• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 3:17am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 July, 2013, 3:51am

Annals of HSBC's China UnionPay fiasco: more tales of ATM card woe

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

We continue to hear of tales of woe from readers attempting to use their new HSBC ATM cards linked to the China UnionPay payment network. One reports trying to use his card in Paris only to find that it didn't work.

He then tried to use his HSBC credit card, which resulted in the message "insufficient funds". He says it was unclear whether the message was for him or the bank, such is the confusion surrounding the bank's ATMs these days.

Lai See braved the Hong Kong government's black travel alert recently and went to Manila. (Astonishingly, the government maintains the warning.) We tried out our card in a Bank of the Philippine Island's ATM which claimed to accept China UnionPay. We can report it worked like a dream.

 

Getting the bank's attention

This is an ATM story which, for once, does not involve HSBC. The story relayed by Cable TV tells of a man in the city of Anqing, in Anhui province, who attempts to withdraw cash from an ATM.

He hears the whirring of the money being counted and his card is returned but it doesn't give him any money. Concerned, he has another go at the ATM right next to the one he tried. He notices that his account has been debited for the 2000 yuan he unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw.

When he attempts to withdraw cash again the machine swallows his card. He rings customer service but as it is 7pm in the evening a voice tells him that since it is after office hours there is nothing the bank can do and he should approach them the next day.

Dissatisfied with this, he calls the police. They turn up but conclude there is nothing they can do. By now a crowd of onlookers have gathered and one of them suggests he ring the bank and tell them the ATM has given him too much money.

So he rings customer service again and explains that when he was trying to withdraw 2000 yuan, the machine gave him 10,000 yuan and that he was now unclear about what to do.

"Just stay there and we'll be there in 10 minutes came," was the swift reply.

Sure enough, ten minutes later, no less than the branch manager turns up to deal with the situation. Inevitably, this story ended up on weibo, where people commented that it was okay to lie to get the bank's attention.

The bank, meanwhile, felt obliged to put out a statement defending its actions, saying that since in the first instance, as the ATM didn't pay out, it knew its money was safe, but it wasn't necessarily so in the second case. Hopefully, HSBC's customers won't try pulling that stunt.

 

Killer air pollution

More than two million people die each year as a direct result of air pollution from human activity, according to a recent study in Environmental Research Letters that was conducted by scientists from universities in several different countries. The study suggested that 2.1 million people die after inhaling PM2.5 particles generated by diesel engines, power plants and coal fires. Another 470,000 are thought to be killed by high levels of ozone, created when vehicle exhaust gases react with oxygen.

Dr Jason West from the University of North Carolina was quoted in The Guardian as saying:

"Our estimates make outdoor air pollution among the most important environmental risk factors for health.

"Many of these deaths are estimated to occur in east Asia and south Asia, where population is high and air pollution is severe."

It is worth recalling that according to the peer reviewed Hedley Environmental Index, there were 150 avoidable deaths last month due to air pollution in Hong Kong and an average of 3,200 per year over the past five years.

New legislation is being drawn up and is supposed to be passed by the Legislative Council later this year. But don't hold your breath.

 

Carl Icahn's Twitter prowess

Good to see that Carl Icahn is no slouch when it comes to mastering Twitter. He was moved to exercise this skill following Michael Dell's new and increased offer of US$24.4 billion to delist the company he founded - Dell - together with private equity firm Silver Lake. Icahn, who is opposing the bid tweeted: "All would be swell at Dell if Michael and the board bid farewell."

 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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