Why Banks Suck?

Let’s say you are a twenty-something Saudi guy who happens to have an account with Riyad Bank, which doesn’t shy away from describing itself as “your bank” when for the most of time it’s not. It is your first and only account and you have been actively using it for the past four years mainly for the university’s monthly reward, hopelessly trying to convince yourself that putting that 990 riyals in a bank account instead of your wallet would make you spend them slower. Alas, with the high cost of living on your own in a city like Riyadh you always find yourself struggle to make it through the month.

So one day you want to go to Panda to buy some groceries but you realize you are out of cash so you decide to stop by an ATM machine on the way to the supermarket. You try to withdraw some money, and before you know it the machine rejects your card because it has expired. You look at the card and it’s true: it’s expired a few days ago. “Nothing is forever, I guess,” you say trying to console yourself.

The next day you go to the bank branch on Takhassosi St only to find it closed for prayer. You wait, and wait and wait, all while you curse this retarded tradition that clearly shows how no one in this country respects time, silently of course, because you don’t want anyone of those waiting with you to take offense at what you’ve been telling yourself. After more than one hour the bank was ready to open its door again and people storm in. You take your number and when your turn comes you go and tell the bank clerk that your ATM card has expired and you have not received a replacement.

“Are you sure? Have you checked your mail recently?” the clerk asks you. Yes, you have been checking your mail box everyday for as long as you can remember and, surprise surprise, your new ATM card was no where to be found. “I would really like to help you,” he says, “but the device for issuing new cards is broken so you need to come back tomorrow and I will be glad to give you a replacement card tomorrow.” You try to believe the man although you are still not sure if the smile on his face is fake or not.

“So there is no way I can get the ATM card today? Because I kind of need it, because, you know, a boy’s gotta eat.” He says you probably can if you have enough time to go to another branch. You fly to another branch, the one in Raed district, and you sit at the disk of another clerk, but this time with no smile, genuine or fake. You repeat what has become a boring story by now. The clerk does not seem impressed nor interested. “Look, you need to call the bank phone service and ask them to reissue your card and it will take a few days before you receive it, or you can get it right now if you were willing to pay the SR 100 fine,” he firmly says as if to tell you: get off my back you stupid customer with a tiny account we won’t give two sh*ts if we lose two hundred accounts like it.

“It’s not as if I received this card and then lost it,” you say, “so why should I pay SR 100 to replace something I have not received in the first place?” Because that’s how the bank system was designed, you are told. Since the guy in the Takhassosi branch said nothing about paying money to have your card reissued you decide you are going to wait until tomorrow. You go there and you wait; another wasted hour of your life that no one cares about. It’s your turn finally, excited you go to the same clerk you met yesterday, and this time you are quite sure the smile he is hanging up his mouth is clearly fake.

He starts doing the paper work in order to reissue your card, and minutes later he gives you the papers to sign them, but before you do that he says in a rather apologetic voice, “but the bank has to charge you SR 100 for this process.” You tell him what you have told his colleague yesterday: “why should I pay SR 100 to replace something I have not received in the first place?” and he gives an answer similar to his colleague’s that you hoped you would forget his face by that time.

This makes you angry, but being the polite person that you are, you say nothing and you think you would just pay them the money and get it over with. Suddenly you have an idea, so you ask the guy to wait for a moment. You take your mobile phone out and call a relative who happens to be a manager for another branch of the same bank in a different city. You tell him a short version of the story and he quickly advises you to ask to meet the branch manager. You do that, and the clerk does not look pleased with your request. “The manager’s office is upstairs,” he says.

You go upstairs and find the manager standing outside his office saying goodbye to what looks like a ‘hamoor.’ He asks you if there was a problem, and you tell him there is one. He listens, he smiles, he signs at the top left corner of your papers and tells you to go and tell the guy downstairs that you don’t need to pay nothing. The whole thing took less than five seconds. Again, the guy does not look pleased but this time he doesn’t seem to have much of a choice. He tells you to wait for a moment. You go to to sit down in the waiting area and you realize he wants to make you wait just to make you feel that he is still in charge and he can control your financial destiny no matter what his manager says.

After more than half an hour of waiting you finally receive your new ATM card, but by that time you have started to ask yourself if you really had to go through all that hassle. Was it worth it? You are not sure if you want to continue doing business with them but for some unexplained reasons you decide to give them what seems like an undeserved second chance.

21 thoughts on “Why Banks Suck?

  1. That’s what happens when you put a bunch of nomads to be in charge of a service/technology invented by the civilized world.

    You can take the Bedouin out of the desert, but you could never take the desert out of the Bedouin.

  2. Well, it is part of the west as well… hell they taught our local banks to be like this in order to become profitable, modern and civilzed as they are. These systems are photo copying of westerns ones.

    You have $1 dollar, you worth $1 dollar…you have $3 million you worth the whole branch along with the manager himself.

    Good luck next time.

  3. If it is any consolation it is not only Riyadh bank. When we arrived to the Kingdom, my husband, a Saudi “reinitiatilized” his existing accounts at SABB and also requested an ATM card since he did not need it when living outside the Kingdom. It took 10 days and multiple trips to the bank to get the ATM card. And I have heard of many others who had the same experience with the expired card and fighting to get the new one. Not fun at all!!

    American Bedu

  4. That happens everywhere, the misery produced by banks does not know boudaries, it does not matter which religion, nationality, sex or ethnic group you belong, they are there to make you feel you are wasting your time with them.

  5. I agree with Ali, I lived in Canada and the bank tries to take your money when ever they can with their fees for every extra service.. but they have accounts for students that have less charges too and some services for free for them..
    I know an ATM card should be provided on time and you shouldn’t be charged, but even there they always try to direct you to the ATM machine or the phone banking services when ever they can, but they help you when they are on the counter and you come to them.. but if the rule says no and you have to pay you will pay.. there will be no negotiation “Wasta” or no ” Wasta” which is really something I raise my brow to in saudi because it shouldn’t be like that.. it should be fair to all .. same treatment..
    The saudi american bank doesn’t charge any fees for issuing an ATM card at the bank last I know.. and I always receive my cards on time even when Im abroad with them..they send it to canada too for me..

  6. But you will never wait for more than 2 days in the US to get your replacement ATM card. You wouldn’t even have to step out side the comfort of your own home, hell you don’t even have to pick up the phone. I order everything related to my account – checks, cards, money orders, open saving accounts, transfer, pay bills, while sitting at my desk on-line at 10:30 at night.

    Photo Copy the West? The Xeroxed the bad and left out the good.

  7. I hope Standard Chartered bank opens some branches here in Saudi Arabia. I had an account with them when I was in Pakistan and they had EXCELLENT service.

  8. At my bank I see I’m all the time paying ‘commissions’ on things I never knew they existed at all, like ‘credit’, ‘handling charges’, ‘charge for a cheque I issue to another person, not involving the bank at all. . . etc. A million “small charges” ending up at the end of the month in one charge that could easily have bought me a pair of new shoes, GRRRRRRRRR

  9. assalamu’alaikum

    man u started this blog and the ‘mutawwas’ didnt tkae you to the cops? LOL. it’s sad being a saudi..in saudi. (i’m not one!). if the Prophet salAllahu’alayhee wasallam were alive he wouldnt be happy with the ‘islamic’ rules here. I was born n raised in saudi, but I swear, I’m not gonna settle down here. I dont want my kids growing up here. the rules here suck! the woman’s driving issue is insane and downright pathetic. Ithought women during Prophet’s time rode on camels. today camels have been replaced by cars. whats the big deal??? women in dubai drive, it’s safe! women drive everywhere! u know what’s the saddest part? makkah and medinah are in this country. and ppl esp non-muslims take everything happening in saudi as islamic..which IT’s NOT. Islam is a moderate religion not the extreme one those wahhabis are making it out to be. Sad. I can say alhamdulillah I study in dubai..and hey I can drive there . Feel sorry for my saudi sisters..oops sorry akhi to have gone off-topic..but couldnt control myself…and watch out..u never know..freedom of speeck, or lack thereof in saudi mightjust get u in trouble!

  10. thanx for judging me out as a pseudo pious muslim . i s’pse you can make out a a lot abt a aperson by their just 1 comment huh?

  11. You’re very welcome, I always do my best when it comes to hastily judging people. It’s great when people notice my efforts, I guess I’m just an unsung hero.

  12. unfortunately it’s people like you who give Islam a bad name..there are many like you in saudi..and the rest of the world..

  13. It’s hard to give Islam a bad name when I’m not even Muslim hun.

    The banking sector is improving, they should put more focus into commercial banking though.

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