Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bank VIPs

At Chinese banks, you don't stand in line. You get a number and sit in a waiting area until your number is called. I'm just a regular customer, so all my numbers start with A. I come in and hand my card to the employee, the employee swipes my card and gives me a slip that says, maybe, A-022. Then I sit down and see that the customer currently being helped had number A-019. You might think that means there are only two people between me and being helped. But the order in which your number is called is not necessarily related to the order in which you entered the bank. Other customers are VIPs, and their numbers start with V. A number starting with V gets priority; a number starting with A only gets helped if the clerks have nothing else to do.

I mentioned to a guy at church that I'd like to be a VIP customer, but I don't know how one qualifies. He said, "You open an account with a large enough balance." I said, "Oh, then I'll never qualify."

Then he said, "Just do what the Chinese do." He then outlined for me how there seem to be so many VIP customers at my bank: a group of friends pool their money and take turns opening bank accounts with the cash. The account only needs to have the large balance at creation; it doesn't require a maintained minimum balance. So everyone's a millionaire for a day, basically, and the large number of bank VIPs is the result.

The result is that the socially-connected end up VIPs and the friendless (and ignorant foreigners) are the ones getting skipped in line.

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