Now that I have taken time off and got rid of the clutter both at home and in the mind, I guess it is time to share the experience with SBI. The sole purpose of opening an account at SBI was to have an address proof. With our moving around a lot owing to transfers almost on an yearly basis, we are more or less like vagabonds with no permanent address. So, I thought, why not open an account with the nation's largest bank???
With that intention, I started out in the morning, with all the necessary documents & photographs - I carried enough copies and also the originals for verification. The idea was to come back home latest by 12 pm so that I'll be home when my son came back from school at half past noon. It is worth mentioning here that I had expected it to take an hour and half or maximum two. Even then, I can be back just in time to receive my son from school...
Thus prepared and confident, we (my husband took me there and kept telling me it'll take some time - he had opened an account only a few days ago - but I thought it will be done sooner) entered the bank. The official sitting near the entrance told us that the forms will be available at counter number 2. We proceeded to the specified counter and, as expected, found ourselves behind half a dozen people in the queue... As my luck would have it, another officer handling the same task was on leave that day!
Thus started the day's procedure, and after sometime, we got to the officer who handed over an account opening form. The idea was to open an account in my name and with my husband as the joint holder. Since he already has an account there, this should be easy enough. So we thought! Upon inquiring, we were told that for being a joint holder he has to submit address and id proofs again. It sounded ridiculous as we would give the copy passbook of SBI account opened a few days ago as the address proof. So, that idea was dropped. A single account was to be opened now.
We duly filled the form and joined the line to submit the completed form with Officer No.1 - the same person who gave us the form in the first place. After waiting in line, again we reached the table and was asked to wait while the officer checked the form and the documents submitted. After this was done, we were directed to go to another counter and submit it to the officer there. Thankfully only a handful of people were in front of me and soon the officer counter checked the forms and asked us to return it to the officer no1.
Once again, I joined the queue and upon reaching the table the officer rechecked the documents and asked to show it to the PB (Personal Banking) manager. Once again, I found myself at the end of a queue (albeit very small). I approached the PB manager's table, and he was about to examine the documents, when someone placed an envelope in front of him. Apparently, it was some bill that he had to pay and he spent considerable time checking it. After confirming with the person that a cheque will suffice as payment, he ferreted a cheque book from one of the draws and made the necessary entries. Just before he handed it over, he had an after thought and checked something on his computer- his account, I presume. Whatever he saw was not satisfying and he told the person who presented the bill that there is some problem (insufficient funds, I thought) and so, come back in the evening... All this unproductive exercise took more than 10 minutes, and by then I was growing fidgety... It was already 11.45 and I was supposed to be home by 12.30 latest!!!
Thankfully, he then proceed to examine my application and marked something on it and asked me to submit it to the officer no. 1. I retraced my steps to the familiar counter and waited my turn, yet again! Feeling more and more restless because nobody is at home, and that my son will soon be home, I tried jumping the queue to request the officer that he consider my application. This might be something that he often encounters, because he asked me to wait for my turn. And when my turn came he quickly entered the details in the system and scribbled something. Then I was told to go to the PB Manager again!
Armed with the new addition on the application status, and cursing myself for thinking of opening another account when I was more than satisfied with the one I already have else where, I once again approached the PB manager's table. By then I was more or less certain that I wasn't going to be home when my son comes. Then I remembered that my land lady, who usually resided in another town was home for the last couple of days... I tried her mobile, but it was not reachable - I grimly recalled her saying that her mobile has developed some problems, and my heart sunk! I didn't have the land line no!!!
But my husband, who had gone to collect his passwords and internet banking id returned then and he had the land line no. I call up the land lady, explain my predicament and request her to collect the boy from the van at 12.30pm. She assures that she'll take care of it and that I need not worry. Thus unburdened a little, I proceed towards the manager, who now seems to be busy on a personal call. Thankfully, he ends it and attends to the business at hand... Again he scribbles something and (I cant believe it!) redirect me to the officer no.1
The process continues as before and once I reach him, he enters some data in the system and generate an account number (finally!!!) Now, he directs me to yet another counter where I have to make the initial deposit. Thankfully, there is no queue at this counter... The payment made and receipt taken, I had to go to another counter to get the passbook. Here again, there was a long queue, as people were waiting to get their passbooks updated. After ample waiting, my turn comes. I hand over the photo, the officer pastes it on a brand new passbook and prints out the necessary details on it. When he hands it over to me, I feel as if I am given the cheque for five crores in KBC!!! Such was my relief...
And the time showed 1.30pm! It took me 3 hours and the equivalent of going to 10 different counters to open a simple SB account!!! Now I dread even the thought of opening an account anywhere! Perhaps I would even prefer not having an address proof to repeating this process over again. It was exhausting!
At first I thought that it was cumbersome because till now, I didn't have to visit banks much. My husband being a banker till recently, all my transactions were easily done with his help. When I asked him he assured me that even if I had gone as any other general public to his erstwhile office, it would take only 45 minutes maximum to open a new account. They handled the process more efficiently.
That left me wondering: why is that the experiences at the government offices, which are more or less our offices, so discouraging? If the people in the bank had given a little more thought to the customers, then I guess a lot of time could be saved. Sometimes, simple steps like positioning the counters nearby than scattering them around, could also help. I have not yet understood why I had to go to the same officer at least half a dozen times over and over. Couldn't the process be simplified?
Or couldn't the PB manager have told the person who submitted the bill for payment to come in the evening in the first place itself? Then considerable time could have saved. As far as I am concerned, it could have saved me some anxious moments too... But as I mentioned earlier, who cares for such trivial things??? Life would have been much different if we cared for small things...
PS: My son was delighted to see me back. He told me "I thought where did you go; will you be gone tomorrow also?" I assured him I will be there tomorrow when he comes home... He seemed happy at that. As an after thought he added: "it is OK if you are not there, I'll wait at home for you till you are back" I didn't know what to say when I heard my four year old say this!