Thursday, June 24, 2004

 
Money, it’s a gas/Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
I've just tried to open a simple checking account at three Hong Kong banks and have found the process akin to trying to join Skull & Bones or the Illumunati. Not that I wasn't warned. A coworker at The Standard had told me she had been asked for four forms of ID when she opened an account here. I've only got two - a passport and a Colorado ID. Oh, and an expired University of Colorado employee ID from a short-lived teaching gig and my Louisville, Colorado public library card, but there's no picture on that one.
What spurred this rash decision to convert my bank from an old pair of shorts in which I was stuffing two forms of Asian currency (Chinese yuan and HK$) and shoving them to the back of a closet for security purposes was a check I'd just received from The Standard. It's not an outrageous amount but it would be a nice start on an account and a way to revive my atrophied ATM skills. And, yes, I need the money.
After waiting in line for about 25 minutes at Bank A (recommended by three out of four expats, the naysayer saying simply "They're scum") and showing the acne-ravaged new accounts clerk my passport to explain why I don't have a HK ID, I was told that I'd need an "Introducer."
"A what?"
"An introducer," she replied. "A person of good standing who has had an account with Bank A for at least a year who will affirm your good character."
"But I'm simply trying to give you money. To. Give. You. Money. Why do I need someone to introduce you do it? Can't I just give it to you?"
Instead she gave me a six page Personal Account Opening Form that included the space for the Introducer to fill out their account number and one for "comments." (I imagined someone like Mrs. Engleman, my 5th grade teacher: "Very bright, but does not perform up to potential. Is a distraction to others.")
There was more items of required information that seemed, shall we say, a bit curious when one is simply trying to open a checking account.
My marital status and education level were two as well as one "for new customers only": "Expected Normal Monthly Activity. Total credits per month, total debits per month, total number of transactions."
Maybe there are people out there who can actually predict and budget their monthly spending habits down to the last 'nth - but they've obviously never been seized with the overwhelming impulse to drop a week's worth of grocery money on a 15-disc box set of Tangled up in Blue Suede: the Dylan-Elvis Sessions or had their budget unexpectedly shot to hell because the transmission dropped out while on the way to the hospital after their child was attacked by a wolf/dog hybrid at 4th grade show and tell.
At Banks B and C I never got as far as the application forms because I don't yet have a Hong Kong ID and/or couldn't produce three months worth of rent and utilities receipts.
"How could I have paid three months worth of rent and utilities without a Hong Kong checking account?" I asked.
This was met with the kind of response that a zen koan might evoke: "What is the sound of one bank account opening when rent is not paid from an account that no one hears at all because it has fallen in the forest." A blank face followed by: "I'm sorry sir, but it's our policy."
So, as it stands I'm back to Bank A searching for an Introducer. Maybe I'll just stand outside collaring random customers, beeseeching them for an introduction to the Dark Mysteries and Enlightened Brotherhood of Hong Kong Banking.




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