Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man vs Machines

People who follow me on social media know that I have a penchant for learning about the world around me in order to understand it, as well as a desire to see corporations that affect my daily life be transparent and honest with me.  If something appears to be wrong, more often than not, I will reach out and try to initiate a fix to the situation.

It was a couple of weeks back when I was looking at a poster on Toronto's subway that I first noted an advert for Interac where the graphics of some local personality dressed as a superhero were relatively crisp and clear, yet the small print was more blurred than the view of out a bullet train window at speed.  

The first thought I had was that the small print was supposed to be the most important bit of the poster.  In theory the poster could have had anything in the world on it, but the small print should say things like the copyright info and other T's & C's that legalities would dictate.  Based on what I was observing, I concluded either Interac in putting out such a advert deemed the small print to be inconsequential, or they did look at it but just have very sloppy approval processes, or they don't want us to read it.  

Advertising is a means for an organization to show me, as a customer, the perception of that organization or their products that they want to me think.  My perception of Interac had now been inadvertently altered to reflect what the advertisement was showing me on the subway… albeit the wrong message.  It appeared to me now to be either sloppy or hiding something.

It is with that perception that I went forward a few weeks.

Every two weeks I move money between two banks to cover my mortgage. I usually do this around breakfast time, and this week I found myself running late for work because I had to wait for Interac's email to arrive, so that I may click the link and deposit the money into the destination bank.  It took over 20 minutes to arrive.  Having clicked the link and deposited the funds, the second email arrived in 10 seconds.

It then occurred to me that my perception of being able to instantly wire money from bank A to bank B was wholly inaccurate.

So I asked Interac on Twitter what the delay was?
Their answer: "Hi Jason - the first email involves coordination with your financial institution, security measures, etc."

Now, as a consumer, I know I can go to an ATM and get money in 2 minutes.  As a programmer, I know you can shift funds (using IFX/OFX) between institutions in seconds.  Often, the Virtual Vault is just an IBM RS6000 that sits behind an array of servers that do the same security procedures regardless of if you're coming in from their web-servers (Internet Banking) or ATMs.  It all ends up in the exact same place - the Virtual Vault.  

So, I said to Interact that this doesn't make sense. This time, the delay was explained thus:    
"Hi Jason, there is additional support from us to your financial institution. As a result there is a minimal processing time."

At this point, I'm feeling like I'm being fobbed off.  All I want to know is why the delay?  What was the reason for me being late to work?

So I asked them straight out if this delay was due to batching? (the process of gathering up a number of requests over time, then forwarding this in one lump).  Interac didn't respond.  Now I knew I was being ignored.  This only served to reinforce the "doesn't matter" / "sloppy" attitude that the advertising had previously instilled in me.

It then occurred to me that I can probably prove my point by manually going to a CIBC branch, withdrawing some physical cash, walk to a ScotiaBank branch and deposit it.  If I'm right, I can do this manual process faster than sending money electronically.

So this is what's going down today.  Having moved the money physically, an identical transaction will be done through Interac, and I will then compare times.

So I went to CIBC, withdrew the cash.  I left with a receipt that stated the time of the transaction.  I got to the ScotiaBank branch with the physical cash and there was an ATM issue with my card, so I queued up for the main desk.  Having deposited the money there, the receipt was not timestamped, so there's no proof of the duration of the experiment.  Go figure.

As a result, I will first resolve the card issue (and, of course, that couldn't be fixed for other reasons), then re-run the experiment.  Having proven my point, I will take this back to Interac and see what their defence is this time.