marcel barang

Posts Tagged ‘MasterCard’

Scan as scan can

In English on 30/05/2011 at 9:06 pm

Today it took seven hours all told to buy a scanner.
Yesterday my favourite neighbour’s niece lost her key, so he gave her his, so he finds himself locked out once he has driven his wife to work, so he wakes me up two hours before the time agreed. I treat him to orange juice and toast, give him my second mug of coffee and skim the Post. No time to shit. No time to shower.

We drive to the other side of the Bangkok moon. At that IT Mecca, shops open at 11am. We’re early, damn it, so we take a second coffee while we wait.
A round of three or four shops shows that plain scanners are out of fashion; it’s all integrated stuff these days – printers that scan and make phone calls and take your purse pulse and scratch your back.
In that one shop, there’s one HP ScanJet, so we come back to it and buy it.
As we go to one corner of the shop to test it, I notice a pile of a dozen Cannon scanners – sleeker and cheaper than the ScanJet! So we ‘un-buy’ the ScanJet and buy the Cannon.

End of story? Nyet. He needs to go to ‘that bookshop over there’ to buy a gobbledygook computer book it takes him fifteen minutes to decide not to buy. Then goes and says hello to ‘my friend over there’ and in another ten minutes will have bought three bootleg CDs to further his expertise in computer-ease.
As we are back in the car: ‘You don’t mind, do you, if we stop by my accountant’s? I have some documents to sign. But let’s have lunch first: I know a place famous for braised duck.’

The duck is worth the dozen or so miles it takes to reach it.
A further drive to another side of the moon brings us to a sprawling housing estate.

Half an hour later when he’s done, we retrace to the IT Mecca because ‘Oh shit! I forgot: you need an OCR program to convert your scanned images to text.’
I do?
Turns out I don’t, the ‘friend over there’ says: optical character recognition programs are only eighty percent reliable in Thai. The idea of buying a scanner is to have a digital way to forward to a typist a (picture of) a Thai text to retype as a Word file…

Finally back home, I turn on the air-con, he turns on the TV, drinks some more orange juice and takes a nap while I go out to smoke a cigarette. By the time he leaves to go and pick up his wife, seven hours have elapsed.
Add to this another three to scan as scan can, and it’s time for shower and shampoo.
Next time I need some IT item methinks I’ll shop on the net (he has told me how to PayPal my way out of those useless Visa and MasterCard Kasikornbank cards).


It happened last night

In English on 13/02/2011 at 8:45 pm


Sometime in April, my daughter will go to Paris for a few days with a bunch of friends, travelling with a cheap airline and an overnight stopover somewhere in the Middle East. While her friends fly back, she’ll be one of the half-dozen staying on for a few days: she’ll catch a flight to Toulouse to see her uncle, 64, and grandfather, 94. Her last visit was three years ago.
So last night, with her return flight finally confirmed, she came over so that we could book her Air France flights between Paris and Toulouse. The Air France website is well designed. We chose those flights that would give her maximum time in Toulouse yet enable her to catch her return flight at Roissy.

We booked the flights using my Visa card. Everything went well. Air France asked for my daughter’s cell phone number and instantly wired a set of figures to complete the transaction. She punched it in.
Then we were transferred to the Kasikornbank website to confirm the legitimate use of the Visa card.
That same Visa card that was blocked when, a few months ago, I tried to purchase one of my own books to check on the PaySbuy payment system of my website (see ‘A sad electronic tale’, 26.09.10).
That same Visa card for which I was issued a new password.
I keyed that password in and guess what? No can do.
Undeterred, we renewed the entire operation using my MasterCard card this time. And guess what? Same difference.
My daughter called the Kasikornbank 24/7 call centre. Yes, a man said, we have records of your booking twice the same flight as you explain. There’s nothing we can do, except wait ten working days to see if Air France has also registered the booking and asks for payment during that period of time.
Are we going to be charged twice? Answer: could be.
Can’t you automatically prevent double payment? No, but after the expiry of the twelve working days, we can cancel the payment. What you should do is contact Air France yourself.
How can we do that since we have no evidence to show for a transaction that may or may not have taken place? Well, too bad. Thank you for using our services.

In early 1978, while in Nepal just before I came to settle down in Thailand, I chanced to befriend a hippie with an attitude. He was the heir of a canned food tycoon in the States. One day, he took out of his pocket the tiniest pair of foldable scissors I’d ever seen, the size of half my index finger sheathed in black leather. As I marvelled about it, he told me he’d bought ‘a few pairs’ in France – ‘see, it says “Inox France” here’. Tickled that a Frenchman would be ignorant of his French find, he gave me one. I’ve been clipping my nails with it ever since.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll go to my Kasikornbank branch and, in front of the relevant officer, will use that pair of scissors on my MasterCard and Visa cards, which he issued to me for no purpose but trouble.
I lived sixty years without a credit card. I figure I can survive without one.

A sad electronic tale

In English on 22/09/2010 at 10:31 pm


I learned a valuable lesson yesterday spending five hours trying to purchase one of my e-books from myself – unsuccessfully. And not just unsuccessfully: my Visa card got blocked into the bargain. Now I understand why so few people buy e-books from

Because there have been no sales for a month, because for months purchased e-books have ended in customers’ spam slots or not arrived at all, we decided to refurbish and simplify our payment and dispatch system. In order to check that everything was easier now, I as a customer decided to purchase an e-book (the cheapest one) from seller me.

Simplify! Easier! There’s nothing simple or easy in e-commerce, as I found out to my cost.

Problems started with the PaySbuy website, a Thai (l)imitation of PayPal. What did I learn?
To begin with, that a buyer can’t be a seller. So customer-I switched to another email.
Sorry, this email is also registered as a seller. When did that happen? No idea.

Luckily, a third email address, an old one I seldom use these days, did the trick. Now, what do I click? PaySbuy? Visa? MasterCard?

After over two hours of fiddling with the various options and getting nowhere, I call the PaySbuy people. From my lengthy explanations, they say all right, I’m sending you right now an email at your seller’s email address. Forty minutes later, I call back to say I never got it. What I got is … a message in the thaifiction back office. Besides, I can’t even access my own account with PaySbuy, having long forgotten my password. They fix that: new password. Their advice: try to purchase that book by filling in the Visa long form, don’t use the PaySbuy option.

When I do that, I sail through the PaySbuy website to my bank’s website, which for some reason wants to verify the ownership of the Visa card. Again I fill in a form, and get stuck on the query: What’s your credit ceiling? How would I know? How am I expected to remember such trivial matter a year after I got that card I’ve never used in between? I try my luck: 50 000 baht? No. 20 000 then? Nah. Oh heck, let’s go for an extra zero. Bang! Visa card blocked.

So I go online to my bank’s website, to find the relevant phone number to call to get the card unlocked. It’s a bunch of 8s. I call … a nightmare: Kort Nee, Kort Nan, Kort Noon, so switch from Thai to English: Press this, Press that and then Press mumble-mumble and then the nine? Press what? On a third attempt, I guess the Thai female voice means ‘and then press the star button and then the nine’. Hooray, I get through. The automaton-man I get on the line at this late hour (ten to seven pm) goes by the book. Fair enough. Date of birth? I tell him. Do you pay cash or withdraw from the account? I tell him. What’s your credit ceiling? At this point, I have to take a deep breath not to shout and explain soberly this is precisely why, I suspect, my Visa card was suspended. I see, says he. Now, can you unlock it? Yes, no problem.

So I go through the rigmarole of filling in forms again. You guessed it: Visa card still blocked. I try once more, with my MasterCard this time. No can do: on the bank’s website there’s a page which asks for the card number, then has a couple of lines in esoteric English at the bottom, so I disregard that and press Continue. The next page asks for my ‘new portable phone number’ and won’t take no for an answer: never had a portable phone in my life, and never will. So I backtrack (meaning I start all over again) and, back to that previous page, realise that those two lines are for: a) checking through … a portable (the option is already highlighted – it shouldn’t be); and b) manual checking. I switch to that, but then on the next page – yeah, right, you guessed it.

In desperation I dart into the bank’s phone labyrinth once again and, with the ease of an old pro, negotiate the corners and within minutes I’m talking my head off to a female of the species, this time, whose English and patience are superb. I’ve prepared myself: the website is in front of me on the computer. She guides me to the relevant page and the relevant slot. I fill in a form. There’s one item requiring my passport number, which is 01RE000000. I enter it. Tough luck: the machine swallows only numbers, not letters. The lady says Hang on while she consults her bosses. A couple minutes of ads and muzak later, she comes back and gives me a special password to override the problem, with instructions on how to use it when this and that and the rest. By the way, she adds, what’s your portable phone number? I don’t have one. Oh? Never mind. Your Visa card is fine. I thank her, wish her a good night.
Start all over again. No slot in sight where I can use that special password. By then, it’s 8pm, I’m knackered and famished, call it a day and, before pouring myself a drink and cooking me a meal, write a short email to the PaySbuy people to let them know as promised about the state of the art.

You think this is the end of it? Think again. This morning, I try again, this time with the MasterCard and, by some miracle or rather the amount of knowledge accrued the day before, get through. My seller’s email receives a PaySbuy notice that customer-me has paid so much for the purchase of such and such book from seller-me. Now we are getting somewhere. So I push the required two buttons and get the notice: Error, operation aborted. I alert my main technician with an email (and in the afternoon pay him a call: he tells me it isn’t as simple as that, his new system isn’t working; when I’m back home I’ll introduce him with another email to the PaySbuy people so they deal with him rather than incompetent me; I’d rather translate yet another Siriworn poem or look into how to transform pdfs into epubs, great fun that!).

What about the Visa card and its wonderful ‘special password’? I access the bank’s website and go back to the Visa card box as we did last night. ‘Your card is already registered.’

So I take a taxi to my bank’s local branch, where everybody knows me as I’ve known everybody for the past twenty years or so. After lengthy phone consultations with … last night’s lady whose name I learn, I’m told there’s nothing wrong with my Visa card any longer but perhaps I shouldn’t use it with PaySbuy as their software might be blocking it. So I say all right, I’ll force myself in a day or two to purchase a book with some other website and see what happens.

You wanna bet?