This conversation took place a few days ago when I picked up a call from an unknown number.
Voice on Phone (VoP): Hello, am I talking to Ankur Mithal?
Me: Yes you are.
VoP: May I know your Date of Birth (DoB) please?
Me: Is that why you have called? Are you writing up my horoscope?
VoP: No Sir. I am calling from Town Bank. You called a few days ago and lodged a complaint about a transaction on your Card.
Me: Look, I have gone through the Terms and Conditions listed on your website. Nowhere is it stated that a customer needs to provide his DoB while lodging a complaint about a transaction on the Card.
VoP: No, Sir, you don’t need to provide your DoB while lodging a complaint.
Me: But you just asked me for it, didn’t you?
VoP: I did, Sir, but that is not because you lodged a complaint.
Me: But you just said that you are calling because I lodged a complaint. If that is not the reason, then why have you called me?
VoP: I did, Sir. I have called about the complaint you have lodged with the Bank.
Me: That is exactly what I told you. In fact, you said so yourself not a minute ago. Then why were you denying it?
VoP: I was not, Sir.
Me: Not what?
VoP: Not denying it, Sir.
Me: Not denying what?
VoP: Not denying that I called about the complaint you have lodged, Sir.
Me: Now that that is clear, I trust you don’t need my DoB.
VoP: I do, Sir. Can you now please tell me your DoB, Sir (imploringly)?
I resisted the temptation to rush back to the “Look, I have gone through the Terms…” part of the loop. Instead, in a conciliatory tone I asked: “But why do you want my DoB?”
VoP: That is our process, Sir. For security purposes we need to verify that we are talking to the right person.
Me: But you called me, didn’t you?
VoP: Yes, Sir.
Me: Why did you call me on this number?
VoP: Because that is your number available on our records.
Me: If that is the case, why do you need to verify?
VoP: That is our process, Sir. (It has been honed over years of frustrating and unproductive customer interactions in over a hundred countries, he seemed to say).
Me: But no other bank asks me for this information when they call (I persisted).
VoP: We cannot be responsible for weak security practices of other banks, Sir.
Me: What if I don’t give you my DoB?
VoP: I am afraid that I will then not be able to share an update regarding your complaint, Sir.
Now, I am a reasonable man. In a situation wherein I have no way out, I am willing to climb down from the high moral ground…which is what I promptly did in this case. After all, what was the point in preventing the caller from doing his job? I gave him my DoB, my anniversary date, my home address, the make of my car, my dog’s name and the number of clubs in my golf set, in rapid succession.
VoP: Thank you, Sir. This call is to update you that we are looking into the issue and will respond soon.
In the interest of civility I shall not write what I then said or felt. And no one heard me also…the phone had gone dead.