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Chilean Frustrations

From: "andrew cooke" <andrew@...>

Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 19:41:31 -0400 (CLT)

Since I posted something positive a while back -
http://www.acooke.org/cute/CultureJam0.html - here's a little balance :o)


This morning I went to pick up my paycheck and make my pension fund
contributions.

First, the paycheck.  MuleSource cable me the money, but, even though they
give my account number, name, etc, the bank doesn't (won't) pay it into my
current account.  Instead, my "account executive" calls me at home
(normally he doesn't, but this month he did, so credit there) to tell me
it has arrived in a central holding account at the bank.  Of course, he's
just my account executive, so he can't actually do anything about that. 
Instead I have to go to a local bank branch in person and talk to a
particular "adviser".

The "adviser" searches through the list of payments that the bank received
in the last month.  Despite having my name and the list being a
spreadsheet, she is unable to find the entry, so fills in a form blind and
sends me to the teller.  The teller - being gifted with the ability to
search - can find the money, but it's not the right value so I have to
return to the "expert" to get a new form filled in.  Then back to the
teller who transfers the money.

Of course, I can't spend it yet.  That was just a transfer into a dollar
fund.  To get the money in Chilean Pesos I have to request a transfer. 
That requires an extra day - I request transfer one day and then have to
return the next.  But for today my time at the bank is done.  And, while
inefficient and generally incompetent, no-one actually said anything that,
well, wasn't quite true.

OK, so errands half-way complete I go try to make my pension contribution.
 The pension company is owned by a bank, but I can't pay at the bank
because I am not a member of the bank, only a member of the pension fund. 
So I have to go to a separate "paying in" place, which has a 40minute
queue (oh, and my own bank won't accept payment either - I tried that and
they looked at me like I was some crazy fool).

I queue and wait and eventually get to the front of the line.  The teller
here doesn't recognise the form.  He asks one neighbour and then another. 
No-one knows what to do (maybe this form is not suitable for paying
through banks?  I wondered that too, so I asked a pensions fund adviser at
the bank where I couldn't make the payment and she said any bank should
accept it...).

The tellers are discussing my form.  Eventually one of the tellers has a
bright idea.  He points out something on the form.  They all nod in
agreement and my teller returns to the glass window.  He's sorry, but I
have a crossed out letter in my address (I made a spelling mistake) so
they cannot accept the form.  Yep.  They didn't know how to process the
form so they found an excuse to reject it.  It's surreal.  They could see
I could see they didn't know what to do.  It's obvious it's just a face
saving measure.  But how can it be face-saving when it's clear they're
lying?  Doesn't there have to be some level of plausibility?

I ask if they have another form I can fill in.  Nope.

So I leave.  Further down the street is an office for a different pension
company.  I go in and ask for an appointment.  I'm given a ticket and have
to wait for another 45mins.  Eventually I get to see someone.  She's
reasonably helpful.  Yes, I can transfer my pension fund here at no cost. 
She explains how to pay (and in this case the little payment form they
have is accepted only by Bank of Chile and ServiPag (a payment booth
chain), but at least she is up-front and explains this instead of lying
(I'm sorry, I'm not supposed to use the word "lying" when Chileans say
things that aren't true because it offends my Chilean partner, but
sometimes it's difficult to find a suitable euphemism)).

So I sign up to move the account and am handed a paper I don't recognise
saying I have agreed to not accept a security PIN.  I ask what that means
and she explains it is to save "bother".  So I ask various questions,
getting more and more confused.  Eventually I find the right question -
"how would I get a PIN in the future?" and she says I would need to return
and fill in the forms.  So I ask why I can't fill in the forms now
(instead of having to come back later and wait another 45mins in a queue)
and she agrees that would be possible, so I fill in those forms too...

Eventually everything is signed (including thumb prints because a
signature is not enough here, even when accompanied by my compulsory photo
ID - you might think that's driven by Chile being populated by lying
bastards but of course that would be unfair and culturally insensitive). 
I leave to go shopping.  Oh look - long queues at the supermarket too...

Walking home, I wonder if they will manage to move the funds.  I reckon
there's about a 50:50 chance something will go wrong.   It's such fun
living here.

Andrew

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