If only the banks were as advanced as this.
Want to travel in Taiwan? You don't need expensive equipment or new theories of time and space. You just have to go to your local bank, where it is still 1961.
Went into the bank today to deposit (note: not cash) a US$1000 check from my mother. We've deposited checks from overseas with them many times during our nearly 15 years with that bank. I sign the check and then we fill out the onerous and unnecessary paperwork. A waste of time, but like all Taiwan procedures, if all the proper papers are filed, eventually you get what you want.
Not today. First, the teller informs us that we have never done that before. She was very polite and apologetic. "We have no record of any checks from you." Patiently we explained. Finally, after much back and forth in which we identified dates of specific checks, and conferencing between several employees, and, no doubt, viewing the intestines of slaughtered chickens to see whether the auguries were positive, they did indeed find the records.
Then they told us, which much apology, that we would need a third person guarantor. New rules, ya know.
Let's put that in perspective. We're depositing a check -- we won't be able to use the money til the check clears. If there is a problem, it's a check. No money comes in, bank loses nothing.
And think about this: if I want I can swipe my credit card from this bank, which I have had for 15 years, for many times the amount of that check, and I don't need a guarantor. I can pick up the phone and ask them to enlarge or reduce the amount of credit on the card. I don't need a guarantor.
But I can't deposit a check without a guarantor?
"How about my wife?" Nope.
"But we've been customers here for 15 years! Steady, no problems! This is an insult!"
My wife and I look at each other. Who are we going to invite into our financial business? Who can come down during working hours to guarantee a check for us?
"Who can we use for a guarantor? Is my father in law ok?"
First they couldn't really define who an acceptable guarantor would be, except that it had to be a Taiwan citizen. Finally they agreed my Dad in law would be ok.
That's right. Two people, one a citizen, both with identifiable and legal incomes and assets, can't sign a check which they've done 100 times before. But an 87 year old retiree on a fixed income in ailing health, that's no problem.
As my wife said in consolation as we headed out the door, "Lucky we weren't trying this India."
Taiwan is not quite that primitive. But for a mighty trading nation, the banking system is incredibly backward, especially when it comes to foreigners. Everyone has their own horror story, but the real problem isn't the occasional horror story, but the fact that everyday activities like this are so time-consuming, bureaucratized, and difficult to use...
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