Sep 22, 2008

Dutch Efficiencies

That would be an oxymoron, if I've ever coined one. I'm impressed how locals can bear with some of the bureacracies here, let alone get anything done. Even more impressively, I'm often told with the shake of the head to bear with it and be patient, as if it's the only possibility, and that it's a virtue to wait and abide on idiocy. Patience certainly has its place, but in Amsterdam, it's absurd. Take my attempts at opening a bank account for example:

1. Go to a bank to open an account, with all your required paperwork. The standard response (I've tried a couple of different banks) is that I need to make an appointment. Seriously, come on now, it's 9am and there's 2 people working in the bank and 0 customers, and I need to make an appointment to come back another day? Where's the logic in that? Do you not want accounts to be opened? Two banks actually asked me to make the appointment by phone because they were unable to make an appointment for some reason (although a 3rd branch did it on the spot for me).

2. Actually open an account. Even though I have the proper paperwork, it takes them an hour to verify that what I have is sufficient, and that's before they begin the process of opening the account. Opening the account takes another half hour, mostly because the bank person (I have no idea what to call him, he seems to amount to a teller, but they don't actually have the teller stalls they have in the rest of the world... they just sit around at their desks doing God knows what) hunts and pecks at the keyboard. Seriously, you have 3 other fingers and opposable thumbs, learn to use them.

3. Wait for the bank card. I don't understand why they can't provide me with the card at the bank when I open the account, especially since I made an appointment in advance. Can't they send the card to the bank when I make the appointment? Can't they at least give me a temporary card, as I've gotten pretty much at every bank in North America?

4. Activate the bank card. Ok, I've waited a little less than a week to actually receive my bank card, but I'm told I need to bring it to a branch to activate it. This sounds like a minor annoyance, but I've failed at least 3 times now. Attempt #1, I'm told I need my passport. Ok, it makes a bit of sense since I used my passport as ID to open the account, but please, I had other photo ID, and the "teller" who opened my account could have mentioned this requirement to save me a trip. Attempt #2, the next day, the branch is closed, with a sign telling me to go to another branch. Heck I was there yesterday, and you could have told me that you would be closed instead of telling me to "come back tomorrow with my passport". #3 Ok, I had to wait past the weekend, so on Monday I give it another shot in the morning and I realize that banks open on Mondays from 1-5pm. Seriously guys, I can understand a case of Mondays, but this is a little out of hand.

I'm no big fan of America, but compared to Dutch banking practices, I wouldn't put my bets on the Euro either. Now if corporate America could throw around some of its weight in a good way and get these European banks to get their acts together.

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