June 18, 2008


Minor solutions needed to fix major annoyance

One of the curse of being a nerd is the insatiable urge to understand behind-the-curtain things. It is a curse because when things go wrong, you speculate which components in the entire chain are broken. Let me give you an example.

Our Tata Sky subscription was about to end on 17th June. At 1900 hrs on 17th June, the subscription was renewed for next month by paying charges through credit card on their website. At 0030, comfortably past midnight, they send me SMS to remind about subscription. Now, there are two problems. If my TV connection is unavailable for a few hours, world is not going to come to an end. Would the bosses at Tata Sky like to receive SMS at midnight saying "Yay, Shashikant has renewed his service!" No, right? Exactly my point. It can wait for few more hours. The second problem is this annoying message was sent with stale status. I could easily visualize, they have a service which queries database at an interval of 10-20 minutes to find subscribers who are up for renewal in that hour. Now the folks who designed the DB kept only date and time was set, by default to, 0000 Hrs. So, subscriber renewal condition is valid immediately after midnight. Since reminder service is not a critical service, somebody thought it's OK for it to operate on slightly dated copy of the database. They probably don't understand that it's always the eleventh hour that forces people to act.

Nice work, Tata Sky!

Same goes for Reliance communication. They send the reminder for bill payment with a request to "ignore the message if already paid."

Compare this with the alerts from ICICI Bank which sends the messages in the morning for the transactions done late in previous evening. (Now, I don't know if they send debit alerts immediately, which they should.) On a similar occasion ICICI folks impressed me. I have ICICI credit card and bank account. At an ATM I mistakenly used credit card instead of debit card to withdraw cash. First attempt to enter PIN, obviously, failed. In the middle of second attempt it dawned to me that it's a credit card. The system noted two failures.

Next morning ICICI folks called me to confirm that it was indeed me who had attempted it. They helpfully suggested me if PIN needs to be re-generated. But I politely refused as it doesn't fit in my own rulebook on credit card.

PS: While you are at it, read about how Reliance treated Rahul (hint, it's not nice) when he complained to them about goof-ups on their side.

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