Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Pick a card

Not that long ago, in China, people were paid in cash – most people still are, if they get paid at all.

I remember I had to carry the loot to the bank, spend half a day trying to deposit it, then at least two days trying to withdraw it again. Then they got ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) as opposed to the previous human automatons who didn’t want to take your money then refused to give it back because it was theirs!

The bank I use most, for reasons imposed upon me but not worth recalling, is the rapidly expanding “Rural Credit Cooperative of China” or its subsidiary, “Guangxi Rural Credit Union and Cooperative Bank”, or the Farmer’s Bank as I tend to call it. It only installed ATMs three years ago. Many branches still don’t have such sci-fi devices. But those that do exist tend to work – most of the time. Holidays and weekends can be tricky. Some idiots keep taking all the money out.

(On one memorable occasion not so long ago, in the local headquarters of China Construction Bank, none of the ATMs were working. They had all run out of the folding stuff. When I finally reached the front of the scrum at the window, I asked why they didn’t re-stock the machines.

“We are too busy with all these people!”

The idiots hadn’t worked out that they only reason they were busy was because they hadn’t re-stocked the ATMs.)

Of course, all this newness comes with a price. There is nothing more frustrating than standing waiting for someone to finish their transaction when you are next in line. Many people seem to think that the sign reading “24 hours” refers to the time you should take to complete even the simplest transaction rather than to the times service is available.

HOW TO USE AN ATM (Chinese style)

1. Approach the machine.

2. Spend a few minutes examining the machine to make sure it isn’t a bus, or a telephone, a snack bar, another human being or any form of animal, vegetable or mineral that you haven’t previously encountered.

3. Attempt to use the ATM to play Solitaire, chat with your friends on QQ or download another crap kungfu movie. After all, these are the only functions computers perform.

4. Having assured yourself of that it won’t connect to QQ and is indeed an ATM, you have three choices.

a) realise that this is not what you were looking for and walk away.

b) realise that this is what you were looking for, but just wanted to see one, then walk away

c) realise that this is what you were looking for and continue to step 5.

5. Read what the screen has to tell you. This is usually just the name of the bank (Hey, you could be in the wrong one). Spot where it says insert card.

6. Spend several minutes searching your pockets, wallet, purse, man purse, shopping bag, underpants etc looking for a card.

7. Read both sides of the card to see if it is a bank card and not a loyalty/discount card from the nearest noodle shop. If it is a  card from the noodle shop, insert it anyway. You never know your luck.

8. Insert correct card. Note: If you try to put it in upside down or back to front or sideways it won’t work. Both the card and the machine tell you which way to insert. It’s called “Card Insertion for Idiots” and never was there a more needed instruction.

9. Read what the machine is telling you now. There is usually some kind of security notice. Examine this carefully as if you haven’t seen it a million times before. Then press “continue”.

10. Realise you have pressed “exit” instead of “continue”. Start over.

11. When you successfully manage to press “continue”, the machine asks for your pin number (yes, I know the ‘n’ is for number, thank you).

12. Search your pockets, wallet, purse, man purse, shopping bag, underpants etc for that piece of paper where you noted down the number. If it can’t be found, call your wife, mistress, next door neighbour etc for suggestions or try random numbers.

13. In the highly unlikely event that you manage to enter the correct password, you will be asked what you want to do next. Options include changing your password, checking your balance, and withdrawing cash, among others.

14. Choose as follows:

a) Check your balance.

b) Change your password. Your date of birth is super secure, but for ultra security use 111111. No one else in China has thought of that.

15. Mentally note balance.

16. Press exit by mistake.

17. Start all over again.

18. Fail because you forget your new password. Start again.

19. Having returned to the options screen press the button for withdrawals.

20. When it asks you how much you want, spend a good few minutes considering your likely expenditure over the next day or so. Phone your family and friends to confirm any pertinent details which you may have overlooked.

21. Inform the machine how much you want.

22. Two things can happen now.

a) the unlikely option – the machine will give you what you asked for. In this case, grab the cash within the 30 second limit (funny how they speed up when they see the loot!) then spend at least one full minute examining each and every note to make sure that they are legal tender and of the denomination you prefer (despite the machines only ever giving out 100 元 notes).

b) the likely option – the machine will inform you that you have insufficient funds to meet the request. That is why they let you check your balance, idiot! Start again.

23. Spend approximately ten minutes putting your cash safely away in your pockets, wallet, purse, man purse, shopping bag, underpants etc, re-read the ATM screen in case you have forgotten something.

24. Realise that it is offering you a totally useless piece of paper informing you that you have withdrawn however much cash. The ATM’s never offer to print anything useful, like a balance or list of recent transactions.

25. Hitch up your pants, then start to leave.

26. Remember that you have failed to retrieve your card from the machine and return. Read the entire screen again. Look at the “retrieve card” button for a while in case it changes its mind and suddenly becomes a nuclear launch button.

27. Retrieve card. Stand by the machine putting your card back into your  pockets, wallet, purse, man purse, shopping bag, underpants etc totally oblivious to the homicidal maniac waiting to use the machine next (AKA Me!).

28. Go.


29. Take a friend to the bank with you, then you can enjoy a lengthy debate on the merits of the banking system, the colour of the notes, the appropriate amount to withdraw, the square root of your password number, what will happen if you enter your QQ number, what you had for lunch last Tuesday and other matters of great significance.

30. The ATM’s only allow you to withdraw 2000元 per go, although you can reinsert your card for another 2000元 as many times as you like. So, when attempting to withdraw a million or so to pay for your new house or to bribe the mayor, prepare to go through the cycle 500 times. Also, use a few different cards, thereby increasing your  pockets, wallet, purse, man purse, shopping bag, underpants etc searching time – both for the cards and the alternative passwords. Work your way through the various combinations of cards and passwords until any match.

31. Be surprised and annoyed when it turns out that the ATM doesn’t actually have that much cash. Then line up to see a human being, as you should have done in the first place, prick!

32. In the highly likely event that you have borrowed someone else’s card, call them during the transaction to tell them that you have entered the wrong password so many times that the machine is refusing to play any more and has confiscated the card. Beg them to come immediately to the bank to retrieve it so that you can screw up again.

33. Cry when they refuse, but don’t leave the machine in case it takes pity on you and magically returns the card and decides not to worry you with anything so difficult as a six digit password.

34. Shoot yourself before I do.

COMING SOON: How to use an escalator!

This entry is, in part, inspired by a recent twitter tweet by Sinosplice about standing in line waiting to use an ATM in a Chinese bank. It reminded me of this, which I started some months back, but never got round to finishing.

. This entry was posted on Saturday, November 26th, 2011 at 2:31 pm and is filed under Chinese Banks (Grrr!), Liuzhou Life, Stupidity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Pick a card”

  1. david Says:

    Oh God , how true . I find it helps fantasisng about that that .44 magnum in your belt…..
    Can we have one about check in queues next , could run into volumes ! What is it they have to talk about ?

  2. david Says:

    shoulda’ proof read that…..

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