Sunday, November 21, 2010

Service (?) in Disguise !

These days i have been thinking on the different services available around us for a common man. I wonder if these are really genuine services. One such service that i have used many a times is the online movie ticket booking. This service comes with a fancy term "convenience fee". Is this just a convenience for the customers alone ? It makes their jobs organized and easier as well isn't it. Also shouldn't that be part of service provided to customers. Setting up an online system wouldn't cost the theater huge money i believe.... and for the rest of his life he gets to charge it as convenience fee from the customer !!!

Another service that i came across was the online funds transfer facility provided by most of the banks these days. The NEFT transaction is charged by couple of banks. I know of SBI and Citibank at-least. They charge a fee of 5.00 INR for every NEFT transaction. why should the banks charge this fee in the first place ? Are they encouraging people to use the paper cheques more than the online paper-less transaction ?
ICICI and HSBC as of now do not have any such charges.(at least till the last transfer i am not aware of any such charges)

Another innovative way of charging customers as part of service is the Airtel's Customer care desk. If you happen to reach the customer care officer, your call will be charged with some nominal amount (guess it is 50ps for 3 minutes). Though this looks like a small value, imagine the number of customers calling and speaking to the customer care executive and that in turn being charged !! what a way to generate revenue. So the monthly rentals do not cover up customer care charges !!

Service providers are really doing a good job at innovating different methods to provide service with a fee !
so are these really services to the customer ???

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fraud Cards / Credit Cards ?

Recently I had to go through some shit because I had agreed to some telemarketing call sometime during 2007-2008. I had taken a HSBC Gold Credit Card. Things seemed fine till date except some glitches last year. Although I enjoyed the reward points from HSBC.

Last year I happened to see that I had been charged with INR 3000 plus service charges as annual fee (INR 2000 for the primary card and INR 1000 for the add-on card) in my HSBC credit card statement. I called up the customer care and asked the phone banking executive as to why this amount was being charged. He told me that it was done in accordance with the banks policy.

I had the following questions thrown at the phone banking executive

Q1) why was I not being charged with annual fee all these years? All of a sudden I see these charges. I had not received any communication from the bank indicating the changes.

A1) Sir, sometimes bank do give a waiver on annual fee. But it is not mandatory to give it to every customer.

Q2) When there are many other banks which are throwing free credit cards at customers, why do you think anyone would want to have an HSBC card by paying an annual fee ?

A2) Yes sir. But this is as per bank policy. However I can raise a case and have the Annual fee charges removed. Also I will convert your card to a lifetime free credit card.

Year 2009 passed. In 2010, the same incident repeated. However with a small twist. The Annual fee on my primary credit card was waived automatically whereas the fee on my add-on card was not.

I called up the customer care asking them to waive the Annual fee as my card was a life time free credit card. I narrated the entire story to the phone banking executive.

But to my surprise, this time the Customer care was quite blunt on me and told me that there was nothing he could do this time. I told him that the card is a life time free card, to which he responded that my add-on card was not a lifetime free card.

I told him that I will not make the payment no matter what. This is “day-light robbery”

I asked him to tell me what I was supposed to do to avoid the annual fee. He told me just cancel the add-on card , then I will not have to pay the annual fee,

I agreed and asked him to cancel the card.

Now my mind started thinking in a different direction altogether. I had the following questions bothering me

1) why should we be at the banks mercy for such incidents.

2) Banks are cheating customers in broad day light !

3) What should I do to not fall victim to such cheap behaviour from a reputed Multi-national bank ?

Just recently I had read about the RBI Ombudsman. I had checked out the website as well.

I decided to go ahead and lodge a complaint against HSBC with the Ombudsman.

Within days of registering the complaint, I received a letter from HSBC along with the copy of the Application form that I had signed years ago!

Now came the actual surprise!. I was shocked to see a reputed Bank like HSBC making false claims in the letter addressed to me.

I was totally pissed off with this communication from HSBC. I had made up my mind that banks cannot dictate terms with Customers as per their whims and fancies.

I was thinking on how to go about this incident. I received a letter and an email from the RBI Ombudsman indicating the complaint had been addressed.

Now I started getting really suspicious, that HSBC had just tried to get away with the complaint by formally addressing the case...Just for the heck of formality.

The letter addressed to me stated that some one from HSBC had spoken to me on this matter! That was the first false statement in the first paragraph of the letter.

The letter also mentioned that they (HSBC) had exceptionally converted the primary card to a life time free card sometime in August 2008 based on my representation with the Phone Banking Executive. Also they mentioned that as a service gesture they were reversing the annual fee and both the primary and the add-on card was closed!!!

I now realized that just recently when I tried using my credit card, it didn’t work. The card was declined

This pissed me off big time and I registered another complaint with the RBI ombudsman, I also mailed HSBC customer care informing them that the letter addressed to me was not based on actual facts and if they didn’t bother to address this fairly, then I would have to take the legal path to get this issue sorted out. If the primary card fee is reversed and when i as a customer know the fact that the primary card was converted to a life time free credit card, why would i want to cancel it ? (unless i had other reasons)

After this they realized that they had not dealt with the issue professionally and someone from HSBC got in touch with me. I told them that it was not a joke to issue a credit card and cancel it as per their wish! The bank has no right in cancelling the card unless you have not paid your credit card due on time!

Finally the bank got my card reinstated...Linked the existing credit card account to the new card issued! They finally Acknowledged that the bank had both the card closed though the request was placed only for the add-on card cancellation.

I did not want to allow these institutions to dictate terms or manipulate the situation!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Influenced Or Confused??

Influenced Or Confused??

I have been thinking about the difference between "Being Influenced" & "Being Confused”...This phase has been on and off in my life and I am pretty sure most of you would have experienced the same.

It all started with believing in God. In childhood I was forced to believe in god and was never given a choice! Later after years I realized people were following things blindly without their own thought. I decided to not to believe in God because I didn’t know if God exist nor do I know now (And I don’t have the time to invest in finding out the fact)

My childhood was so much influenced with the thought of God, Miracles, Benefits of believing in god; that at times when I would not know what to do. I would just blindly believe in god and pray for good results. Was I confused or was I influenced (forcefully taught)??? Too soon to answer this question...let me keep it aside for a while

People chose topics in engineering based on how easy it would be to get good marks/ to even pass the subject. I always believed that this education system was not the ultimate test and took up topics which were not the usual ones. (Though I failed miserably in getting good marks :-)) No regrets though because I am happy with my current job

There was a time when I did pray to god that if you help me clear the exams I will visit you ( with so many clauses in it, that I will skip my meal, I will visit you bare foot and what not !!)

After this phase things were going on pretty smooth and I CHOSE to be an Atheist.

Now it’s the Mission of Marriage. My family started consulting Astrologers, Visit Temples to pray God to get me married to a good girl. They believed that these were the things that mattered for a happy married life!

I was asked to wear a silver ring with some stone in it which was very much required based on the planetary positions for my marriage to occur. Initially I just wore it without any questions being asked, thinking it would make them happy. Later with time my thinking kicked in and I decided to get rid of the ring …but then I did get confused...And had the following thoughts in my mind

a) Will this ring help me in my Mission (Mission Marriage?)

b) No harm in just wearing it whether it helps or not...But still opens up a channel of good luck if the stone were really to influence my life …

c) How in the hell would a planet/star influence my life??

Ufffhh …A engineering graduate by education and a software professional involved in the development of Next-Gen products believing or confused around such things. I wish my manager doesn’t get to know of these things...He would kick the hell out of me and would wonder if I should be given new responsibilities when I myself am dependent on as powerful as a RING!

People look up to astrological predictions based on stars. But science tells me that there are stars which have died but then they were so many million light years away from us that the light of the star is still traveling!! So are we supposed to be influenced on stars which do not exist???

Do we really need to know our future ? If we knew the future would we live the present moment ?

If people were to be told that "No matter what he/she would become rich" they would just stop doing what ever they were supposed to do until they were rich! If people were told that "No matter what they would never be rich " they would still do the same thing.

I chose to get out of such things! I don’t want a ring to influence me! I would rather want my powerful processor to influence my life

After much thought I think people get into such things for various reasons

Or are people really not aware of what they want? I believe that there is a very thin line between “Being Influenced” and “Being Confused”

When one happens to be confused, he/she starts looking out for solutions. The laziness factor being the strongest (what an irony!!), in most human beings, decides to chose the path chosen my people around you. We see people who are successful with 10 rings on all their fingers! And decide to go for it. Did we think if we were being influenced or were we confused as to what next?? I guess the answer is mostly No.

At this point in time when man kind is busy with all possible technological innovations do we really want to be in the world where we want inanimate things / things that don’t even exist to influence us?

Why doesn’t a human being think before Entering the Influenced/Confused State? One simple Question (Life is Simple .Do Not Make it Complicated) would make a lot of difference

Is this what I want? Before getting influenced

What do I want? When confused.

Am I posting this in a confused state or am I posting it on being influenced with my thoughts? Well...No Comments J

Don’t get confusingly influenced or influence confusingly!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Policnus - A new Policy for Bonus

POLICNUS == (policy + bonus --> polic-nus)
I was wondering if we should have a new policy in sotware industry enforced by the government of india.
Before pouncing on the new policy i have in my mind, let me breifly introduce you to the new policy in the banking sector.
RBI has come up with a new policy, which will bring about a change in the way interest is paid on the minimum amount present in a savings account each day.
At present, the interest is calculated on the minimum balance held in the account from the 10th of each month to the last day of that month. So if a customer has Rs 10 Lakh in his/her savings account one day and then Rs 5 Lakh in his/her savings account on another day, the minimum balance taken for calculation of interest in the period would be Rs 5 Lakh.
But, from April 1, 2010, the interest paid on the savings account will be on the daily minimum balance. In other words, even the Rs 10 lakh in the savings account will earn the customer interest, even if it is withdrawn later.
This will result in higher interest even as our money remains liquid and safe.

What ?

Coming to the new policy which i wanted to be introduced in the companies is related to the bonus pay out. Bonus is generally paid out once per annum in most of the companies, sometimes twice a year. Now hold on ..the original amount is paid in two payouts ..not that you get bonus twice :) its a split payment made to the employees.
Employees work their sweat out (which i assume is true ..not sure if you dont fall into this category LOL!)
for 10 months and then if they find a better career path, they decide to move on. This results in the employee losing on the bonus. Bonus is paid out based on the company profits, company performance over the past financial year. Now since the employee has been part of the company for the past 10 months, he/she should be part of the bonus pay out calculated for the period he/she was associated with the company.

why ?

I personally am totally against any kind of bonded labor.Some exisiting policies are working in companies favour. If a company is not taking care of the employee in terms of Salary Hike/ Promotions, the employee sticks on to the company for a couple of months so that he/she doesnt loose on the benefits for having worked most of the year.
By having this policy implemented, there is no forced bonding between the employer and the employee.
In my company the bonus payout is split into two payouts per annum. One in February/March time frame and another in September/October time frame. Now this year, giving the state of companies because of the global recession, the advance bonus payout which would be usually in the Feb/Mar time frame has been postponed as the company has decided to reevaluate the bonus payout to be made. At this point of time an employee is forbidden to even think about looking out for a change and this thinking will become stronger and stronger as time moves towards sep/oct time frame.
Now if company decides to scrap bonus payouts, then the employee has lost on everything !

Why should the employee always be in the receiving end. The employee should not have any kind of forced tie up with the employer. This will make sure that every company takes more steps to keep the employee happy.

Now some people (mostly managers :) ) might argue on the fact that his is an intelligent decision which the employee has to make. That would just be another management funda.

When ?
Now companies might come up with an argument citing logistics, that it is not possible. It is not something very complicated. The employer has to create the list of employees who have quit the organisation in the previous financial year and include him/her in the bonus pay out cycle for the period he/she was associated with the comapany.
I guess they would be doing something similar to this to generate the form 16 for employees who are no longer assicated with the company.
I hope some day this turns out to be a policy in reality !!

Friday, October 3, 2008


Smoking Banned !!!
As per the new rule, smoking is banned in public places and workplaces in India. The exact details of the rule is yet to be finalized - what will be the amount of fine, details of categorizing public places etc will roll out in a couple of days. There was a mail sent out to employees in my company that smoking is not allowed within the campus. All smoking zones were missing from the campus this morning. Shortly there will be notice boards all around the campus indicating the same ...
We all have been hearing from media about this news.
Not sure whose brainchild this rule is, but i certainly cannot digest this new rule. There a group of people in favor of this rule, and another group not in favor of this rule.

One of the shop owners who sells cigarrates had removed the lighting device at her shop in fear of this new rule, but however did not stop selling cigarrattes !!! weird, atleast for me ...

I was reading in one of the newspapers, where in a viewer had recommended 3 months simple imprisonment for people violating the rule ..give me a break !! 3 months simple imprisonment for smoking in public !!!!! what ever ...

a) Why are workplaces being targetted as public places ? As long as there are dedicated smoking zones, i do not understand the need for categorizing workplaces as public places ...

b) With this new rule as a citizen of this country, am i not free to run a restuarant/cafebar with smoking in place ? Well i believe this should be a choice of the owner who owns the place to decide whether his restuarant/cafe is "SMOKING-ONLY" or "NON-SMOKING" area. As long as it is advertised properly this should not be of concern to general public.
If we have the freedom to own just a normal "Resturant" or a "family bar and restuarant", then we should still have the freedomw of "family smoke-bar and restuarant" too ...

c) What are we achieving by imposing a ban on smoking and making it difficult for the restuarants/cafe/smokers !! If your answer is "smoking is injurious to health" and so this ban is good, then people ...why dont you get to the root of the problem and ban manufacturing/sale of any tobacco based product which is known to be injurious to health ? Why not categorize cigarrates/gutka as DRUGS and arrest people involved in either manufacturing/selling/consuming the same ?

People should have the freedom to decide whethere they want to remain "smokers"/"non-smokers". It MUST not be forced upon people. Its a choice which people themselves have to make.
I am not against this rule completely ....Yes, if you are categorizing "Bus-stops" as non smoking zone, i am for it. It does cause inconvinience to the general public. But definitely smoking in a designated area in cafes/workplaces or smoking at a restuarant which has put up proper sign boards informing the public clearly that it is a smoking area is a fair deal...

Not sure, if our bengaluru international airport has any smoking rooms, if yes i guess they will also have to be removed as well !!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Biased ....From Birth !!

A group of young men aged 25-26 standing near a shop .....

A: Wait for sometime ..i hope these guys approach us, i will break their bones
B: No, lets take some money from them pretending to listen to them
A: Loafers...they are always looking out for opportunity to convert hindus to chrisitans
B: DO you think you can break their bones, well then give it a try.why are you not standing up against them if you know that they are wrong
A: Let them approach me first
B: See its not so simple ..people are given food and money,why will they not heed to their voice ?
A: Why dont you do something to stop them ...we in hindus have many sub castes and what not, people are differentiated based on caste.
B: Why cant you provide basic amenities to hindus to stop them from following another religion ??
A: #&$&^%%# ...they have no better work #$#@$@#$@#$@

I tried a prank on Mr. XYZ sometime back ...i called him up from a unknown number and pretended to understand only hindi and was looking for some person named Mr. Bashir Khan ...and introduce myself as another khan !!...first attempt is disconnected ..second attempt tries to tell me that its wrong number....third time cuts the call ...
fourth time i call him up and tell him that its me vivek ....he responds
"i heard the name khan and on hearing the name i decided not to answer the call ...but then the call kept coming in !! i had no choice but to answer it else the call would keep coming in!!!"

He hates them to the core .. a true hindu ..proud to be a hindu types .....

News on terrorism ...@#$#@$@#$ the muslims ...i hear this many times from him
This is not specific to one person i have seen many people with such views.

At such times i wonder why people show such hatredness towards a specific community ??
i have many muslim and christian friends ...they are not bad ...i have many hindu friends ...all of them are not good !!
then why is that a particular section have to be harassed ???

I tried a lot arguing with my friend trying to make him understand that what he is thinking may not be the truth ...but all my efforts failed ...he believes in what he thinks and he does judge people based on caste ...

Here i am not trying to highlight the nature of a person in particular ...i somehow dont feel so good about such things ...i wish if people would not consider Religion/caste/language to judge a person ...and see each other as HUMAN BEINGS !!

We shouldnt generalize any comments ...even if there are a million people who are involved in terrorism, there are millions of others who are normal human beings it fair enough to generalize such comments ???
It may be too much but i believe even if there is only one single person of a community who is good then i would still not generalize my comments as there is one person who is still good...i always believed and strongly believe that religions/language etc were man-made for what ever reasons and they mean not much to me when compared to an individual !!
In the first place i would never identify a terrorist/criminal by his religion or caste ...he is just an individual to me on planet earth !!

In the process i have realized that arguments don't work in some cases, it just heats up the discussion and there is no change in the attitude of the other person ...because he/she with such thoughts is
biased from birth !!
After realizing this i have stopped making any heated arguments ...ignore such comments ...remember
Ignorance is bliss !!

I am sure such things would exist for ever and nothing is gonna change...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Income Tax - Salaried Professional

Should we worry about HRA and Medical Bills ???

A colleague approached me and asked me to sign on a paper titled "Rent Receipt". She had prepared the format herself and wanted me to sign on it....she said I was her paying guest owner and wanted me to put some dummy signature. I was wondering why she had to approach me at all in the first place. Well she herself could have done the signature...was she planning some major crime??
Nooooooo it was tax time!!...and we had to submit our saving certificates/medical bills/rent receipts/home loans etc...
She stayed at a PG paying 3000 odd bucks per month. She was claiming HRA (House rent allowance) of more than 3000 INR and so she could approach the house owner for his signature. She is not the only one who is doing this; more than 95% of salaried people do this.
People doing such things are normal people like you and me, not some criminals.

When it comes to paying tax, each one of us gets brilliant ideas to avoid tax. The culprit is not just the tax payee but also the authorities responsible for framing these rules (or should I say LOOP-HOLES) 1250 per month which is 15k per annum of medical allowance. Medical bills worth 15,000 would save you 4k-5k INR.

1) All you need to do is pay a meager sum of 4-10% of the bill amount and you have in hand medical bills

2) Some people save on this 4-10% also by striking a deal with the pharmacy store, that they would purchase 15k worth products(non-medical) from the pharmacy and in exchange they be provided with medical bills. Smart!

These medical bills are for treatments ranging from Diabetes-Arthritis-and what not. The bill is taken in the name of parents to be careful so as to not to run into any problems later on.The bills are professionally prepared; the person prepares monthly bills with ease, taking care of receipt number, doctor's name etc. And you dont need any prescription for this (In the worst case a doctor will come to save you, he is part of the gang!!)
Its a known fact that people fake medical bills to save tax, why cant the authorities remove the requirement of the need to produce medical bills to get tax benefits when the entire IT(Income Tax) department knows what is going on behind the scenes.
Either people should not adopt such smarter ways (which is next to impossible!!) or the authorities should mend the rules. It is not that simple, in the entire process we are introducing corruption. The Pharmacy has to pay 4% tax on the billed amount; on top of that he has to make money so he charges more than 4% which is his margin. Some pharmacy stores go even beyond this by creating fake bills for which he doesnt pay even a pie taxNow the sales tax people also know that this is happening so the pharmacy guy makes a deal with the sales tax professionals also. What about the doctor??? Yes he is also part of it, his role is not so important here unless some strict officer makes a serious check on these bills
We ourselves are involved in introducing corruption, but we do talk a lot when it comes to politicians being corrupt!! Strange :)
Why do we have to stick on to such rules??Next is the HRA (House Rent Allowance) which is taxable if you are not renting a home. I know many friends who create fake rent receipts most of the times faking signatures of house owners, and some even produce rent receipts even staying at their own house that they are paying rent to their parents ! Honestly I also did produce fake medical bills (Only Once!!!) for around 10000INR by paying 4% of the bill amount. If I didn’t do so I would be loosing appx 30% of 10,000INR. To save 3k i just had to spend 400INR. I did choose paying 400 to save 3k!! I filed my tax returns and well nothing one ever checks these documents i guess!!
But then i thought over it a lot and i had a strange feeling that i was cheating myself by indulging into such activities. I decided that from next year onwards no matter what i would never ever produce medical bills.

People close to me said i was pretending to be too clean a person an ideal person etc....I did not heed to their words ...i am not an ideal person but yes if something is in my hands then i will definitely try not to take the wrong path. Software Engineers are supposedly highly paid professionals and if educated people also do not pay taxes, whom should we expect to pay tax ???

The maximum one can save on medical bills is 30% of 15k, which is 4.5k per annum 400 odd bucks per month. Now think for a moment is it worth producing fake bills for 400 INR per month ???

If your answer is YES, let me try again ....The way I see it is, medical allowance and HRA given in CTC are extra benefits. So if your total CTC is X. I see my CTC as only X minus Medical minus HRA. So now medical and HRA are not my CTC and so i do not bother about saving tax on the additional benefits which i am getting. I urge people not to fake receipts instead if you really want to earn money, prove yourself at workplace and ask for more CTC. Plan your investments, make smart investments there are hell lot of opportunities to make money the right way.
This way you would never need to worry about fake receipts.