A good friend who follows this blog but never comments, made an observation recently that over the years, my attitude to life in China has become more positive and I moan a lot less than I used to. Well Nicholas, all that’s about to end.
For some reason I can’t access my bank account from the internet anymore and I have lost my bank book which would provide a history of my earlier transactions, so this lunch time I headed to the bank to accomplish to very simple missions:
1. To get a replacement bank book.
2. To have my online banking password reset.
The branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC) close to my office has a novel queuing system. Everyone sits – yes, sits – in a queue consisting of 4 rows of about 8 chairs. When one counter is free, the person at the front of the line goes to be served and everyone (yes, about 30 people) moves along one seat. Call me whacky, but I think a simpler system would be to issue tickets on entering the bank, then everyone could sit in the same seat till their number comes up.
After queuing for about 30 minutes (half my lunch hour) it was my turn to be served. Here’s the dialogue:
WoAi: Good afternoon kindly looking bank clerk, I would like to reset my internet password please.
Bank Clerk: We don’t do that here.
WoAi: Oh, where should I go for that?
Bank Clerk: That counter over there at the back.
WoAi: Oh, I see. Forgive my foolishness. There is one other small matter you can help me with. I have lost my bank book. Can I have a new one please?
Bank Clerk: No, sorry we don’t do that here.
WoAi: Oh I see. And which counter should I line up at to replace my bank book?
Bank Clerk [shouts across to another bank clerk]: Where do they issue bank books?
Bank Clerk #2: He Nan Road, by Ning Bo Rd.
Bank Clerk #1 [speaking to WoAi]: You have to go to He Nan Rd, by Ning Bo Rd. We can’t issue bank books here.
WoAi [looking surprised]: Oh, I see. You really can’t just give me a new bank book here and save me a taxi ride in the remaining 10 minutes of my lunch break?
Bank Clerk #1: Bu ke yi (meaning no, we can’t).
So, 100% failure at my first attempt. I head over to the counter for changing internet passwords.
WoAi: Hello, I’d like my online password reset please.
Clerk: Please fill out this form.
WoAi [after filling out said form]: There you go.
Clerk: Did you apply for online banking at this branch or did you apply online?
WoAi: I applied online.
Clerk: Oh, then we can’t reset your password, sorry.
WoAi: Oh I see, so what should I do?
Clerk: Well, we can cancel online banking and then you can apply again here.
WoAi: Ah, yes, well, okay that seems like a good idea, especially since it appears to be the only option.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, the issue isn’t just how difficult and long winded the procedures are (and trust me when I say they are long winded), it’s also the attitude of the staff who will only answer the specific questions you ask and will not offer a solution unless you specifically ask. Inexplicably, when I asked to get a new bank book, she simply said she can’t do it. She did not tell me where I can get this done until I asked. The fact that there is a special location for replacing lost bank books just adds to the misery.
Things in China are improving all the time and some things here are way better than they are in other parts of the world. Banking isn’t one of them!