Cashpoint Flashpoint

Dear Mum,

Sorry to mention the word ‘bank’ again so soon after last Friday’s Letter, but I thought I’d better write about this while it’s still fresh in my mind.

When I opened my bank account here in Cyprus, the only bank in the village where I was living was the Bank Of Cyprus, so there was no decision to be made.

When I moved into my apartment in Larnaca, I discovered that of all the banks I could have chosen on the island, the Bank of Cyprus was the most inconvenient as far as cashpoint locations are concerned.

The two nearest Bank Of Cyprus cashpoints are both about a ten minute walk in opposite directions, whereas there are loads from which to choose belonging to other banks much closer. And you wouldn’t believe the number of times that I go to one of the machines and it isn’t working, so I have to walk all the way to the other one.

I’ve often thought about switching banks, purely for convenience, but to be honest I’m rarely under any time pressure  –  everything is so relaxed and laid-back here  –  and the exercise can’t harm me, so I’ve left things the way they are.

But it would be nice sometimes if there was a cashpoint a bit closer, especially as neither of them are actually on the way to any of the watering holes that I frequent.

– – – – –

Whenever I venture forth from my apartment, I usually just walk in a straight line down towards the shops and the seafront.

If I turn left instead, it takes me to some traffic lights a quarter of a mile away. I rarely go in that direction. The last time was probably March at a guess.

If I head towards the seafront when I leave my apartment and turn left at the first junction I come to, the road goes off at an angle back up towards those traffic lights.

With me so far?

I had occasion on Tuesday to turn left from my apartment and head for those traffic lights and beyond. On my return, I needed to get to the town centre, so I walked down the road that comes in at an angle. That was when I realised that I’d never actually walked along that particular stretch of road before. There were a whole load of shops that I’d never seen before, right on my doorstep. Quite bizarre. Some useful shops too.

But what made me stop and do a double-take was a branch of The Bank Of Cyprus, complete with cashpoint, nestling on a street corner. Two minutes walk at the outside from where I live. From where I’ve lived since the beginning of November.

It’s only taken me nine months to discover it !

– – – – –

So I thought I’d use my handily convenient, newly found cashpoint on Wednesday. I checked my balance via the internet, and went to draw out some money. Mindful of that previous occasion which I wrote about last week, I took my passport with me this time, just in case.

I put my card in the machine and said,

Please may I have £100, nice Mr. Cashpoint. Thank you.

No! Bugger off! You’ve only got £7.73.

LIAR! GIVE ME MY MONEY, YOU SELFISH BASTARD!

[ pounds machine with fists in desperate rage ]

But Mr. Cashpoint was intransigent. Wouldn’t let me have a cent.

This happens so often that I’m getting really fed up with it. I’ve found that by persevering with it and continuously punching in the same information, eventually it realises that you haven’t seen the funny side of its little joke, and it relents and gives you the money.

Not this time however. I tried for about ten minutes to no avail.

Nothing for it really. Have to go inside the bank and risk an argument. Why not? Hadn’t had one for a while. And it was a nice day.

The bank was empty except for two male tellers seated behind the open-plan counter.

Yes?”, said one of them.

I explained the problem. I thought I was very polite, considering…

Ok. Just a minute.

And he carried on with what he’d been doing  –  sorting through a pile of cheques  –  while the other teller sat there watching him.

So presumably this is Bank Of Cyprus policy. Leave the valued customer standing there building up a good head of steam, while you carry on with a menial task that could be done at any time, and don’t refer the customer to your colleague who has absolutely nothing to do.

Fascinating!

Eventually he put aside his pile of cheques and reluctantly turned to my problem, asking with a huge sigh,

How much did you try to withdraw?

One hunfred pounds.

He looked on the computer and saw presumably that there were more than sufficient funds in the account.

So what’s the problem?”, he said with a strong flavour of ‘why are you wasting my time you stupid foreigner?

I showed him the balance statement of £7.73 which was the only thing the lying, cheating excuse-for-a-cashpoint would let me have, and said,

The machine gave me this.

He shook his head,

It shouldn’t do that.

The way he said it made it sound like it shouldn’t have given me a statement because I didn’t deserve one, but I guess he meant it shouldn’t give me the wrong balance.

Do you have some ID?

Here we go.

No!”, I said. “But my signature’s on the back of the card.

I’ve no idea why I said that. I don’t know why I didn’t show him my passport which I’d taken along especially for such an eventuality. We really need to bring in my team of psychiatrists at this point for an evaluation of my deliberately obstructive behaviour. But I had the passport in reserve if he erected a brick wall.

Unlike my previous experience, he didn’t seem too bothered, and counted out the money.

I was just thinking what a jolly nice chap he was when he said,

I shall have to charge you 32 cents.

I wish I‘d had more time. I really do. A miscellaneous charge of 32 cents for withdrawing my own money from my own bank account is something I would dearly have loved to have taken issue with, as you can well imagine. Manna from heaven! But I’d already wasted about twenty minutes on what should have been a simple cash withdrawal from an ATM, and I had things to do. AND I almost had the money in my hands. Best not to rock the bank.

So I let it go  –  for now!

But I so hope the same thing happens again on another occasion, when hopefully I’ll have more time to indulge my favourite hobby…

 

©MPB 24/August/2007

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