Archive for July, 2011


Online Transactions in Sri Lanka

Last week or so, I felt like going to see X-Men: First Class. Straightforward enough goal, yes? One that many before me, and many after me, will think up and act on. Where it gets tricky is when I decided to get the tickets online because getting them by physically standing in line was next to impossible what with the movie attracting more people than a petrol dansala which also served betel leaves. E-commerce is supposed to make things easier for people, right? Apparently someone forgot to tell local businesses that you’re not¬†supposed to make the customer want to tear his hair out, knit a rope with it and strangle whoever made the site.

Since I’m too scared of real credit cards, my (soon to be ex) bank of choice offered a web-card. It’s a kind of debit card that can be used for online transactions. I needed to get some money into this so that I could book the tickets using the card, from the EAP website. This involves me using Sampath Bank’s “Sampathnet”, a service best described as a fruit cake, aged a few decades so that a metal spear couldn’t penetrate it.

Sampathnet makes you reset your password every 70 days. Now this is a good thing, as it makes your account more secure. They also have a log-on password, and an additional transaction password. This too, is fine with me. Of course, forgetting the transaction password after changing it twice is not okay. So I looked around for a “Forgot Password” button so that I could quickly reset it and be on my way to transfer money into the card, and use said card to buy tickets.

Apparently there is no system to reset your password and have it mailed to you. Oh well, I thought to myself. They must take our security very seriously. So I called them up and asked how I could go about changing my password. Apparently I have to download a form, fill it out, and deliver the form to the nearest brick and mortar branch. That’s a little extreme, I thought, as I asked him how long it would to process.

I was given a glimmer of hope when the rep said that I could tell the bank to mark it as “urgent” if I needed it quickly. On further inquiry, I discovered the bank’s idea of urgent isn’t quite the same as that of, you know, the english language. If Sampath Bank threw a party, the definition of “urgent” would be a potted plant in the corner which everyone was throwing up into.

After telling him that two weeks was quite a long time to re-set a password, I am told that there was a backlog of requests to change passwords and that they were working through it. I don’t understand. I just…

What kind of set up do they have exactly? Is it one dude curating a room full of abacuses(abacii?)? Maybe a kid had come through and thrown all the ones marked “Passwords” into random sequences. I just don’t get what’s so hard about changing passwords for a bank. If it was Moses re-writing the Ten Commandments, sure, it’d take a while to re-write data, get approval from superiors etc. A bank is supposed to be more efficient.


So that evening, disgruntled, I use my brother’s credit card to buy tickets off the website. The site itself is pretty mundane, but looks functional. An inspection of the source would make anyone in the business of websites claw their eyes out, but I digress.

I try to register. The validation script wouldn’t let me. I try again. “Enter username and password”. I did. Still nothing. So I manually pull up firebug, and unlink the validation script on the page. I’m in!

Selecting a theatre, movie and number of tickets was not unpleasant. Then I got to the payment screen.

Ah, my old nemesis.

The first try got me a “Transaction failed” message and dumped me unceremoniously onto a 404 error on back on the eapmovies site. This was with an HSBC card, and their payment gateway was powered by HSBC. More gnashing of teeth. Much more.

I tried again, this time using a card from a different bank. Lo and behold, it worked. Finally, I was mailed the details of my tickets. Finally.




I don’t know how you guys have it, but I’m not too impressed by the efforts of local enterprises in making use of the internet. It’s a start, but it’s a start like an infant learning to crawl before walking. And crawling through the painstakingly built model railroads of its siblings and in the process mauling them.