The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (or how I became a Bitcoin user

Ever since I’ve started working in customer support I’ve been taking much more notice of the type of support I receive from businesses (and of how I interact with support staff, but that’s a story of another day). Recently I had three very different support experiences over two consecutive days, and I thought I’d share them with you.

Let’s start with…

The Ugly

So, it’s not always possible to deliver mail at our home, but the river hasn’t looked like this in years!

So I go to check my mailbox the other morning (the one outside on the fence, not the one on my computer) and find an international parcel notification slip (a pleasant surprise, as I hadn’t ordered anything recently). I note the slip mentions it is a second notification and it’s stamped 12 September, but I check the mailbox at least once a week so I assume they’re just backed up at the post office and that the first notice was never sent – not an uncommon occurrence which explains why no one uses the Post Office any more if they have any choice in the matter (it’s apparently illegal to send letters by courier in SA, so there are situations where it’s unavoidable).

I drive to the post office and hand the slip to the clerk behind the counter. She goes to the back to collect the parcel…and returns without it. I took too long to collect the parcel, she explains, and it has been returned to sender. Indignant, I tell her that I’d only received the notification that morning. She shrugs and says it’s not her fault – she doesn’t control what goes on in the delivery room.

Just like that. It’s not my fault and not my problem to fix. Now please leave.

I get home and send an email to their complaints department. I get a reply three days later asking for my address (I can’t fathom why with the parcel probably already on a ship headed back to wherever it came from), and this apology:

Please accept our sincere apology for the less than adequate service rendered to you, it is the exact opposite of what we pride ourselves on, we value our customers & understand that the importance of offering exceptional service.

Sure. That explains the R1 billion loss the post office suffered in the past financial year and why no online retailer in SA still offers an option to have items delivered via regular post: the exceptional service they offer.

The Bad

Piggy bank
Maybe I should go back to this type of bank
Image courtesy of Alexas_Fotos /

Later the same day I log onto my bank’s online banking app to make an international transfer, only to get the notification that my address details are incomplete.

Now first you need a bit of context. We have some pretty paranoid anti-fraud legislation in this country. To open a bank account, get any form of credit, buy insurance, medical aid, or a cell phone sim card, you need to provide a copy of your ID and a recent document (utilities bill preferred) which contains your physical address. This in a country where a third of the population live in informal settlements where homes don’t have addresses and where residents most certainly don’t get utility bills, but I digress.

I’ve provided those documents to my bank three times already, once when I moved to my current address, once when my account was frozen because my bank decided I hadn’t verified my details yet, and once more when I applied for a credit card at the same bank. So you’d understand that I was a little confused at the online banking app telling me my details are incomplete.

Aforementioned legislation also means you can’t change those contact details online through the app, but you need to go into the branch. So I head to my bank the next morning, ID and proof of address in hand. A very friendly service consultant helps me and updates my details.

I get home and log into the app to make the transfer. I bet you know where I’m going with this…

I email the bank’s complaints department to complain about the service staff not updating my info correctly. I get a reply three days later asking when I tried to make the failed transaction, so not even addressing the actual complaint. I tell them so, and state my problem a second time. I get a reply that they’ll forward my issue to the branch manager. I still can’t make the payment I need to make.

Eventually things were sorted out, after a second visit to the branch, spending 30 minutes on hold with online banking telephone support (as it turns out branch staff don’t have the necessary access to make changes to my online banking profile), and a phone call from the branch manager apologising for the whole mess.

In this case the issue was resolved, and I got what I felt was a sincere apology, but from a customer service perspective it left a bad taste in the mouth in spite of that.

The Good

The big problem with my banking-situation is that the payment I need to make is time-sensitive, so I need to look for alternatives. Thankfully there is also an option to pay with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin microchip
Image courtesy of MasterTux /

So I do some quick research on South African Bitcoin exchanges and create an account with one. As Bitcoin isn’t an official currency, exchanges aren’t classified as financial institutions. But the people running the one I picked are responsible and voluntarily comply with the law (part of the reason I chose them), so I need to upload a copy of my ID. The website informs me it takes about 48 hours to verify – cutting it close, but I should still be able to make my payment on time.

A few hours later I receive an email that there’s a problem with my upload, can I please try again and let them know once I’ve done it. I do so and get an email from a very nice support person assuring me that he’s personally verifying it and will let me know once my account is active.

Two hours later my account is active, I’ve bought my first Bitcoin, and made my payment with plenty of time to spare. You can guess what I’ll be using the next time I need to make an international payment and have the option, and it’s not because I saved on the forex and banking fees – that was just a pleasant extra on top of the excellent service.

Written on WordPress for Mac OS

7 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (or how I became a Bitcoin user

      1. We were able to evacuate our cars in time and used a back entrance to access the building. It was quite an adventure.

        It flooded again in 2013, but not as severely. There are some posts from back then if you want to take a look.


      2. It does sound like quite an adventure. I think I remember those ones from 2013. Not sure but I’ll take a look. I remember you posting some pics about the river before.


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.