Friday, July 31, 2009

Flashback Friday: Banking in Switzerland

A long time ago, I lived for a few months in Geneva, Switzerland, and came to know and love the city.

A few years later (in the mid-1970's), I worked for awhile at a Swiss bank in Geneva.

A decade later, in 1987, on a Friday as it happened, I was checking into a hotel in Geneva.

The hotel didn't accept credit cards. Moment of panic. But, wait, no problem. All I needed was to find an ATM and do a cash withdrawal. But (unlike everywhere in the UK and France) the city did not have a single ATM! More panic. But wait, no problem. Just find a bank and get a cash advance.

The only problem was that none of the nearby banks accepted credit cards.

I was very surprised. Swiss banking has such a reputation, but they weren't up to (the then) modern standards in the credit card area. The banks were all very luxurious and classically furnished. But, it was clear there were two banking systems: the modern and the traditional.

As the afternoon wore on and bank closing time loomed, I got more and more panicky. Finally, I found a bank that had a relationship with a bank somewhere else who could do it for me. Got across the city just in time, got an advance, and was able to pay for the hotel for the weekend. Whew!

Now, fast forward to the present. I was reminded of this when I tried to stop an automatic transfer at my current bank. This isn't one of the transfers that I can manage myself at their internet site, so I phoned. After identifying myself and asking about the transfer, I asked if I had caught it in time to stop the next one (tomorrow). The girl said, "Oh, no, we need fourteen days."

Fourteen days?!? The Internet website has gotten me used to quicker responses. Fourteen seconds* would have seemed too long to wait.

So, 22 years later, again on a Friday, I discover that there are still two banking systems, even here in America. The modern one and the traditional one.
*Coincidentally, the phone call itself took 14 minutes (much of it on hold).


David said...

And it is such a pain to get money to Canada. You can do it for free to Mexico, but Canada costs $35!

Myrna said...

Even to do a wire transfer from a Canadian bank to a Canadian bank costs a minimum on $20. Auntie Colleen called and asked.

Did you find a solution to your problem, Bruce, or was there no work-around for the 14 days?