Wednesday, October 16, 2013

CIBC and Interac - It's like Laurel and Hardy, only different.

People might think that I go around actually trying to be miserable at certain organisations, but the truth is that I don't.  It's just that certain organisations repeatedly foul up in ways that just should not be possible, and eventually I lose my temper with them.

One such organisation is CIBC.

I've said this before, and I'll repeat it again...  A bank should have three qualities:

  1. It should be dependable.
  2. It should never surprise you.
  3. It should be utterly pedantic.

CIBC, as ever, continues to defy these qualities and cause me want to rip out my spleen and bash them over the head with it.  Here's a little story about their latest cock-up.

On the afternoon of October 2nd 2013, I tried to send a very simple $250 Interac payment from my account.  Having addressed the payment, I hit the "Send" button.

I get this screen.

(Click Image for Original Size)

As you can clearly see, it says "We were unable to complete your request due to an unexpected error. Please try again."...

Now, how would you interpret that?

I would interpret "We were unable to complete your request" as "The request did not go through".  I would also interpret "Please try again" as an instruction from the bank to try the transaction again, as a corrollary to the prior sentence that the instruction did not go through, and therefore you're safe to try again as the money didn't leave your account.

Three times I tried.  Three times I got told "We were unable to complete your request".  I questioned this with CIBC's twitter team and they confirmed there were some Interac issues being worked on.  So, I stopped trying to send the money.  It could wait.

At this point, if the bank is explicitly telling you it's not completed the transaction, you'd be correct in thinking that the transaction had not completed.  Right?  

Wrong. Being CIBC, we have to break the rule #2 above, so here comes a surprise:  
When they explicitly stated "We were unable to complete your request", the truth was the request was going through every time.  My account got drained three times of $250. The recipient got invitations to collect $750.

Now to address pedanticness in rule #3 above.  A bank should be accurate.  It should be "to the penny" accurate with numbers.  It should say what it means in communications.  There should be no room for interpretation.  It should be black and white.  No grey areas.  (I'm still annoyed at CIBC over that whole email scam - they should not say that they'll do one thing, then do another.)  

In short, the more pedantic, the better.  As a bank, it's got a duty to be the most hair-splittingly accurate and most particular organisation in the average person's daily life.

As a programmer, here is where I get really frustrated in this latest farce;  When a computer (say, at a bank) hands off a financial instruction to another computer (say, at Interac), it's not like an Olympic baton race where one entity passes the baton to the other and gets nothing in return whilst the second entity races off with it.  Instead, a computer hands off the instruction and it gets a receipt in return to acknowledge the transfer.  

If you understand that, you'll understand why as a programmer I get so pissed off when I know that the system knew it had sent the money (it had to know, as the alternative would be that the "bank is confused as to where your money is" and you should never have a situation where the bank doesn't know if it's got your money or not), yet despite knowing that the money was sent, it's reporting a direct lie to the customer to the contrary, and then it's compounding the problem by inviting them to send the same thing again.

And that brings me to point #1, about being dependable.

Naturally, I now wanted to stop the other two erroneous payments and get my money back.  CIBC's stance on stop payments for Interac says this:

"a stop payment fee will be charged to the account you indicate as part of the stop payment request."

Oh, really?  So having ignored the fact that they knew at all times where the money is, and still egged-on the customer with incorrect information, you now want to charge me additional fees to fix it?

Of course, I wasn't happy about this, so I logged on to CIBC's website and wrote to customer service using the CIBC "Contact Us" functionality of their site.

Upon hitting "send", I got greeted with this nugget.

 (Click Image for Original Size)

The "contact us" to report that the "contact us" failed reminded me of the "Keyboard error, press any key to continue" error, and just about wraps up this latest farce. 

Seriously, why does banking have to be so damned difficult?