”, I thought but said, “OK, so what now”.

She tells me that I must transfer the outstanding amount and once the money has cleared (because proof of payment, from my bank, was not acceptable), they would issue the card and once that happened I had to phone THEM back. Only three problems with that:

  1. it was Friday afternoon and no transfer would clear before Monday
  2. it was the 21st, I was leaving on holiday on the 29th
  3. the following Tuesday was a public holiday on which nothing would happen, anywhere, in the entire country

Also, I am the goddamn customer, why can’t they phone ME back?

My agent orange was now starting to act up and the urge to kill was certainly bubbling to the surface but OK, fine, I transfer the money and resolved to call them back.

Humourless, I phone the bastards on Monday.

“Yes sir, the money has cleared, we will now issue your card. It will take 8 to 10 working days to deliver.”.


The pen I was nervously tapping breaks on my desk. I barely hold back the rage that is now boiling in my head. I slam down the phone. I furiously hammer out a complaint on breaking several keys on my keyboard (OK, it FELT like I broke some keys).

You see, the reaction is par for the course in South Africa. Companies, banks in particular, don’t give a shit about their customers until the customers show the rest of the world what tossers banks and their staff are, in public. Complain about a bank on and you are guaranteed to be helped, usually on the same day, so the bank can protect the bullshit image they try to project.

Wednesday, 26th, Virgin Money phone ME for a change. Very apologetic, the gentleman from the bank undertakes to sort out this mess, and sort it out before I leave on holiday.

Sure, tell me another one.

Virgin Money blows my mind four hours later by phoning me again for the second time in a single day.

“The FICA documents you sent through last week are not valid”, moans the call centre chimp, “you need to fax through certified copies”.

I don’t quite register what was just spewed at me.

“Er… sorry, what?”, I say.

“The FICA documents you faxed through, they are not valid.”

“Why are they not valid?”

“You were supposed to fax through CERTIFIED copies of your documents, the ones you faxed through were not CERTIFIED.”

“How about I fax you the ORIGINALS”, I joke.

“No, it has to be CERTIFIED COPIES”, the trained monkey reads from its script.

If you are not quite following the problem here, let me explain. When one certifies a copy of a document, it is so that the copy is attested to be an exact, unaltered duplicate of the original by a trusted third-party. One typically would do this to use the copy instead of the original for whatever business you are going about. Now, faxing something makes a copy, usually a pretty bad copy. It is like sticking the document in a photo copier. What comes out the other side is not certified. IT IS NOT CERTIFIED. IT IS A NON-CERTIFIED COPY.

“Let me get this straight, you want me to go to a police station, now, make copies of all the original documents that I have, and get the police to certify the copies? You then want me to come back here and fax you these copies, resulting in you receiving a copy of a copy that isn’t certified?”



“Also, since you are not the owner of the property where you live, you must also get the owner to fill in another form”.

“You couldn’t tell me this on the 13th when I phoned?”

“Sorry, but you must get the forms completed and the documents certified. If you can do it all today, we will try to arrange your replacement card before you leave”.

So, not only must I leave the office at 1pm, two days before I go on holiday to get documents certified, I must ALSO drive 30km to get this additional form filled it.

“Ok, whatever, send me the form”.

“What is your email address?”

I give it to the mental defective manning the phone on the other side and resign myself to the fact that I would never see this card.

An hour later, I get a third phone call from Virgin Money.

“I tried to email you the form but the email bounced back, there must be something wrong with your email.”

“DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE!”, I think, “listen, forget it, cancel the request, I don’t want the fucking card anymore, forget I asked for it. I don’t want it”, I say acidly.

“So you want me to cancel the request?”

“Yes, I don’t want it anymore”, I say, “you fucking imbecile”, I think, and slam the phone down.

The moral of the story: just because an organisation claims to be a bank, doesn’t mean it isn’t staffed to the rafters with incompetent, half-wits and governed by disturbingly impaired idiocy.

The disease of stupidity is even more rampant in South Africa than AIDS, and the real travesty is that there is no drug that has the slightest effect on it.

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