Imagine this: you’re sitting at your desk at work, half concentrating on the job at hand as your mind is preoccupied by the lack of zeros in your bank account. Your account with the National Mattress Bank is overdrawn and non-stop reminders from creditors have led you to temporarily uninstall WhatsApp.
As this is going on, you hear a ding, which tells you that it is a text message. You know when it’s a proper SMS it is likely from Econet, very few of your contacts still send those. You exhale. ‘What does Strive want this time?’ – you mutter, as you pick up the phone.
It is from EcoCash, you realise. Your eyes light up in anticipation. You click on the message and it reads:
Dear Customer. Please note you have money in your EcoCash USD wallet…
Oh, snap. You have money that you had forgotten about. The heavens have smiled on you.
You jump out of your seat and head to the restroom, I mean, you can’t have people snooping in and seeing that your balance is $10,000. They are all in the same boat you are and they would line up to borrow a couple of bucks from you.
In the privacy of a stall, you hit *151# and input your PIN with a grin on your face. You get a response…
You have 37c in your wallet
What the heck? Okay, is EcoCash pranking you at this point? – you wonder. That’s the money in my wallet that warranted a message reminding me that I have money? You start to fume as you go back to read the full message EcoCash sent.
Dear Customer. Please note you have money in your EcoCash USD wallet. To check your USD balance dial *151*6*2*2#. EcoCash charges apply.
Oh, now you’re mad. So, EcoCash actively invited you to check your balance, when their system knew you only had 37c and on top of that, they charged you for it? That can’t be right! – you think.
It can’t be right indeed and yet here we are. Many of us have received those messages and many thought there had been some windfall their way that would warrant EcoCash telling them to check their balances. Only to find they were still broke. In fact, they were worse off after Econet had taken its balance enquiry fee.
Bad EcoCash, bad
This feels like a fundraising strategy for EcoCash. ‘Let’s get all these suckers to check their balances and collect 10c from each and every one of them.’
We had a member of our team confirm this. They had 49c in their wallet and after checking the balance as EcoCash encouraged, they were down to 39c.
EcoCash has millions of subscribers and even if just 500,000 did check their balances after getting the message above, EcoCash made a cool US$50,000 from it. That’s decent money, even for Econet.
Why these messages?
The way it has worked is that we only get messages regarding our accounts when something has changed. This applies to bank accounts and other mobile wallets. When we have received money and when money has been taken from our accounts is when we get updates.
Not this random, ‘please check your balance’ kind of message. If it was free to check our balances, then it would be annoying but understandable. EcoCash would just be trying to get us to transact, which is how they make their money.
So, you can imagine that many people did check their balances, thinking there was something to the message. ‘After all, why would EcoCash tell me to check my balance if nothing had happened with my account since my last transaction?’
Fees and charges information
While we are on this. EcoCash needs to be more transparent with its fees and charges. It is not easy to find that information for some reason.
You won’t find out how much they charge to check the balance on the EcoCash USD tariffs and limits page.
You could go to the EcoCash terms and conditions, as I did, but under the Fees and Charges section, they will tell you to go to an Econet website which is not loading for some reason.
The other option is to call customer care. That is hardly an option if you’ve dealt with EcoCash customer care before.
As I type this, I have been trying to get an answer for the past one and a half hours. I’ve gotten to speak to a number of people over there but the network keeps dropping the calls before they go through their rehearsed greeting messages and other pleasantries.
I had to be rude and just blurt out the question in the end and was told the charge was 70c, or at least that it used to be, but they were not sure. I assured them that it was not 70c and they said they would call me back after they confirmed that. I’m still waiting for that callback.
So, you get a message that says you have money in your EcoCash wallet but charges will apply if you check the balance. You decide to check how much would be charged and 90 minutes later you still don’t know. It is almost as if they don’t want you to know.
This can’t be right. EcoCash needs to do better.
Please stop it EcoCash
I understand that you may want to encourage users to transact so that you can make money off the balances just sitting on those accounts. However, if you are going to encourage and prompt users to check their balances, you better not charge them when they do.
If you can’t do that, then please, stop sending those messages. We know to check the last messages we got when we last transacted to find out what our balances are. So, we don’t need the confusion that comes when you tell us we have money in our wallets.
We didn’t even touch on how 10c is too much for just a balance enquiry. That’s a different topic for a different day.