Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pesky card pushers

Many years ago, my neighbourhood was abuzz with excitement because the son of Mrs Lai managed to secure a clerical job at the local HSBC bank.

I didn't know why everyone was so excited but apparently, working in a bank was considered a prestigious thing to do among the small community I lived in, more so when you have been hired by a foreign bank. Never mind the fact that Mrs Lai's son probably spent all day sitting in front of a counter working as a cashier.

For weeks, Mrs Lai proudly went about telling every Tom, Dick and Harry who cared to listen that her son worked in a bank, THE HSBC BANK, in case one didn't know. And her neighbours would all nod politely and some even enviously at her good fortune. It was like her son struck a lottery or something, such must have been the case back then when securing a job in a bank, much less a foreign bank, was surely not an easy accomplishment.

You must be wondering why I suddenly recalled that incident which happened so many years ago.

This morning, I was at the shopping complex with the intention to pick up some groceries from Jusco and then maybe some toiletries at Watsons. I planned to complete my task in less than half an hour.

As I walked through the glass door, I was no more 10 steps into the shopping complex when I was stopped by a young man whose T-shirt told me he must be working for ABC Bank. Actually, I should use the word pounced because that was how I felt when he jumped right in front of me and stopped me in my tracks.

Ignoring my startled looks, he proceeded to wave a card in front of me and rattled off in Cantonese the benefits of owning a credit card, in particular the one that he was holding.

It's FREE FOR LIFE, he emphasized while looking straight into my eyes.

I didn't know whether I should hit him with my handbag or not. I was annoyed at being caught off-guard by this young ciku and also for the fact that he did not have the courtesy to ask for permission to waste my precious time.

Since I don't want to injure him considering my handbag is rather lethal, I chose to mumble a polite "no thanks" and side-stepped him, all the while giving him a "you'd better not come nearer" expression. That I think was more than polite in response to his rudeness.

I made a mental note that if indeed I want to take on another credit card, it'll not be with this particular bank.

I carried on with my business at Watson's and proceeded to the supermarket which was another 30 steps away. Believe it or not, I was again stopped in my tracks by yet another credit card salesman, his T-shirt telling me he's from XYZ bank.

This time, I gave him a small smile since he made the effort to say excuse me before he stood right in front of me to block my way. I told him nicely that I already have his bank's card and he politely uttered a thank you and let me go. Still, I wished he wasn't there to waste my time.

As I walked away, I remember the countless times I have been "detained" by encyclopaedia salesmen, credit card salesmen from almost all the banks, water filter salesmen, fitness equipment salesmen and what-have-you while out shopping.

This sort of situation is annoying to me because I don't like to waste my time having to explain to all these people why I do not need or even wish to buy their product(s). If I wanted any of it, I'd know where to find it. Trust me, I do.

I find that my shopping experience gets marred by these persistent sales people because if I don't dodge them, they will surely pounce on me if I get within sight of them. And then, I had to shake them off. Utterly annoying. Pesky, if I may.

I have nothing against salesmen, okay? I mean, I understand that these guys are just doing their jobs to earn an honest living. But it is the way they shove it into your face that is so unacceptable to me. Even when they are polite and smiling. I have had some of these credit card sales people put out their hands right in front of me as I was walking past just so I stop long enough to hear them speak. Don't you think that is so rude?

It makes me wonder at the irony of working for a bank these days as opposed to 2 decades ago.

And it also makes me wonder at the kind of sales tactics employed by banks in order to market their products and services. Kind of low class and unprofessional. I once saw a HSBC van parked near a pasar malam and selling their services like one of those pushcart vendors!! Wow ... the competition must have really hit them hard to resort to such a move.

I believe Mrs Lai is no longer around to witness the change in people's perception of the banking industry. It would have been laughable now for any mom to display such immense pride at their son/daughter's job selling credit cards at pasar malams.



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