Thursday, March 27, 2008

HSBC may just be the World's worst bank....

American Stop road signI wonder how many of you will agree with that title?

I've been a HSBC customer since my student days (so for about 16 years) when I opened my account in Pontypridd, South Wales and they gave me a lovely £3,000 fee free overdraft limit, plus I saw friends being treated really badly by their banks during that time. Well things have gone downhill since then I can tell you!

Why the rant you ask? Well today we drove to the HSBC in Downtown L.A. to sort out my American bank account. In an ideal world we really shouldn't have needed to, but as with most things in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think.

A few months before we left London, I'd popped along to my local Chiswick branch to investigate setting up an American account with a view that it would be really helpful to have the credit history or at least familiarity of dealing with a bank I know. Aside from HSBC becoming a very elitist bank recently (or am I just being naive?), i.e. the introduction of their two-tier service - if you don't have £75,000 in savings or a mortgage with them, you're not entitled to their Premier Banking Service and quite frankly they no longer want to know you.

As an aside, I saw a poster campaign as we drove to Heathrow Airport, when we were leaving, for a new Service from Barclays Bank, called 'WEALTH', with a rather smug looking older gentleman who was on a beach surfing (obviously without a care in the world because he was just so rich) and it just seemed a bit sickening and really did highlight the growing rich / poor divide (ooh, look at me getting all political and philosophical).

Anyway, back to my rant....

So, I'd tried to set up a checking account in advance of arriving in the U.S. so I would have an American debit card and be able to take cash out of ATMs without being charged and also just to have some financial independence as I'm not able to work. After paying a £100 fee (as I'm not a Premier HSBC member), thinking in the long run this investment would help simplify things, lo and behold my new debit card and internet access password were 'lost' by DHL when they tried to deliver them. I tried about 3 or 4 times to have them redirected to our home and to my work, but to no avail. The whole reason I started the application early was to allow time for unforeseen circumstances like this, but unfortunately our time in the country just ran out.

Ultimately I had to battle with HSBC to get my £100 refunded (but I did - yay me!) and I was told my American account had been set up and new cards issued, but all would need to be cancelled due to the security risk of my 'missing' debit card. Hence our trip Downtown today.

After being told I couldn't make an appointment at the branch and assured by email by the U.S. International banking department that I would just need to turn up on the day, the branch were aware of my history, the existing American account and cards would be cancelled and a new account set up, no problem. Well let's just say it didn't go as smoothly as that (hence the nice STOP sign visual!).

The branch contact I had been given was inconveniently on a training course and the person I spoke to was a business 'expert' and clearly had another customer appointment which made her very flustered. Then after everything I'd alreaIKEA store, Burbank town centre, Californiady been through, plus armed with my American account statement, my UK debit and credit cards and access to my internet banking accounts, I was asked for proof of address in the UK in order to open a new account (another security check, mainly to do with the deep doo-doo's of the American economy and their bank lending crisis at the moment).

As you can imagine I nearly fell off my chair. To cut a long story short, after printing off reams of paper, including my original HSBC stamped and approved application form, I now have my NEW American account - just need some money now to put into it!!

Sorry to bore you all, but just wanted to point out moving overseas is not all sunshine and cosmo's (but they help!!!).

Vantage Point movie posterAfter that adventure it was time for another one. On his way back to the office, Charlie dropped me off in Burbank town centre, home to IKEA and a 16 screen AMC movie theatre (cinema to us Brits!).

Interestingly in the U.S. IKEA is marketed as a much less quirky and edgy 'chuck out the chintz' place and their ads are much more about quality, inspiration and creating a sanctuary (oh to be working still on home interest magazines). Mind you I'm pretty sure the in-store experience is still as unpleasant as the UK one.

After amusing myself in their mall and investigating Macy's, Barnes & Noble (bookshop) and some god awful shops, I saw Vantage Point, which I loved (3 *** methinks). It's an action/thriller starring Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox (from Lost), Forest Whitaker, Sigourney Weaver (she's great in everything isn't she? Have you seen Galaxy Quest?) and loads of others. There's a bit of a predictable twist, but it's "original" and certainly "worth watching" - "says Jason of Jason in Hollywood".

American cinemas (or the ones here in L.A.) are fab - they have nice comfy seats which are on a nice steep incline with great visibility and massive screens. The only downside seems to be the dodgy popcorn, which is very salty (no choice of sweet here, which is strange in the land of SUGAR!!)

Pavilions convenience store, BurbankI thought I'd need to get a taxi back from the town centre, but following my instincts and with my trusty map I headed back along Olive Avenue and navigated my way home, via Pavilions (sister-supermarket to Vons) for a few essentials, like Ketel One Vodka and tea-bags.

Remember don't be a stranger and don't be afraid to comment on anything you see or read here. Any comments are welcome - good, bad.....good, anything you like, agree or disagree with, or perhaps want more of e.g. squirrel pictures.

And on that note I'll call it a night and leave you with an image of the Lockheed jet, Spirit of Burbank, of special significance as regular visitors will know that the avaition industry has played a big role in the history of Burbank.Spirit of Burbank, Lockheed jet

1 comment:

julie.morgan said...

Hi Jase

Thanks for keeping us updated on your blog it's really interesting. What was good was the other day while watching GMTV they were reporting on Leona Lewis making it to No 1 in America and they were reporting outside "The Grove" now normally I wouldn't have had a clue what/where that was but it was nice to have heard of it through your blog so I could relate to it.

Keep updating, it's great.


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