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It's time to stand up for banking

中国日报网 2016-05-26 09:27



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Writer: Murray Greig

From the perspective of an impatient and socially inept Canadian, the main reason for the excruciatingly slow pace of personal banking in China is crystal clear: too much sitting.

You know the drill. As soon as you enter a bank in the misguided belief that your transaction will be completed in a quick and efficient manner, reality kicks you right in the gut.

First, a “greeter” rises from his or her chair to hand you a ticket – like you’re buying bagels at a bakery. The ticket is topped with a service number. Below, in smaller print, it indicates how many customers are ahead of you. That’s when you look around and see them, forlornly perched on rows of molded plastic chairs or uncomfortably low benches.

It looks like the waiting room in a hospital emergency ward.

Every time this scene unfolds, I’m struck by the palpable sense of resignation. Some folks just stare blankly at the screens above the teller cages that flash the next number to be served. Others are transfixed in texting. Sometimes they’re sleeping. Some are reading or engaged in conversation.

But always, they are sitting.

Of course, taking a load off your feet can be a welcome respite on a hectic day, but is it really necessary to perpetuate that pose once your number finally comes up? In Chinese banks, the answer is yes. Not only is the teller comfortably seated, but he or she then gestures for you to plant yourself on the stool on the other side of the glass. It’s like banking at a blackjack table.

The first time I experienced this, I figured maybe the manager would wander over and offer me a cup of tea, or maybe a cookie. There’s never a sense of urgency, and it seems that even the simplest transaction (“Yo! Can you please change these 482 one-yuan notes into real money?”) triggers a mind-numbing sequence of signing and stamping – all from the seated position. The endless repetition distracts you from thinking about the horrible fate awaiting any poor teller who misplaces that little red stamp that seems to miraculously materialize out of thin air.

While the whole let’s-sit-around-and-kill-two-hours mentality of Chinese banking continues to perplex me, it’s nothing compared to the level of frustration I experienced after my debit card was swallowed by an ATM at a hotel in Li Du. While I applaud the bank’s efforts to uphold strict security protocols, being told I might have to wait up to two weeks to access my funds seemed unduly punitive. Why not just cancel the old card and link a new one to the account?

Obviously, the concept of sit-down banking isn’t for everyone, but it has struck a chord in China and no amount of moaning by petulant foreigners is going to change that – nor should it.

I just hope the security guards continue to buck the trend. Some of those guys might get pretty antsy if they were told to take a seat.



It's time to stand up for banking

Greg Fountain is a copy editor and occasional presenter for China Daily. Before moving to Beijing in January, 2016 he worked for newspapers in the Middle East and UK. He has an M.A in Print Journalism from the University of Sheffield, a B.A in English and History from the University of Reading.

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