9/16/2010

Chinatrust Commercial Bank Continues to Screw with Out-groups

I've already written about the shenanigans I faced in getting a credit card from the Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行). I was told I couldn't apply because I was a "foreigner." As this happened just inside the doors of the Chung Ho (中和) Costco, the company Chinatrust was cooperating with on a particular credit card I wanted, I simply wrote to them in the US and asked them if they really wanted to have their brand associated with a bank that discriminates against out-groups. The full story is here: http://patrick-cowsill.blogspot.com/2009/11/foreigners-getting-credit-card-in.html. Obviously, Costco did not like the fact that the Chinatrust Commercial Bank was discriminating against out-groups in Taiwan and, a couple weeks later, I had a Chinatrust Commercial Bank / Costco credit card in hand.

Today, I experienced another hurdle with this silly bank. When I tried to purchase a Taiwan High Speed Rail ticket online, using my Chinatrust credit card, my transaction failed because I did not have a Chinese name on my credit card. Here's how it went down: After loading up the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed, I input the required information: date, time, destination, name, ID and agreed to the terms. When I keyed in my credit card number and its expiration date however a Chinatrust verification box automatically sprung up, in Chinese. I found this a bit strange, especially since I was working on the English Web site for the Taiwan High Speed Rail, but I started to fill it out. The box called for my birthday, the expiration date of my card and my name, which I could not input. Why? Well, it told me to type in "all three characters of my name." This was impossible as the name on my credit card is in English. So, basically, this is it: the only Chinatrust cardholders allowed to purchase HSR tickets online are the ones with Chinese names on their cards.

I have already complained to Taiwan High Speed Rail about this. But the incident gets me thinking. After Costco forced Chinatrust to give me a credit card, the bank told me that it didn't discriminate against "foreigners." When I told them I could name lots of friends that had been turned down at their bank simply because they were "foreigners," the rep. handling my case informed me that I was imagining things. I'm still waiting for the statistics I requested on "foreign" credit card holders at Chinatrust Bank because I don't think I am. I don't understand this either: Chinatrust Commercial Bank says that it does not discriminate against "foreigners." If so, why doesn't their box, which automatically pops up on the Taiwan High Speed Rail's English Web site, allow for "foreigners" to input their "foreign" names? Why is it just in Chinese? Hint: it hasn't occurred to Chinatrust Commercial Bank in Taiwan (中國信託商業銀行) to have an English pop up because they do not have "foreign" customers. Cross out folks like me because we just don't count. We slipped through the cracks and are infinitesimal quirks in how they are rounding things out.  

I'm going to check back with the Taiwan High Speed in a week to get this sorted out. The reason I don't bother complaining to Chinatrust is because I do not trust them. If you want results with this bank, you have to appeal to their partners, like I did when I wrote to Costco in the US. I'll just close by saying I've observed a trend:

1. If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "foreigner," the explanation I'll normally get is "that's because Taiwan's banks are racist, xenophobic, etc."

2.If I point out that it is hard for "foreigners" to get credit cards in Taiwan to a "Taiwanese person," the explanation I'll normally get is that the banks are absolutely not racist or xenophobic, but rather because "'foreigners' are a flight risk." I find this kind of reasoning disingenuous. Every single person who applies for a credit card is a flight risk. If you don't believe that Taiwanese people go bankrupt, run away from their debts, etc., then read the news. Or, talk to a local. Debt collection in Taiwan is just as big a headache as it is anywhere.

I also believe the flight risk explanation to be disingenuous for another reason. I think it's offered up because a majority of Taiwanese people want to categorically deny that racism exists in Taiwan.

15 comments:

MJ Klein said...

that also means that people with only 2 syllables in their Chinese name can't buy THSR tickets. weird. it should just say "input your name" and accept whatever the person enters.

Vince Cowsill said...

It's not what's on your card, but can "Cowsill" be written with Chinese characters?

Patrick Cowsill said...

"that also means that people with only 2 syllables in their Chinese name can't buy THSR tickets."

I thought about that. It's specific: three characters. But actually I suppose it'll take two.

"It's not what's on your card, but can "Cowsill" be written with Chinese characters?"

I have a Chinese name. I doubt it's going to work. The thing that gets me is it doesn't occur to Chinatrust that they have cardholders with English names on their cards. I wonder why.

Okami said...

When you contacted Costco in the US, did you call them, write a letter or use email. I've applied 3 times so far now and haven't gotten any response back despite providing all my information each time. I'd like to do what you have done in order to get a card finally.

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrick, really enjoy your blog and attitude. I think people can basically look at your exploits in two ways:

1) You are a foreigner and therefore a guest in this country. By coming here, you choose to accept the rules of the host nation. If you don't like it, well you darn well know how to get to Taoyuan Airport. How dare you come here and try and impose your Western/American mindest of equality, rule of law etc on Taiwan. The arrogance!

2) You have chosen to live in Taiwan, and obviously like it enough to stay for many years and raise a family here. As a good "citizen" and tax paypayer you have the right even duty to point out and argue for the things you believe can be improved upon. if you happen to improve the life of yourself, family other foreginers and society at large it's a job well done.

Well, you can probably tell where I stand. Keep fighting the good fight!

Patrick Cowsill said...

"By coming here, you choose to accept the rules of the host nation."

The last time I checked, this was a democratic nation that ensured a certain right called freedom of speech. That's what me and my other Taiwanese friends, whether new, semi-new (see a 1949'er and of course a post 1624'er), or long timer (see our Aboriginal friends) are paying their taxes toward protecting among other things. But I think I'll quote the constitution of Taiwan because there seems to be some doubt: "Chapter I, General Provisions, Article 5: There shall be equality among the various racial groups in the Republic of China (Taiwan)." These words probably mean that I have a right to a voice as I am part of a minority group in Taiwan. If that is not enough, I reserve the right to complain because I'm an unhappy consumer paying for a product that is crap, no matter where I go or what I look like. At the very least, I can complain simply because I feel like it.

I care about Taiwan. That's exactly the reason I hope for improvement in some places. That is also why I blog about Taiwan's culture and history regularly. Just out of curiosity, what other blogs have you put a comment like this up on? Are you asking Taiwanese people if they are unhappy with the state of things about booking tickets back to China and clearing out once and for all?

In short, I am not going anywhere. I like it here in Taiwan and feel like contributing. Thanks for your encouragement. We're all on the same side.

James said...

Good work Cow Swill. I need to push my situation along accordingly and then follow your well-played suit.

One thing: (JTPDA - figure it out!)you sound a little like you're having a go at the anonymous lad. As you then observe, he's onboard! No need to dismiss his 'hypothetical' first position.

JakeTPE said...

Two things: If I'm not mistaken, you can use the FamiPort machines at Family Mart and purchase HSR tickets without a credit card, assuming you have cash and there's a Family Mart nearby. (I realize you are not looking for this solution in your post, but for those who may be in the same boat wanting to purchase HSR tickets away from a HSR station.)

And I have tried (half-heartedly I'll admit, once rejected I don't reapply) to get a credit card here in TW with the likes of your ChinaTrust and Fubon and have been turned down, despite a stable income (as my tax papers attest), unblemished record of residency in the ROC, and status as breadwinner for my family. The only reason they haven't approved my application must be because I'm not a citizen of the ROC. If this is not discrimination, then what is it?

I am wondering for those folks in Taiwan who are not citizens and have been approved for a credit card here, how did it happen? Were the approved straight away or did they get one of those "fu-ka"s off of their spouse or something?

Patrick Cowsill said...

JakeTPE, this brings up another point. People who earn twice the average or even more are being turned down by this bank in their credit card applications. I have another friend, a Brit, who earns NT$90-ish per month, and he was turned down because he "didn't make the requirements." They sent him a text message to tell him so. Meanwhile, his colleagues, who pull in half of what he makes, have credit cards with this bank. What's going on here? The only answer that I can come up with is he has the wrong skin color / nationality.

You write: "(I realize you are not looking for this solution in your post, but for those who may be in the same boat wanting to purchase HSR tickets away from a HSR station.)" That's exactly it. I want to change this BS. I should be treated the same as any other cardholder. That is what I am looking for.

Terry B. said...

I don't think that I was aware of your credit card exploits but have experienced the same thing regarding COSTCO and ChinaTrust. However, I don't think that it's necessary discrimination against foreigners as they said that my wife, who shares the same color passport, similar language ability and identical experience in Taiwan with me. The only differences we can see are that I generally earn a bit more and she is ethnic Chinese, the former which I see as being more relevant.

I also was planning to write COSTCO headquarters to suggest that they change the wording on their discrimination policy to better reflect their practices about their actual practices and will let you know if I hear anything.

dennis said...

i dont work in the banking industry, but i'd imagine for a bank it's basically a process of risk assessment, i.e., is the amount of money they are going to make from an applicant worth more than the risk?

patrick your story is not the only one i've read about on the internet, so i can only guess that tw banks consider a non-ROC national (although a permanent resident) extremely high risk (whether it is in fact an accurate assumption or not).

if i were you i'd be extremely annoyed as well.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"the former [earning more] which I see as being more relevant"

It should be, but, as I've already pointed out, "foreigners" earning in the neighborhood of NT$100,000 are being consistently turned down. Taiwanese making half that are being accepted. I believe there is discrimination against women from China; there are stereotypes too; some people think these women are only here to take advantage of men elderly or illiterate country bumpkins. Of course, this is all played up by the crappy media we have here. So, as is often the case, honest and well-meaning people are left working against pre- and ill- conceived notions of who they are and what they'll do / be like.

BTW, what do you mean? I'm not really totally clear about what you're going to do:

"I also was planning to write COSTCO headquarters to suggest that they change the wording on their discrimination policy to better reflect their practices about their actual practices and will let you know if I hear anything."

valerienicole said...

"You're imagining things" - how absurd! And yet, so not surprising. Gotta love that spirit of customer service.

Anonymous said...

You need to show you are a "manager" of some sort if you are a foreigner, otherwise the banks will think you are just English-teaching trash ready to get up and flee at any given moment.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"You need to show you are a "manager" of some sort if you are a foreigner, otherwise the banks will think you are just English-teaching trash ready to get up and flee at any given moment."

How do you do that if they are telling you that you can't apply from the get-go because you're a "foreigner?" I did make this clear in my original post. I wasn't even given an application form; therefore, I could not fill in my job title, salary, assets, etc.