Friday, April 9, 2010

The Logic of French Banking

Ages ago I ranted about my inability to break a 50 euro bill at a French bank, a bank at which I am a paying client. (Yes, there's really no such thing as free banking in France. But maybe that's the way things are going all over.) Since then, I've heard other expats with the same beef, boiling over with frustration at ATMs that dispense 50 euro bills like candy, bills that if presented at your local boulangerie, news kiosk, or grocery will be met with raised eyebrows, pursed lips, and request for a smaller bill.

But then this week, I heard another story that got to me to thinking. An acquaintance, who is the treasurer for a local volunteer organization, was explaining that her bank will not allow her to deposit cash. Actually she used to be able to make deposits but during a recent renovation, the branch lost its facilities for securing large sums of cash. So "checks only" is now the order of the day; if she must deposit cash, she has to go to the one location near the Opera (one of the most touristy areas of Paris and one where pickpockets are hard at work) to do so. Yes, that's right. A bank that doesn't accept cash because apparently it doesn't have a real safe.

Aha! It was a light bulb moment. They can't give you cash because they haven't got any. Makes sense right?

Perhaps only in some alternate universe that we will just call "France."

On further reflection, it was one of the moments when I realized that while I am slowly beginning to understand how this country works, I still don't get it.

11 comments:

Ksam said...

That's become my way of dealing with all of the frustrations of living here - ie. finding out the WHY behind it. Everything that seems so odd or backwards to us at first usually ends up having a fairly logical explanation behind it - you just have to take the time to figure out what it is! :)

Suburban Princess said...

That would drive me nuts! What are people supposed to do with their cash?

Christine Amorose said...

I'm moving to Nice in a few weeks, and the French banking system terrifies me. Glad to know I'm not the only one who is frustrated by it!

debbie in toronto said...

ha ha...I work in for a bank here in Canada....we don't even want cheques any more...wire transfers please....cheques are going the way of the dodo...

bonne weekend Anne

Starman said...

I can honestly say, I've never had a problem when paying with a large bill. And lately, the ATMs I've used only dispense €20 bills.

Miss Brodie said...

Have you ever been to Germany? They don't like credit cards so the EU actually produces a 500 Euro note so they can pay for just about everything in cash. Have lived here a long time and would recommend la Poste (now la Banque Postale). It works like Banks used to years ago, with real people in your own branch who talk to you on the phone ... really!
This is a great blog by the way!

jonnifer said...

My favorite are the limits on bank cards. I first learned about this when I was out of the country for an extended period and using my bank card for everything. I got the limit raised as high as allowed when I got back, only to run into problems again while trying to buy a plane ticket in the US last month. I appreciate the concern, banks, but trust me, I really do want to spend my own money!

The Duchess said...

Another lovely advantage of the 50euro note is that they are the most conterfeited.... I've withdrawn at least two in the last two years that even the bank tell me are fake. Adds to why so many people are weary of them, I guess...

Just Another French Name said...

Each country has its own silly ways of dealing with money. When I came to the US I got realy frustraded when I realized I could not pay my bills in the ATM machine, like I used to do in Brasil. There, all the bills come with a barcode, and we can pay either in the supermarket or atm, or online... and there is no need to pay 3 days in advance. Ow, yes! And I can choose the bills due date, so I loose just one day dealing with the bills...
I guess we have to breath in slowly and relax; nothing is perfect, anywhere.

Jean Paul said...

Please remember that in my country, consumers must come second to service providers. It's the way things work and we like it. When I came to live in England, I was upset that things got done quicker. It means you have less time to enjpy the slow pace of life.

ParisBreakfasts said...

Since my bank in NYC will now only give me the annoying 50 euro notes, I've decided I shall be spending a 'penny' several times at those new terribly efficient 1 euros bathrooms opened recently at the Louvre and Printemps.
Not thrifty but what's a girl to do?

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