Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Carolyn Cooper | FLOW and NCB - from bad to worse

Published:Sunday | October 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM

In July, I decided I'd had enough of FLOW's off-the-air cable channels. So I did radical surgery and cut back cable, Internet and phone service. I was so pleased with myself when I got my September bill. It was cut in half. My joy didn't last. In October, I got a bill two and half times the September bill!

In amazement, I called the number on the bill for customer queries and, after holding for more than 20 minutes, I got a nice young miss who informed me that I was in the wrong queue and she would have to transfer me. I protested. I had called the number on the bill and followed all instructions. She cheerfully told me that when there's a high volume of calls, they are often sent to the wrong queue!

So I asked her how much longer I would have to wait in the right queue. She said I wouldn't have to wait at all. She was going to transfer me right away. After holding for 10 more minutes, I got connected to another nice young miss who explained that it was all the long-distance calls I had made that blew up my bill.

What? The package I'd selected included long-distance calls. She firmly told me that my triple-play package allowed 1,000 minutes of local mobile and landline calls. But no long-distance calls at all! I regularly call my family and friends in North America and the UK. So I could not possibly have agreed to a package, however cheap, that excluded long-distance calls.




I asked the nice young miss what percentage of the bill was made up of long-distance calls. She said it would take her all night to figure that out and told me to go to one of the FLOW offices. Then she remembered that I could go to the FLOW website and get the information. She told me how to register and gave me my invoice number.

I entered my email address, account and invoice numbers. I got this message: "invalid invoice number". Now, it's not as if the nice young miss had made a mistake with the number. I double-checked. The number I put was the one highlighted in the customer information section on the same registration page!

I gave up. I have not yet managed to go to an office to check on my long-distance calls. I've just gone on strike. I'm not making any long-distance calls on FLOW. Thank God for WhatsApp, though I'm quite suspicious of 'freeness'. God alone knows what is being done with the data generated on all those calls. But I'd rather be the victim of unknown evils than the evil I do know - FLOW.




As for NCB! I opened an account at the University of the West Indies, Mona, branch of Barclays Bank in 1968. Almost half a century ago! When Barclays morphed into National Commercial Bank, I stayed with them. The 'national' name promised better treatment for Jamaicans. But last week, not for the first time, I was forced, again, to consider closing my accounts at NCB. The bank knows nothing about customer service.

On Monday, I went to the automated business machine in Liguanea Plaza. The machine was out of service. So I went to the NCB bank in Northside Plaza. The bank was closed and there was a long line in the foyer for the single ABM that was dispensing cash. So I went to the ABM outside. That was not working.

I go back inside to join the line that is now even longer. An angry woman, who is just in front of me, mutinously announces that this is the sixth machine she's gone to and can't get any money. A bank employee who is spinning around informs us that the machines are low on cash. We can only withdraw $5,000 at a time in $500 notes. OK. Money is money.




The understandably angry woman gets the last $5,000 in the machine and demands to speak with the manager. The helpless bank employee is not taking her on. So she turns up the volume. She must speak with the bank manager. I decide to join forces with her and I go to the door to try to get past the security guard to look for the manager. No luck.

Eventually, the manager does come out. And his first question to the angry woman is, "Why are you shouting at me?" I couldn't believe it. No attempt to calm her down with a gentle, "Please tell me what the problem is!" So I ask him, "You are too important to be shouted at?" I am now almost as vexed as the angry woman. But I've only been to three ABMs, not six.

The manager sensibly decided to let all of us into the bank. But here's the catch. NCB has a wicked policy of charging a penalty of $370 if you take out less than $100,000 from your savings account! So I asked if the penalty would be waived. It was. But my days with NCB are numbered. There is now so much competition in the banking sector. Not so with telecoms! It's either the devil or the deep blue sea. And that's no choice at all.

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.