A Kiwibank customer who racially abused and threatened the Hawke's Bay-based call centre worker who was trying to help him has been reported to police.

The phone call, which Hawke's Bay Today has heard, is the worst the call centre worker has experienced since he arrived in New Zealand from South Africa in 2008.

It starts with the customer calling the chargebacks section of Customer Protection Team over a contract he had signed but had not anticipated would take a fee out of his account.

When the customer realises Sam*, the call centre worker cannot help him, the conversation descends into racial abuse.


The man calls Sam a "useless black c***", among other names. The threats become so strongly worded the call centre worker eventually tells the customer he is reporting him to police.

The customer then says "go on report it you mother****** … I'm going to punch your f***** head in because you're wasting everyone's time … you ain't got shit you f****** n*****".

A Kiwibank spokesperson said the decision had been made to remove the caller as a customer.

It had also helped support the call centre worker in making a police complaint.

The spokesperson said its staff did deal with aggressive and abusive scenarios from time-to-time.

"It is one of our top five critical risks."

Its staff in frontline roles, including those who take customer calls, must complete a "Dealing with Aggressive or Abusive Customer" course every year.

This includes escalation procedure, recommended practices, helpful techniques to solve conflict and useful guidelines to help handle a situation involving an aggressive or abusive person.

"In a situation such as has happened, our people leaders offer support and there are counselling services available.

"They're a great service for providing support after a traumatic incident."

Kiwibank says it has removed the caller as a customer. Photo / File
Kiwibank says it has removed the caller as a customer. Photo / File

It is understood Kiwibank has spoken with the customer since the incident, and he apologised for what he said.

Sam says it's too late for apologies.


It was an ordinary day towards the end of April, six weeks after the Christchurch mosque shootings had brought the nation together in a moment of shared grief.

"It gave me hope to see that," Sam told Hawke's Bay Today .

"And then a few weeks down the line, everybody forgot."

Sam's first abusive call of the day came in at roughly noon. A customer says money's been taken out of his account unlawfully and starts abusing him.

After a lunch break Sam returns to the desk, only to get another call from the same customer, this one even more abusive.

"I was like 'what the heck?' But, you know, tough skin, I shrugged it off."

Sam took a walk, dealt with one more nice customer, and then the very next one was the call that would end with a police report.

"I was in shock that he had the nerve, that he felt okay using [racially abusive language]. I was really disappointed and disgusted but I had to keep my cool and maintain professionalism.

"Even though I said that I would report it to the police, he had that arrogance – it's like, 'nothing's going to happen to me, do it!'

"I decided I'm not going to accept that, no way.

"I'm not going to allow that person to have power over me."


In the immediate aftermath, Sam says one of his fellow employees was dismissive of his concerns about the call.

It's a reaction that infuriated him and his wife, who says it's time for all companies around New Zealand to have a chat about how they deal with racial abuse of staff.

"[The Kiwibank employee] didn't take into context what had actually happened and how it could have affected him because he's from a privileged position," Sam's wife says.

"We all have accents but for me what bugs me is that it's always Sam that is at the heart of it.

"His accent is stronger, he has a different look, he has darker skin – it is visible to everyone that he is different.

"I'm glad that Kiwibank have the support structures for him, but there's more that can be done."

Sam said he felt Kiwibank was leading the way in NZ on dealing with racism with its slogan "Kiwis making Kiwis better' and he said the company had looked after his wellbeing in the aftermath.

A Kiwibank spokeswoman said it was good for the company to hear from Sam what he found helpful and what he hadn't in the aftermath of the comment.


The pair, who fell in love with Hawke's Bay on a trip to NZ in 2007, decided to leave South Africa for a better life.

They are now residents and hope to be NZ citizens by 2020.

Sam says their experience as immigrants in NZ has "an added layer".

"Many do not speak out. There's a feeling it will just lead to further bullying.

"But if I don't say something, there might be somebody out there that has been going through it."

A Human Rights Commission spokesperson said it encouraged anyone who witnessed someone being racially abused, harassed or discriminated against, to proactively support them both at the time and afterwards.

"This could include support in recording the incident, reporting it to the police or lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. We encourage immediate reporting to the police of any incident involving aggressive, threatening conduct in which the safety of the victim or others may be at risk.

Sam says the key for NZ to move into a new era of racial harmony is three words: love, honour and respect.

"If you haven't experience racism yourself, don't comment on what I am going through. That's just it.

"Don't tell me not to take it personally."

*Sam's name has been changed to protect his safety