19th Century Banking

I had another nightmare experience with Cambodia Public Bank today.

One of my least favorite endeavors in Cambodia is going to a bank, any bank. It is an experience of inefficiency from the late 1800s, made even more ridiculous because now they use computers to perform so badly . To their credit, the branch manager did call me a few days ago and said that because I had not made a transaction with my account for almost a year, I would incur a $10 bank surcharge, but that I could come in this week still to make a deposit or withdrawal and avoid the fee.

What she didn’t acknowledge is that the reason I hadn’t made a transaction is that the bank canceled my ATM card without telling me and then said I had to pay $5 to get a new card, a debit card which I don’t want. Because it is such a pain to go into the bank and because now I don’t have an ATM card, I haven’t used the account.

Today I went in to make a withdrawal to avoid the surcharge. I arrived at 1445 and got a number ticket, #2016. There were 13-14 people sitting in chairs waiting to be called and that number stayed consistent the whole time I was in the bank. Behind the counter there were six bank staff. In front of the counter, being waited on, was one person. My number was called at 1510. It took an average of five minutes to deal with each customer at the counter, one by one.

I gave the teller my completed withdrawal form. She asked me to sign it on the back, where there is no place for a signature, even though I had signed it in the required place on the front. Then my withdrawal slip had to be stamp, approved, and authorized by three people! The teller then took out a $100 bill to give to me but first she ran it through a bill-counting machine. Not too surprisingly it registered that it had counted one $100 bill and it printed out a receipt to that effect. Then I had to sign that receipt, after which the teller gave me the $100 bill. It took 31 minutes to accomplish that.

Why do Cambodian banks have waiting rooms full of chairs? Why are they full of people waiting, waiting, waiting for one, two, three, or more trips to the counter? Why can’t a person go in for a deposit or withdrawal and be out in five minutes like in the US? Why do customers need to sit down if they are not negotiating a loan?