A Day at SBI

For many years I am doing most of my banking with ICICI and have hardly visited the branch in the last decade or so. Almost all the banking needs are managed online or via the relationship manager. I do have to have to visit SBI once a year to deposit some money in my PPF account. While this is just a once a year task, I was still not keen on making even this 1 day visit to SBI and hence thought to transfer the PPF account to ICICI, which is also a government recognized back to hold PPF accounts. 

After multiple attempts, but something or other kept coming up, I finally managed to visit the SBI bank one fine Saturday morning. This was the fist mistake. The bank gets unduly crowded on weekends. I reached the bank by 10.15 am or so. 

As I entered the bank, there was a queue with about 5-6 people standing at the "May I Help You" counter. Knowing that this will take a while, I approached the security guard, who is seen more within the bank and less at the entrance gate. He typically helps people get the right form. So I asked him "PPF account transfer ka form chahiye". He asked me "Account Transfer? Dusari jagah shift ho rahe ho?". Not wanting to get into discussion with him, I nodded and he handed over a form to me. As I found a desk and start to fill it it, I realized that it was for SBI to SBI transfer only. 

I tried to relocate the security guard, but he seemed busy with other work, so I went and stood in the "May I Help You" line. After waiting some 5 - 10 min, my turn came and I asked "PPF Account transfer karna hai". She asked "Kahan pe karna hai". I said "SBI se ICICI mein karna hai". She paused, wondered and exclaimed "ICICI mein transfer. Mujhe pata nahi kaise hota hai. Aap counter 5 wale Sir se poocho". 

I looked behind and found counter 5. It also had 5-6 people in line and many around the counter who didn't seem to be in line, but were very much there. The counter itself seemed was for new account opening. I wondered why am I being sent to this line. But I went and stood in the line. As I reached the queue, the Sir, at the counter, walked away. People were standing in the line unconcerned. Obviously, this disappearing act of a person from behind the counter is nothing new to anyone who visits the bank regularly. We all waited. After about 10 min, the person returned and started to take the forms. In between his phone rang, which he had to attend. Then the person from neighboring counter wanted some forms, which he obliged with. 

Seeing no movement in the line, I decided to just ask the person, for I was doubtful that my query will get resolved here. I did so "Sir SBI se ICICI mein PPF account transfer karna hai. Kaise hoga?". He looked up at me in surprise. Thought for a while and then said, "Aap PPF ke counter, counter no 7 pe jaiye". Thanking him, I relocated myself to another queue. 

The lady sitting at the counter, was helping another person. After a few min, as she waited for this person to fill a form, she looked up and asked me "Aapko kyaa chahiye". I explained again "SBI PPF account ko ICICI mein transfer karna hai". She also didn't know what to tell me and looked at the colleague sitting behind her. This colleague told her and me - "NEFT karna padega". I know NEFT is used to do bank to bank money transfer. I asked "NEFT? Woh kahan se hoga". She said "go to counter 15". 

I was beginning to wonder if anyone really had any idea of what I wanted and how it will be done or will I just be moved around between different counters? I could not see counter 15? No such board was seen, so I went to a counter, which seemed to be in a place where counter 15 should have been. A lady was sitting there helping people with FDs, NEFTs, RTGS etc. The chances of this being the counter where my queries will get resolved, seemed high. I waited, as there were other people in the queue. 

After a while, just like in case of counter 5, when the lady happened to look up, I asked "SBI se PPF account ICICI mein transfer karna hai". She asked back "Kitna karna hai". I said, "Amount nahi, account transfer karna hai". She said, "Oh! Kyoun karna hai?". I said,  "That's where my other accounts are and it is easy to manage everything at one place". After thinking for a bit, she said, "Aise account transfer nahi hota". Now this was a different information. I asked, "Why?". She said, "PPF Government account hai. Aise transfer nahi hota. Aapko ICICI mein naya account kholna padega and then yahan se paise wahan transfer karne padeinge. Ismein kai din lag jayege and kuch problem hua toh? Aise hi kyoun nahi rehne dete". I wanted to tell her that I had no intention of doing any business with SBI and today was another day, just enforcing my thinking. 1.5 hour spent in the bank already with no progress. 

I said, "Toh phir alternative kyaa hai? Can I do online/NEFT transfer of funds to my SBI PPF Account?". She said, "Yes, you can". I asked, "but then how will i know if it happened successfully. Can I get online access to my SBI PPF Account?". I knew that I could open a SBI Savings account and get online access along with it, but I didn't want to do that, and just wanted online access to my PPF account. She said, "Yes, I can give you view only rights to your PPF account". I said, "Great. What do I need to do?". She got up from her chair, walked up to me, asked me to step aside and told me, "Why do you want to invest in PPF? SBI has come up with a new life insurance scheme and you can rather invest in that". I strongly said no. She then pointed me to some form I needed to fill to get online access to my account. Finally, I seem to be making progress in the right direction. Not exactly what I had expected, but my basic issue was coming to the bank to deposit the amount and now I could manage that online and even view the balance online. So I was fine. 

I took the form, filled it and got back in the queue. There were some arguments on who was in the queue, who was not. Who came first, who came last. It is pretty standard. I was around 3-4 in the queue, when another gentleman from the bank, came to this lady and asked her to come and assist him in some task. She tried to resist, stating that there is a big queue, but he looked like her senior and commanded her. She could not say no and excused herself. We were all left standing in the queue looking at each other. 

Some 15 min passed and she didn't return. Everyone in the queue was becoming restless. Another person who was ahead in the queue and had been asked to fill up some additional forms, returned, and on not seeing the lady, went in search for her. After some 20 min or so, she returned and started with her work.

The chaos and confusion was increasing. Due to the delays, people had really become frustrated. Surprisingly, a person came out of manager's cabin and asked the last two of us, in the queue, to come to him for help. Looked like, he was taking a load off the lady at the counter. We obliged, for if nothing else, it meant we will get to sit in an AC room. We went inside the manager's room. The person who had come out, asked one of us to come to his table and then started another long wait for me. As apart from helping the customer with his needs, this person was also interested in selling some of additional SBI services. 

Another 30 min later, I finally got called to his desk and a repeat of all that I had already told so many people already happened and I also handed over the form to him. He asked "Why read only online access?". I said "Woh lady jo bahar baithi hain, unhone bola ki PPF ko sirf read only access hi milega". He thought for a minute and then said "Jaroor milega. I will help you with it". I could not help but smile. Finally, someone actually said the divine words :-). He worked fairly efficiently, got me an online account and explained the process of how to enable it and how to use it. So now I could transfer the money online and then quickly verify by logging in online to see if the amount was correctly reflecting or not. 

With this, I finally had a sigh of relief and my work was done. During the course of getting all this handled, the person had found out from my that I was working with a start up. As I prepared to eject myself from the seat and head outside, he immediately jumped to me with a loan offer saying "we keep giving lot of loans, but jahan jaroorat ho wahan dena chahiye na. Ab aap logon ki company ko agar loan chahiye, toh humare pass aayieye. Hum quickly aapki request process karenge" and then he asked me to meet his manager (in whose cabin we were sitting). I tried to tell him that it was very late and I had to leave, but he didn't listen and walked to the manager and introduced me to him. Politely, I shook hands with the manager, exchanged business cards and with a word of assurance that I will get back to them shortly with our loan requirements, I finally managed to come out of the bank some 3 hrs after I had entered it, with relief that my need to visit SBI ended today and with pity for those who were still required to visit the bank. 

Out on the road, some Tempo was just about to block my car and park there. I barely managed to get my car out in time, and quickly drove away. It did feel like it was an entire day spent at SBI. 

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