[LINK] Mumbai Jumbo

Russell Ashdown russell@ashdown.net.au
Mon, 17 Feb 2003 22:45:13 +1000

I had reason to telephone Amex today.  I called the 1800 number, 
and after navigating the auto-attendant, I ended up in an area I had 
not meant to go to.  My call was answered by a chap with an accent 
I identified as Indian (Southern Asian, not North American).  I 
thought nothing of it, and asked to be put through to the area I had 
meant to get to.  

The call was answered by a female with an accent very similar to 
the first individual.  She was not able to help with my enquiry, and 
put me on hold while she summoned her supervisor.  Lo, and 
behold, the supervisor also spoke with the same accent.  My 
curiosity was aroused.  I asked her where she was, and she replied 
"In Sydney."  I said: "Where in Sydney?" and she said "Level 16, 
388 George Street, 2000, Sydney."  "Hmmm..." I thought, "2000, 
Sydney, eh?"  I had a sneaking suspicion there was "something 
crook in Tallarook!"  

I asked her what the weather was like in Sydney, and she replied it 
was fine.  That wasn't going to flush her out...  "It must be terrible to 
be stuck in an office all day,  It's beautiful here in Brisbane, I just 
went for a short drive in the Dandenong Ranges and came back 
along the Swan River.  It was very relaxing."  "Yes," she replied.  "I 
have been meaning to go to Brisbane." Snap!

"Now, just where exactly are you specifically?"  I said. "Our main call 
centre is in Sydney." she said. "That may be so I replied, but just 
where, exactly are you right now?"  "I'm in the call centre." she said.  
I told her I didn't believe that she was in Sydney, much less even in 
Australia.  I told her I thought she was in India.  She denied it.

Well, as it turned out, I didn't have all the paperwork I needed to 
complete the transaction, so she gave me her name and extension 
number to call her back.  This I did about ten minutes later. 

This time, someone else answered and I opened with: "Hello, I'm 
calling from Australia to speak with ......... Can you put me through 
please?  Oh, by the way, how's the weather where you are in 
India?"  "Oh, it's a lovely day and about 30 degrees. How is the 
weather where you are in Australia?"

Well, I was put through to the person I wanted to speak to and 
provided the information.  I then asked her why she had lied about 
her location.  She protested she was in Sydney, but I told her that 
"the jig was up".  "I know you are in Mumbai," I said "Why did you lie 
about it?"

She explained that it was company policy to not disclose the 
whereabouts of the call centre, and when I pressed her as to who 
framed this policy, she said it was from Sydney, and she named an 
individual who she said is based in Sydney and who conducted 
training courses in Mumbai.

Now, I am not naive, I understand this sort of jiggery pokery goes 
on, but I was shocked at the blatant fashion of the denial.  

What I would like to ask Linkers is this:  Is it acceptable to have the 
private credit card accounts of Australian residents available online 
in a foreign country to be scrutinised by nationals of that country and 
outside of the laws of this country?  
Further, what of the ethics of companies such as Amex if they are 
instructing their foreign employees to lie to their Australian 
customers about their whereabouts?  
And finally, what protections that would normally be available to 
Australian citizens with regard to privacy, credit and other legal 
considerations would be circumvented where the database is wholly 
or partially located offshore?

Russell Ashdown

(Now tell me that this post is off topic!)