(STAR) BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa - Certainly, the season of giving is in the air. Divisoria and Baclaran are both experiencing already the influx of early shoppers eager to accomplish their holiday shopping commitments ahead of the maddening crowd.

Others who do not have the luxury of time to make the trip to these two bargain-shopping paradises are not going to be shortchanged if they choose to go to the more popular mall networks that have expanded to the suburbs and key cities outside of Metro Manila.

The shopping in these places, I hear, offers a wide array of bargain products that are priced not too far off from what is available in Divisoria or Baclaran. Aside from the air-conditioning, shoppers can charge their purchases, thereby stretching their cash by a good 30 days.

Of course, as we had pointed out in a previous column, the public should be adequately warned of the pitfalls of falling into the credit card debt trap, as a couple of our readers had realized. The following narration is from an e-mail sent by Ernie Hipolito.

Paging HSBC

"I am encouraged to send you an e-mail after reading your article entitled ‘’Tis the Season for Credit Card Swiping’ published in the Philippine STAR dated Nov.10, 2006. Maybe you can help me out on our predicament or direct me to the proper person.

"We use my credit card for our retail business and therefore you can say we are heavy users of the card with big amounts. We pay on time and do not usually pay just the minimum but the full amount since the finance charge of three to 3.5 percent is too much for our business where profit margins are very small.

"However to take advantage of this credit facility, we usually pay on the last day. One particular credit card that we have a problem with is HSBC. Our business is in Angeles City where there is no HSBC bank in the area and therefore we usually pay at SM Clark since it is so convenient.

"Paying however with their accredited banks in our area is time consuming and waste of energy since you have to stand up and make a line before their bank tellers, and it usually takes you hours specially if you happen to pay on a day or time when there are so many clients, and some bank tellers are absent.

"Our problem however started when HSBC slapped us with penalties because according to them, SM did not remit to them on time our payment. We do not know that there is a lag between the time we make a payment to SM and the time they remit to HSBC.

"We have made several appeals to them regarding our case but every time we call them, a different agent answers the phone and all they do is make a note on their computer regarding our case, and maybe the essence of our appeal is not properly addressed and therefore not appreciated.

"We have asked for an appointment with their manager since I know that given a chance to air our side and presenting our documents, we could be granted favorable response. But so far no approval on our request or an appointment with their manager has been done.

"Meanwhile our penalties are piling up simply because (the bank) doesn’t seem to agree with us. We told them their record will show that we have been making huge transactions and have no bad credit, maybe they could extend a little consideration.

"Because there seems to be a lag in their remittances, we were slapped with penalties of about P3,400 on an obligation of P100,000 paid on due date thru SM. Our penalty is now about P9,600 after three billing statements despite our appeals made to them almost every week because they keep on delaying our appeal.

"In the retail business, this is too much a penalty and we cannot cope with such a huge charge. Maybe if we really failed to pay our transaction, then we will agree to the charges, but it was not entirely our fault that the remittance was not made on time to them.

"It is so ironic that HSBC is coming up with many marketing strategy to lure clients to them, but they seem to be callous on a small reconsideration that is not entirely our fault. Do you happen to know the right person to talk to and maybe we can address our problem him?"

Complaint on Citibank card

This one is from a reader who wishes to keep his anonymity. This time, the bank involved is Citibank. Is there someone from this company who can help?

"I enjoy reading your business columns for its relevance and timeliness. Since your article today is about credit cards, I want to share a bad experience of mine with Citibank Manila which until now I am still suffering.

"Here’s what happened. I paid my credit card in full and cancelled it in 2000 because I only needed one card. At that time my billing address was different and without me knowing or being informed by Citibank, P2,922 was still being billed to me every month without interest. I only saw my bill for P2,922 last 2004 and paid it immediately. Citibank then mailed me a certification that my credit card was fully paid.

"Lo and behold, Citibank placed me on their negative list which they said will only be taken out after five years. My name is on the negative list for a measly P2,922 until 2009! That means my credit rating with banks till that time is ruined because of that.

"I hope you could help me and others who are in this kind of predicament. I know that if these companies are not put in the spot in major dailies in a column of a prominent columnist, no action will be taken to rectify their mistakes."

Horrors of consumers related to credit card use abound, but hopefully they can be corrected to the suitable satisfaction of both the consumer and the bank. Credit cards are, as we have repeatedly emphasized, useful tools. One must simply know how to use them to avoid getting victimized.

Metro Manila poker satellites

With the Grand Finals of the Philippine Poker Tour barely few weeks away, poker tournament enthusiasts are lining up to join the satellite/qualifying tournaments ongoing at several areas in Metro-Manila. The accredited locations for satellite tournaments are Elbow Room at Metro-Walk, Pasig City (every Tuesday and Thursday), Valle Verde Country Club (every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), San Mig Alabang Town Center (every Wednesday and Friday).

Satellite tournaments are also still ongoing at Nonoy Tirol’s Rajah Hotel, Cebu City every Friday evening. The Cebu team is aiming to garner the top places at the Grand Finals to be held on Dec. 16 to 17 at Casino Filipino Pavilion-Manila.

Details about the venues and schedules of other qualifying/satellite tournaments are posted in the Philippine Poker Tour (PPT) official web site at www.PhilippinePokerTour.com <http://www.philippinepokertour.com/>. Those interested to join these satellite/qualifying tournaments may also call the PPT Secretariat (c/o Cindy) at 817-9092 or 812-0153.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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