Friday, 21 December 2007

I hate banks

I hate banks. I hate queues. I hate queues inside banks. Don't get me wrong though. I don't hate queues because I'm inpatient. I don't mind waiting but I hate them because more often than not I want to do something that takes 2 minutes and am forced to stand behind 10 people who all decide they need 20 mins each to do their 'business'. To me that is not fair. So that's why I hate queues. It's a bit like wanting to buy 2 things at the supermarket and standing behind a queue of 3 people, each with a trolley loaded up with 50 things. Same principle, right? They have express queues in supermarkets (well not in Shanghai) why can't they have express queues in banks?! Grrr...

So it's bad enough that I have bank/queue phobia in my hometown, but when I'm in China it's 10x worse since I can't even read much.

Let me backtrack a bit. I amazed at the goodness and honesty of people here. I honestly don't feel that unsafe and feel like I'm going to be robbed or mugged. Generally speaking people are very honest, kind and friendly. Last week I ordered some water bottles to be sent as we had run out. I said I needed them ASAP as there wasn't a drop left. Usually they deliver them in the afternoon. That day I went to the Chinese doctor as I felt like I wasn't getting any better. It just so happened that they delivered the bottles to me while I was out (I didn't think they'd be that quick) and just left 3 of them outside the front door. Now, I had not paid them for this and they left them here (probably more trouble to take them back with them - they are 19 Litre bottles!) and, my neighbours/the cleaners didn't 'steal' them either. So I have a lot of faith that people here are generally 'good'.

Now, my dad decided to order me some asthma medication that his father had taken and had good results with. He thought they were sending them to me C.O.D. and that's what I thought too, except they were sent EMS (EMS seems to be really cheap domestically here.. everything is sent this way and it is super fast). Anyway, so they sent us this box of 20 packets (needed to order a large number since they normally only sell wholesale) and I hadn't paid them a cent. How weird...

The next day, the guy rang up asking me to pay him. He wasn't demanding or rude or anything. He was very friendly sounding. So obviously he had faith in me that I was going to do the right thing and not get away with getting the stuff for free... OK. So I got his bank details and said I'd pay him in the next day or two.

True to my word, two days later (yesterday) I went to his bank. Now, I had no idea where this bank was. I asked my ayi and she told me how to get there. Her instructions were very precise. She said I could catch this bus, and get off, walk across a small bridge and the bank would be right there. I followed her instructions. Crossed the road, caught the bus 6 stops, got off at the stop she told me to, found a bridge that crossed a little creek thing, and there was the bank. Too easy!

Inside, was that dreaded queue. With 20 people in front of me (yes I counted). Yikes! Luckily it seemed to be moving at a steady pace and there were even seats. That's right! A queue with seats arranged bench style so you kinda just shuffled along every few minutes. After 45 minutes it was finally my turn to be served. It seemed like a long time (and there were 3 tellers serving). The lady was rude as. She asked to see my ID. "Oh shit!," I thought. I don't have any ID on me. Only my foreign credit card. I needed my residency permit thingo or a passport. I said, "Is there any way I can do this without it?" and she said "No, you have to go home and come back." and I was like "What?! I'm not going home, coming back, and queueing up for almost an hour again. By that time you're probably gonna be closed..." and she said, "You won't have to queue up again. Just come back to me." But I really didn't want to go home. It wasn't that far, but it would take me around an hour to go there and come back. Ugh.

Finally, she said, "Oh there is a way but you have to round it up to the nearest 50 or 100." Since I had to pay 378, that meant I had to pay them 400. Luckily I had 4 100 RMB notes on me. I said, "I'm from overseas. I can't read Chinese (read: I'm hopeless). Please help me, what do I do?!" She said, "Go over to that security guard. He'll show you what to do." OK so he went outside and I followed him to an ATM where of course there was another queue. Great.

And as if this wasn't dragging on long enough, my bladder decided to speak to me. In fact, it decided to YELL at me. "I need to go to the toilet, NOW!" Great. I asked the guard if there was a toilet inside the bank or nearby and he said, "No, you'll have to go to that intersection, cross the light... What?? I'll never make it. I was busting. Geez. Great timing.

Not knowing what to do, I walked down the road, back over the bridge and came across a restaurant. Yes! Please be open.. thank God they were open (it was not lunch nor dinner time) I waltzed in and found the toilet straight away. I had visions of one of the workers yelling at me for not eating there or something so I did my business and got the heck out of there ASAP. Phew!

Went back over the bridge and back to the bank. The guard was now back inside the bank. I asked him what do I do.. He said, "Is it your turn yet?" (He didn't even know I had gone and thought I was still in that ATM queue). I said, "No.." He pushed me into the queue. There was two guys in front of me and he pushed me to the front of the queue. Weird.. but great! So I wouldn't have to wait much longer. Just my luck the woman in front of me decided to make about 5 transactions which seemed to take forever. I wasn't the only one getting impatient... the guard and the two men behind me were all wondering why she was taking forever.

While I was waiting I noticed the hood on her top. It had some funny Chinglish on it so I took a photo of it (as you do). Then, right at that moment I had this brainwave that I'd take a photo of the screen in case I stuffed up (still paranoid that I would). OK then it was finally my turn. The guard told me what to do, what buttons to press and I took a photo of each of the screens. I had to enter in the guy's bank number (19 digits!) and then his name came up. I matched it up to the one on his business card. Yep, so far so good. Then I put in the 4 100RMB notes. Then it spit out a receipt. Too easy! The guard also told me they charge a 0.5% surcharge so I actually only paid them 398, but that's OK since I only needed to pay 378.

Phew! With that done, I got the hell out of there... On the way to the bus stop I passed this cool looking homewares shop where I just went for a quick browse. This swinging chair looks like fun!

After I went home I noticed more decorations had been put up in our apartment foyer. It's looking very festive...

Not long after I arrived home the guy rang me to ask if I had paid. I told him yep and then he said he would check and ring me back. A few minutes later he rings back and says it's already in there. I'm gobsmacked. I actually did the transaction correctly and it's already in his bank so quickly!

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