Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cultural Experience

I had a bit of a cultural experience this morning. One of my employees is in India at the moment, and needed me to send him some money. Unfortunately he banks with Bank Of Baroda.

When I came to Dubai my first employer was with Baroda, and I would occasionally have to go there to cash a cheque. The place was always swamped, the bureaucracy archaic, and the queueing horrendous (typical Indian queue, 1 deep and two hundred wide).
I'm a fairly forgiving sort of bloke, so I was prepared to believe that BoB might have improved in the last ten years. They might even have computers.

Wrong. (Well they do have computers, but they're probably only 386s).

I went in, and could not find a counter for Remittances. I asked a lady who did not seem too busy, and we had a difficult conversation. She pretended to misunderstand what I wanted at first and told me to go to the currency exchange house next door. I asked her if I was in BoB and she didn't seem too sure.

Eventually she grasped the idea that I wanted to give them money to deposit in a BoB account in India, and told me to fill in a form. 'Which form?' I ask. She points at the guy next to me. 'One of those'. 'Ah, and where would I get one of those?'. She waved at several stacks of forms. None of them have a title that would give you a clue about their purpose.

By now she has decided that I am a moron, but I go way down in her estimation when I try to fill it in. You would expect to see things like 'recipient's name' 'account number' etc. But no, we have a box labelled 'favouring'. Apparently this is the name of the recipient. The unlabelled box under this is for the account number. After that is a label 'words'. 'Don't put anything there!' says my helpful guide. Eventually it is all done, and I have to go queue to pay the money to a cashier.

The cashier yells at me because I have not filled in the denominations of the notes I am presenting. I explain to her that this is her job. Hmmm.

Anyway, all done, and I go back to the first lady and ask how long the transfer will take. '10 days' she says, with evident glee. I can't believe it.

Back at the car. Oh, I forgot to mention the other great thing about BoB in Dubai - you cannot easily park within half a mile of the building. Back at the car I have look at my receipt, and noticed it is being done as an MT - a Mail Transfer! For goodness' sake. I go back to BoB, which by this time is full of people, but eventually I get to the front of the queue and get them to change it to TT - Telegraphic Transfer'. First lady is shocked. She says 'but you have to pay 80 dirhams for that!', and I say it's not a problem.

Anyhoo, got it changed, and it'll be there in 2 days. But how interesting that this lady sold me the cheap but slow option, and when I queried the intended slowness of the service she did not even think to offer the more expensive but faster service. Hmmm. Not destined for a career in marketing, methinks.