I’ve maintained a savings account with Kotak Mahindra Bank for a few years now, having tried three others before that. While I haven’t had a good experience with any of them, Kotak’s been the least offensive: over time, I’ve managed to build a functional relationship with them and, with a moderate amount of effort, resolved the few major issues I encountered. I do still have smaller problems now and then, though. What I’m about to describe is a perfect example of how frustrating it can be.

I moved my current account from the abysmal IndusInd Bank to Kotak last year based on my family’s reasonably positive experience with our personal accounts. I was pleased that it didn’t require much red tape and that the day-to-day functioning is smoother than at other banks. However, I found it difficult to deal with the volume of messages and emails.

First there are the transactional messages, as with any other bank. Logging into my account on my computer triggers an email and an SMS. Doing anything requires an OTP sent over both email and SMS (out of which only one usually arrives in a timely fashion); Authy and other TOTP applications are simply not an option, presumably because allowing customers to avoid entirely insecure methods of communication wouldn’t suit their security model.

In this way, hopping between my current and savings accounts fills up my Inbox and Messages with repetitive information that I’m unlikely to read. Still, those can be justified on the grounds that they would presumably alert me to any unauthorized access. What’s less defensible are the endless promotional messages I’ve been receiving via email, SMS, and WhatsApp since I opened the current account:

I get at least one message a day across all three media advertising the same few features over and over. It’s enough to drive one mad. Even worse, there’s no way to opt out of the WhatsApp or SMS spam. The emails, in contrast, carry an ‘Unsubscribe’ link; unsubscribingly unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work.

A month ago, I wrote to my relationship managers requesting deliverance from the spam. I assume this email went unnoticed—a frequent occurrence at all the banks I’ve used—as I didn’t receive a reply until I asked again two weeks later. I was told they’d arrange a call for the DND service. I asked for more details as I was concerned this might also stop all transactional messages. They clarified that it would only affect promotional messages, so I confirmed the time and got an acknowledgment.

Earlier this week, I remembered in a quiet moment that the promised call never came, so I asked again, this time in a more irate fashion, and followed that by calling my service relationship manager directly, whereupon I was told they’d been away (the standard excuse) and the person they’d asked to arrange it hadn’t done so (the standard explanation). Ignoring their irresponsible behaviour, I demanded to know why it was necessary to arrange a call in the first place just to stop marketing messages. All they could tell me was that it’s the standard procedure.

We agreed on a time, I received the necessary call from the backend team, and, in a pleasant twist, I was made to verify my identity before I could repeat both the request and my question, which got me the same answer. With some irritation, I submitted a request to have myself unsubscribed. That was three days ago; I’m still receiving spam today. It remains to be seen whether anything will change.

On the whole, I find Kotak’s naked contempt for my time shocking. That includes:

  1. Sending me unsolicited promotional messages in the first place. To be clear, doing it once might have been acceptable, but not with this frequency and repetition.
  2. Providing a non-functional ‘Unsubscribe’ link in the emails. Incidentally, please note that all links in both the emails and the other messages use plain HTTP instead of HTTPS. I assume this is another part of their vaunted security model.
  3. Providing no way at all to unsubscribe from the other messages.
  4. Forcing me to contact my relationship managers just to unsubscribe myself from promotional campaigns, not just once but several times.
  5. Forcing me to waste my time scheduling a call and, when it finally came, making me verify my identity just to confirm that I don’t want to receive spam.

I can’t imagine a clearer way for the bank to communicate how valueless my time is in their eyes.

Two months after my initial email and one month after the enjoyable call with the backend team, all that’s changed is that the WhatsApp messages stopped after I sent a STOP message, which neither the messages nor the backend team had indicated was an option; nothing has changed on the SMS or email fronts:

Six months later, I’m relieved to report that the spam onslaught does indeed seem to have ended in April. I no longer receive any of these promotional messages.