UPDATE 8 APR 2010: NAB has investigated my issue after I forwarded a copy of David Williams' ITWire article "No iPad for Aussie journo due to NAB outage" to a senior PR manager Luisa Ford there as an FYI. Ford was immediately apologetic and promised to pass the feedback on to the appropriate business and IT people within the NAB for further investigation. NAB's Email and Resolution Manager, Dawn Leicester wrote the following response to me today after pulling the recording of my call to the bank while in the Apple Store and talking to NAB's IT people:

Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us. I'm sorry to hear that it was such a frustrating one and hope that you were able to purchase your iPad eventually.

In terms of the problem, the advice you were given on Sunday morning was correct. The mainframe is brought down for an hour on the exit from Daylight Savings to avoid issues with time stamping of transactions. Given the timing of the conversion, it's hoped that the impact on clients will be minimal – of course this is not the optimal time for Australians overseas. In an attempt to further minimise the impact, there is an added layer of infrastructure in place which allows ATMs to provide cash to customers up to daily limits and for credit cards to provide auto approval of transactions up to a limit. I have, however, been advised that the company that provides our credit cards support also had their systems down for the daylight savings change. This certainly didn't help things.

I have raised the issue of communicating the outage to clients and been advised that this has never been done. We are now reviewing this policy and looking at the best way for such communication to occur. I understand your point and your annoyance at the lack of advice having been caught in a similar situation while overseas a few years ago.

Dan, I really appreciate your feedback and I apologise for your less than satisfactory experience and for the disappointment that you must have felt. I have passed on the feedback to the technical areas with a request that consideration be given for proactive communication prior to planned outages such as this.

If I can assist you further, please contact me on either the phone numbers or email address below.

That is what I would call a very well researched and balanced response — and I appreciate it.  For those who don't know the end to the story, I did eventually get the iPad — one for me and one for my employer. If I hadn't thought to call the 24 hour lost cards hotline, I might have given up, but fortunately the lost cards operator advised that the system would be coming back up within 45 minutes or so. So, I waited in the Apple Store theatrette and watched the same presentation about the virtues of the iPad from two Apple Store employees, the first of whom was almost crying with joy to be touching and demonstrating the device (he ended his presentation with "I think this has been a really great opportunity for me…"). Finally, the transaction went through after the very patient Apple Store sales guy came back to me several times, even after Apple's computer system had marked my card as a "fraud alert". So, all's well that ends well. Obviously, I'm a lot calmer now than I was when I wrote the post below inside the Apple Store San Francisco!

ORIGINAL POST: Trying to use my NAB Visa debit card in the Apple Store San Francisco today — declined, declined, declined! Even though I know there's plenty of money in the account.

After wrestling with NAB's pathetic call centres that are all only open during business hours, I finally get through to the lost cards line, which is open 24 hours.

Oh, there's no problem with the card, sir, the operator says — it's just that we're updating all our computer systems for daylight savings and so all our card transactions, internet and telephone banking systems are down.

Sure, it's 3.00am in Sydney, but it's 10am here in San Francisco where I am — and that coincides perfectly with the timing of when Apple iPads go on sale. Worse, I can't leave the store and go to an ATM to withdraw money because (a) I'd have to queue up again for hours and (b) I wouldn't be able to withdraw money anyway due to NAB's stupid outage.

The worst thing is that this was obviously a planned outage, but there was no advance warning from NAB — I didn't get an email from them, and if you try to use internet banking or telephone banking, it just says that the systems are down due to technical errors.

I think it's time that I switched to a more technically competent bank with easily accessible 24 hour customer service. This is really unacceptable.

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