Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

The Blank of China

The only reason that I am not a multi-billionaire is that I suffer from that debilitating disease, desidiosus totus or complete laziness. There is hardly a day goes past without some foolproof money making scheme popping into my head. But I never get round to putting them into action. So, in a moment of astonishing generosity, I have decided to pass one on. First come, first served.

In order to make loads of money, open a noodle delivery service inside each and every branch of the Bank of China. What could be simpler? And more likely to succeed. You have a captive customer base (with money – why else would they be there?). The average transaction time in the Bank of China is around six hours so everyone gets hungry! Imagine all those customers waiting while the bank clerks stamp 827 separate bits of paper and glue them together before passing them to another clerk to undo them, count them, convert to binary, then glue them all back together again before double checking the answer on both the computer and abacus, then handing them all back to the first clerk who has unfortunately wandered off to chat to her boyfriend on the telephone.

Imagine how hungry those customers are!

All this is to make a simple deposit. If you value your sanity, never, ever attempt to withdraw your money. Yes, I know you think it’s your money, but someone forgot to tell the bank staff.

I had just about totally given up on the Bank of China. I first opened an account with them some time ago. It only took three days (that is three days of being in the bank from morning till night). The next time I went to the branch to carry out some transaction or other I was told that I had the wrong kind of account. So we closed the first one and opened a second. The next time I went to the branch to carry out some transaction or other I was told that I had the wrong kind of account. So we closed the first one and opened a second. The next time I went to the branch to carry out some transaction or other I was told that I had the wrong kind of account. So we closed the first one and opened a second.

No, your computer hasn’t gone mad. This really happened. Eventually, I told them to give me my money and leave me alone!

A while back it became apparent that when China entered the WTO, certain changes were inevitable. Among these, was that the banking system would have to be modernised pretty rapidly before western banks came and cleaned up. Most of the banks have got their acts together to a greater or lesser extent. I know this because I have accounts with most of them!

They still have some way to go. Despite all the banks being state owned, they cannot work together. For example, I have to pay my electricity bill in the Construction Bank where the electricity company have their account. I have to withdraw cash from my Agriculture Bank account and deposit it into my Construction Bank account from which the electric company extract what they require in a simple type of direct debit system. The other utilities all have separate accounts in various banks. There is no way I can set up direct debits from my main account.

Despite my attempted break with the Bank of China, I was required to make a visit last week. They are still the only bank in Liuzhou which are authorised to deal in foreign currencies and I had a few pictures of Lizzy which I wanted to change for pictures of the Chairman.

As always on visiting the bank, I packed a weekend bag, several days worth of emergency rations and enough water to drown a camel. Oh, and I grabbed my passport. And the cash I wanted to change.

There are several branches of the Bank of China in the city, but not all deal in foreign currency, so I have to walk past the nearest branch and head to the city centre. Fortunately there isn’t much of a queue. In fact, there is no queue at all. There is a scrum of people around the tellers’ windows, but fortunately not too large a scrum.

This is another way in which the Bank of China is falling behind. The Agriculture Bank and Construction Bank branches which I regularly use have introduced ticketed queuing. You get a numbered ticket and take your turn. It is catching on, although you still get the occasional fat, self-important jackass with his trousers tucked under his armpits and a fat bunch of keys hanging from his belt who charges through the doors and up to a teller demanding to be served immediately whether or not that teller is busy with a customer. Great amusement follows as the stupid jerk is told to go get a ticket and wait! Major loss of face! Ha! ha!

Back at the Bank of China it is every man for himself. Eventually I catch someone’s attention. She takes my pristine pounds and my passport. She taps something into her computer and flicks a few counters on her abacus.

“Where is the copy?”

“What copy?”

“The photocopy of the personal details page of your passport.”

“I am sorry, but in all my years in China and all the times I have changed money, I have never been asked for a photocopy before. Did you suppose that somehow I received a telepathic message from the Bank of China when the policy changed?”

Actually, I didn’t reply but merely groaned and said that I was without that particular document.

“Well, you better go get one.”

“OK,” I replied reluctantly, “Give me back my cash and passport.”

She hands me my passport but announces that she will keep the cash. I remonstrate. Give me my cash or a receipt.

“I can’t do that. I have started the transaction.”

“Well, I’m not leaving the bank without my cash or proof that you have it.”

“Impossible.”

We go on like this for a while. I suggest that if they really want a photocopy they should make one.

“We don’t have a photocopier!”

A major branch of the Bank of China – no photocopier! But they demand photocopies!

Eventually, after lunch and a lie down, they decide to send a minion across the street to the local photocopy shop with my passport. She returns around supper time with the required copy.

My teller slaps away at her computer for a while, glues bits of paper together, etc. then hands everything to another teller. He then hands me two forms.

“Please complete the forms.”

I examine these forms, the like of which I have never seen before.

Form A asks a few questions.

  1. Full name and date of birth
  2. Country, Region and Place of Birth
  3. Present Address
  4. Present Phone Number
  5. Passport or travel document details
  6. I.D. No.
  7. Agent
  8. Telephone Number
  9. Passport or travel document details of agent
  10. I.D. No of agent
  11. Reason for travelling to China
  12. Amount and Method SALE/CASHING/TRANSFER/OUTWARD REMITTANCE (Tick the box)
  13. Transaction Account CAPITAL ACCOUNT/TRADE SETTLEMENT/ OTHER CURRENT ACCOUNT (Tick the box)
  14. Signature
  15. Date
  16. Remarks
  17. Signature of Bank Teller
  18. Date

FORM B repeats most of these questions but adds the classic

“What do you want this RMB for?”

“BECAUSE, SURPRISING AS IT MAY SEEM, CHINESE SHOPS DON’T ACCEPT BRITISH POUNDS!” and “MIND YOUR OWN FRIGGING BUSINESS!” are the first two that pop to mind.

I write “to spend” and they hand over the precious pink pictures of Mao.

Do they really expect every tourist coming to China to go through this moronic procedure for every money change? Are they completely insane?

Possibly.

Anyway, I’m glad I’m not a multi-billionaire. I’d have to keep it in a bank!

. This entry was posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2005 at 8:30 pm and is filed under Chinese Banks (Grrr!), Humour, Stupidity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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