Unreasonable harassment by ASOS under the pretext of security

Picture this whilst at the mall.

You: Hi, I’d like to purchase these clothes.

Attendant: Thats fine, here let me scan them for you. Thats £252.99.

You: Sure (and you pay with your credit card).

Attendant (before handing you the bag): I’d like to see your passport and your bank statement and/or the credit card statement for the card you just paid with. Please.

You: What the… ?


Funny right? Thats what I and a lot of others having been finding when shopping at ASOS lately. Under the pretext of ‘security validation‘, ASOS has been requesting several customers for these details. Usually businesses have valid reasons when they enforce something like this – because there is almost always a risk of sales falling or customers turning away when you ask them for personal details (let alone bank statements and passport copies!). So I tried to figure out what the reason was since I just couldn’t fathom why they would need these details. Here is the conversation I had over email.

ASOS:  We’re sorry we’ve had to cancel your order. After checking the information provided, we haven’t been able to validate all your details. What’s next? You’ll need to send us the following: A copy of your passport, ID card or driving licence and a copy of your payment card statement dated within the last three months, clearly showing your name and billing address. Please blank out your card number, but leave the last four digits visible. Please ensure that the billing address on your account is the address associated with your payment card.

Me: Why do you need this information?

ASOS:Thanks for getting in touch about your order number xxxxxxx. I can confirm the emails you received requesting additional information are legitimate. Every order placed on our website goes through a series of validation checks and sadly in some cases it is not always possible for us to confirm all of the details - this is why we have requested additional information from you.In order to clear your account, please reply to our email with the requested information.Don’t worry - all your documents will be destroyed once the checks are complete. I’m sorry we had to cancel your order but I hope that you’ll understand that our validation checks are in place to ensure the security of all our customers.
Me: You have still not answered my question satisfactorily. I am intrigued to know what validation checks does an online shopping portal need to do such that it requires my most private details. You have been paid. So send the goods. You are selling clothes for God's sake, its not a bank account which I could use illegally or weapons of mass destruction that shouldn't go in the wrong hands! I do not think I will be sending my passport copy and bank statements to all the online shopping portals. Truth be told if everyone required it (which by the way noone besides you does) it will only put people off shopping online. You say my details will be destroyed. Apart from your word how am I to trust you? Even the CIA and NHS get hacked and data today gets leaked as easily as water from a tap.
ASOS: Firstly, I'm sorry to hear that we have not been able to complete your order. All orders placed with ASOS go through a series of validation checks and regrettably in some cases it is not always possible for us to confirm all of the details - this is why we have requested additional information from you. Once the requested documents have been received and verified, they will be destroyed. I will then be able to advise you on how to re-order the goods you require. Rest assured that all your documents will be destroyed once the checks are complete.

I’ve highlighted the bit that they are trained to reply with every time someone questions the process. Based on the above its quite clear their customer service have no clue what these checks are and why customers are being asked for these details. They also cancelled my order without once speaking to me. So I am left high and dry just before my holiday (so much for all that faff about reliability and customer comes first promises!)

I am still quite baffled and frankly don’t understand why they need these details. Working with processes is what I do for a living and validating who you are selling clothes to seems a bit of overkill especially when you have already been paid. I could be an alien from outer space or someone who just popped out of nowhere. I could be a criminal even. Why does it matter who you are selling clothes to?

This entire customer data collection for analytics, marketing or whatever other ‘security’ reasons businesses have have just gone too far. It first starts with validating your email – which sort of makes sense – you want to make sure the customer is contactable and you want to make sure he hasn’t had a fat finger moment while giving you his email address. Next you are after his telephone number for supposedly giving SMS alerts. Fine, I’ll go along with that too (not sure why you have to email and SMS at the same time but hey – I dont represent all the customer base, right?) You already have my postal or home address since the goods will be delivered there. Its not like I paid for someone else’s shopping just to play a prank! Even if I did, wouldn’t you love having such a prank being played on you? Anyway the point being, what more is my passport and bank statement going to validate? You already know where I live!

I wonder what people will be subjected to next. Carrying your passport to Tesco’s to buy a bottle of water and some crisps?


EE sets benchmark for worst possible customer service

Losing your phone can be a harrowing experience. What makes it even more harrowing is if your network provider can not understand the gravity of the situation and can not empathise by just doing their job right. I personally hold telecom companies in the UK in very low regard when it comes to customer service. However this time, EE crossed all limits and proved that it deserves the first prize when it comes to bad customer service. Here is a list of things EE can not do when you have a problem.

1) They commit to sending you an email in 48 hours with the information you need (I needed proof that I am an EE customer using my phone and its make and model etc). However they cannot fulfil that commitment. I mean how hard is it to email some information right? Lets give them the benefit of the doubt here anyway.

2) Next when you point to them that they did not email you, they tell you they did but the email didn’t reach you perhaps. Fair enough, the postman loses the post all the time, can happen to email too. No problem, surely they can forward it again in a jiffy? Nope. Another commitment to send it in 48 hours. Me patiently waiting then…

3) Once the said time has elapsed I check my mailbox, still no email. So this time I call them in all optimism to surely get this resolved. A fine lad tells me that he has escalated this (AGAIN) and on priority and he assures me the email will be sent in the next couple of hours. Nope. EE cant send an email. (I must add I specifically asked him not to commit to something he didnt have control over but he insisted that it would only be a couple of hours)

4) Now I am really frustrated. So I try to speak with managers and supervisors and guess what? I am being told that people at EE can’t speak to each other. They are not allowed to pick up the phone and just speak to each other in order to resolve customer queries. How ironic! The whole enterprise prides in facilitating effective communication but for itself.

5) I also used their Live Chat facility at one point. The conversation I had with the agent there and her supervisor was particularly entertaining from a non-EE person’s perspective so I thought I would hit the ‘Email Transcript’ button there and share it with you. Guess what? They cant email transcripts. (As I write this, I am laughing and crying at the same time!)

(In case you are very smart and wondering – Yes I have checked my Junk mail and Spam mail and have been receiving all other emails regularly and on time)

So finally after almost 4 days of misery, I am no where near to getting the email I need from them with confirmation of a few account details for the insurance company. What is particularly interesting is that I also dont know what next step to take. Everytime I call them, they ask me to wait ‘a couple of hours’. I am totally left at their mercy and they are not doing anything to help me! Just excuses after excuses and a promise that some bloke somewhere in the world is slaving away trying to help me.

At one point another lady tried hard to convince me there was a problem with their email server sending these messages out! Its been happening for a few days. Thats convenient – she should have been in sales, I’m thinking. She would make a killing. I give her the benefit of the doubt but still cant trust her given what I had been through. So I reset my password online. Email comes in fine confirming the reset link! Am I really wrong in assuming these customer services guys are just a group of cowboys (and cowgirls?) who assume all customers are stupid and you can feed them any crap you like as long as you are polite and keep saying ‘thank you’ and ‘please’!

Some great management lessons in there I think. How processes can go wrong, how untrained staff can ruin a company’s reputation and goodwill and how poor customer service has such a profound effect on a sane person’s mental health and blood pressure. It took me 2 Ecosprins before I could write this blog and I think I need another one now. If you don’t hear from me in a couple of days I am probably busy personally couriering all my emails.

Further Updates

20 Jan: 10:30 am
I speak to another sorry agent and then get transferred to his supervisor. The supervisor seems like a nice chap and offers to call me after 30 mins with a solid update. No call received for an hour (Length of call – 30 mins)

20 Jan: 12:10pm
I call again since the supervisor didn’t call me. This time I speak to another guy named Aaron. His brilliant plan to end my frustration is raising yet another request and emailing the backoffice team. Fine, do it. This time I gave him another email address, just in case. He advised me that the initial request should complete by tonight and this new request should complete by tomorrow 5pm. So if I haven’t heard back from them by then, I should call customer services and ask to speak to him. (10 bucks says, he wont be working tomorrow or I will never be able to get through to him! Lets see!)

Baby on the Tube

If you’ve ever visited London you will agree that the most morbid place in the city is none other than its lifeline – the Tube (or the London Underground as its known elsewhere). And if you are a Londoner then you will probably know why. The only place where no matter what happens, nobody talks to each other, nobody looks at anything else but a gadget or newspaper in their hands and nobody most certainly will smile back at you even though your bodies are literally stuck to theirs. Maybe that’s the reason why! But in general no matter how happy you are, the Tube can always shoot your spirits down.


However I witnessed the strangest thing the other day. My wife came to visit me at work with our new born daughter and we decided to go back home together on the Tube. The entire experience of going on a 45 min Tube journey with a little infant was fascinating. Firstly people were kind. Instead of elbowing us away like they always do, they actually made way for us to get in first. Next, you notice that almost everyone who can, will want to get a glimpse of the baby. As if its an alien from outer space who’s escaped from the highly restricted facility. And obviously, nothing pokes the deepest cockles of your heart than the beautiful smile of a baby. This instantly changes the mood in the carriage and suddenly everyone wants to talk about her. “How old is she”, asks a brave old lady trying to break the silence. Almost as if it was the question everyone had on their minds but she was the only one to take the initiative to actually ask. “Three months”, says my wife and a couple of other ladies go “Awww”. And that’s it. Suddenly everyone’s talking about her, to her and also creating all sorts of fiction like “She loves the underground” or “She is so comfortable” or even “She is such a calm baby”. I think there is a secret code all babies share. Just like a software will stop working as soon as you have to demo it to an audience, a calm baby, if called calm will always prove you otherwise! Somebody made the eternal mistake of touching the calm baby on her hand and that was it. The next thing you know she is wailing her lungs out – so much so that I was actually contemplating getting off at the next stop. Silence again. Some others who were blissfully unaware of all this now actually look up from their smartphones and question our parenting skills with murmurs about how some parents can’t keep their kids quiet. They perhaps don’t have or have never had children is what I positively conclude and ignore them.

Two more stops and the missus is successful in getting the calmer incarnation of the baby back. Phew. That’s when I realise I have never heard so much noise of the underground before. It’s amazing how you almost never see little babies on the Tube on weekdays during commuting hours. But this experience truly shows that we Londoners are not a weird self-involved narcissist robot species after all. All it takes is a little infant to get our human side back!