The Octopus Card is a remnant of an old payment system that has managed to survive in this era of mobile cash.
Antiquated but proud, it is still the most popular method of payment in shops and public transport across the city.
So perhaps we should be a bit more understanding if the company that runs it, the Octopus Cards Limited, exhibits the same slowness and lack of innovation that we see in its product.
To get a HK$100 refund, I was recently asked to contact Octopus Cards’ customer service hotline.
I have made three calls so far. I failed to connect at my first try, but it was probably my fault. I made the call at 9:05 p.m., only to find that the line closes at 9 p.m.
However, there was no message recording system to allow me to state my business, let alone an extra five minutes to get to a customer service representative.
I called again the following day while taking the MTR. But sadly, I could not connect to a service rep before I reached Central, my destination, and the line was cut off after 11 minutes of trying.
Then today I called from home while watching baseball on telly. I patiently waited for about 25 minutes but still I could not get someone to entertain my call, even when the game was finished in the extra 13th inning.
This makes me wonder why it is so difficult for an old economy company to find time for its customers. Perhaps Octopus should find a younger, more energetic and responsive executive team.
Finally, when I was just about to believe that luck has completely abandoned me, someone answered my call. Hallelujah!
And so I tried to collect myself and speak calmly about the purpose of my call.
I also told the customer rep, a lady with a kind voice, about my not-too-pleasant experience of trying to contact the company. Admirably, the lady did not lose patience with me and politely promised that someone would get back to me within three working days.
I figure that means a wait of close to 100 hours, which is about the same amount of time for a delivery from North Pole to arrive at my door.
Well, I suppose that’s faster than the thousands of hours that Hong Kong people spend queueing and waiting for a faster electronic payment method.
Thanks to the dominance of Octopus, Hong Kong has been years behind its motherland in adopting a better cashless payment gateway such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.
And, as I have found out, Octopus still has a lot of room left to improve its customer service.
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