No Bad News Here
By Kamal Sunavala

Most extraordinary. I had a wonderfully pleasant experience with my bank in Prague and I am not even in Prague. If you are a site regular, you will know how I had faithfully logged in my horrid experience with Czech banking when I had arrived in the fall of 2002. It was with CSOB. Hilarious now, of course, but I was most certainly not amused back then.

Take heart, all you foreigners. As a wonderfully satisfied customer of the bank who now lives overseas, let me tell you, this is not a pre-paid publicity piece. I mean for Pete’s sake, I’ve called the Czech President an idiot and lived to tell this tale. So if you’re looking to bank, wander across to the Expat section of Ceska Sporitelna. Ask for a lady named Jana Ibarlucea and you won’t regret it. I’ll tell you why. I bank with them (In my head, I bank with her) and not only have I got no complaints, I am pleasantly surprised at the level of efficiency and customer service I have received. Ah now, you might scoff and say I’m a journalist and knew old Jack Stack so they’re extra nice to me but let me disarm the sceptics. Jana never knew at the beginning who I was. She was simply there to help. I was a disgruntled, sceptical ex-customer of CSOB and had vowed to stuff my money under a mattress rather than get involved with Czech banking. Finally, after a respectable position at a respectable business publication, I marched off to CS, fully expecting terrible English, lack of information and overall pain like dental surgery. Enter Jana, with her sunny disposition, brisk efficiency and that rare quality which said ‘I’ll help, don’t worry.’ To a hardened, cynical writer, there’s nothing more charming than old-fashioned sweetness. Still, I was prepared for something to go wrong. I waited. Nothing. I tried to be difficult. Still no problem. Then I came up with a mean plan. I left the country and continued to be a customer, swiping my credit card left, right and centre, even missing a few deadlines and paying late. Still nothing but charming efficiency. Not to mention prompt emails or text messages from Jana updating me with the latest news of my financial status- (I really should stop eating so much sushi.)

One fine day I hear from CSOB, telling me that when I exited I hadn’t bothered to collect the princely sum of Kc 10,000 from them. (I hope my mum isn’t reading this) I wrote to them explaining how I was abroad and could they please simply transfer the money to my existing CS account. They were polite but said no; I had to be there personally to close the account and transfer the money. Fair enough, it’s regular bank policy. But here’s the thing: Why would I spend thrice the amount to come and do the deed? I asked them if there was something innovative they could think of. They politely told Pani Sunavala to can it. I turned to Jana. She listened, said she would come up with a solution and by Jove, she did. It took, I imagine, in my poor non-mathematical brain, a lot of juggling and tedious mails but she finally found a sympathetic person at my ex-bank and voila, I am now blessed with my pot of gold. What did I have to do? Produce some certificate saying I am me, send one email and put my feet up and sip on a mojito.

So all you people looking for a bank that listens and helps even if you’re not around, make a beeline to my bank. Go up the impressive staircase, turn left, then right and look for Jana. She wears a warm smile.