Getting robbed can be a traumatic experience – especially if it happens in a foreign country, and ends in a surgery ward. You’d expect an ounce of sympathy for the victim. But this month, I found out first hand how far that sympathy extended, when it comes to my bank:
The Robbery on the Street
In March 2014, I was in Tokyo with a group of journalists. On the last two days of the trip, we had some time to explore Tokyo on our own.
Now at the time I was limping, because of a prior injury (a torn meniscus in my left knee, that wasn’t fully fixed). In hindsight, that’s probably what marked me as a viable target.
Still, I could manage short walks. So I ventured a bit from my hotel (Keio Plaza), and into the Shinjuku train station. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; just taking in the sights.
At around midnight, I was approached by a man who spoke perfect English. We got into a conversation about the whisky company I was there to write about, and he seemed friendly enough. He started showing me around and, after 20 minutes, started talking on his cellphone.
That, and the way he was leading me down questionable alleys, made me get antsy.
I made an excuse that it was late, and I needed to get back. He started to get pushy, and asked why I was being so unfriendly. I turned to walk away, but that’s when his buddy appeared behind me. I also spotted a third guy skulking nearby, who was eying me.
Okay, I decide, I’m obviously being robbed.
I asked them how much money they wanted, and they cleared out my wallet. Then they thre their arms around my shoulders, like we were buddies, and marched me through a tangle of side-streets.
The Credit Card Incident and My Injury
Eventually we go into a building and up an elevator, where I’m told to sit in a room.
There’s carpeting, a place to sit, and an ashtray on the floor – that’s it. When they start going through my bag, I got up and made for the door. This started a scuffle, during which they injured my other knee.
They injured my right knee so bad it started to “lock” intermittently; and whenever it did it would buckle and send me crashing to the floor. The only way I could move was by putting all my weight on my bad knee, which already had a torn meniscus.
Having cleaned out my wallet, they did the same with the stuff in my bag – then they went for the credit cards. They kept me in the room, while someone went out with my Stan Chart Business Platinum. After a while they shoved a pink slip in my face: a bill from CENOTE. The charge was around SGD 1,700+.
I asked what would happen if I didn’t sign it. I was told in Mandarin (I identified some of the robbers as Taiwanese, from the accent) that they’d beat the living crap out of me. Since I couldn’t fight or run, I signed it.
Then they left. A few minutes later I tested the door, and found it unlocked. I staggered / crawled out of the room as fast as I could, and made it to street level.
I had to stagger to the main road (grabbing onto signposts, wall corners, or sometimes outright crawling on the pavement to move) and get a cab.
But was another problem: I had no money, and it was around one in the morning. The first three cabs refused to take me anywhere. In the end, one generous cabbie took me to a police box; something like one of our neighbourhood police posts.
Since there was no way to communicate with the policeman, I had to wait for a translator to call. From there I was able to get permission to call Keio Plaza – and it took another round of convincing to make the manager wake someone on the tour group – I needed someone’s phone so I could call home and Stan Chart.
When someone finally arrived from the tour group, the first thing I did was try to call Standard Chartered. When I couldn’t get through, I called home and had my father call them on my behalf.
(If you’re reading Stan Chart, go check your records. There’s a reason you got a call from two different phone numbers about my card, neither of which is mine).
I received a phone call from Stan Chart confirming that they’d been notified, and that the card was also blocked.
Then this happens next:
1. Stan Chart Can’t Tell Me Where the Card was Used
In the Shinjuku police station, I called Stan Chart to ask where the disputed transaction had taken place. It would have been of use to the investigating officers.
The manager’s answer was that he couldn’t tell me. However, he did “try Googling it“, and that he thought it was probably “some kind of nightclub in Japan.”
There was no further information.
2. The Ridiculous Dispute Forms
Back in Singapore, I waited for the dispute forms for almost a week. I am sure Stan Chart has my calls on record, as I made enquiries to ask where the forms were. Each time, the answer was “in the mail” or “you should receive it this week“.
In the end I got fed up, and went down to ION Orchard Branch myself. Which, by the way, I did with a torn meniscus in both knees. Thanks for that Stan Chart.
The forms, by the way, still haven’t arrived in my mail since March. But anyway…
The dispute form had a row of boxes to tick. I assumed “Others” was most appropriate for robbery; but when I checked with a staff member, I was told it should be “non-receipt of goods”.
So I filled it in, and asked again if it was correct. That’s when another staff member told me no, it should have been “Unauthorized Transaction”.
So I changed it again.
I brought it back, and this time the staff had a little debate, before telling me to switch it to “services not rendered”. It was apparent that everyone had no clue how to handle a robbery claim. In the end, one of the bankers at the counter took over.
In the end I penned in a description under “Others” with guidance from the banker. I also attached the name card of the investigating officer from Tokyo, and gave them her direct line. I also gave them the victim report number, if they wanted to check.
3. The Verdict
The robbery occurred on 14th March. On 12th April, I got a short letter from Stan Chart.
They are holding me liable for the charges, due to “late reporting”. Apparently, it’s unacceptable that I reported the transaction some 2 hours and 30 minutes after it occurred.
Never mind that I was robbed and crippled in a foreign country, where communication with the police was impossible without translators. It’s my fault for not magically finding a way to contact them soon enough.
Maybe Stan Chart is within their rights to do this to me (I don’t know, I’m not a lawyer). But even if they are, it does make a statement about how they treat their customers – at some point, I overestimated their sense of common human decency.
I’m writing this so that you (if you’re with Stan Chart) have fair warning. Perhaps it will put into perspective the bank you’re choosing to do business with.
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