Saturday, January 29, 2005

Trying to change money

I must have gotten spoiled by Maureen at the High Street branch of Lloyd's Bank. With her, I simply walk in, hand her my traveler's check and my passport, she fills out a form, and then gives me my pounds. Since this happened so many times (well, three) with no problems, I began to think this was routine.

The first problem is that her particular branch closes at 4:30 in the afternoon. Those of us with jobs requiring us to stay later in the afternoon have difficulty getting there by 4:30. But, there is another Lloyd's branch in Stevenage that is open until 5:00 and is also open on Saturdays.

So, I went in to the other branch of Lloyd's this morning (Saturday) to cash some traveler's checks. The teller looked oddly at the checks, almost as if she had never seen such a thing before. Then she told me that she couldn't cash them because it was a Saturday and Saturday is not considered a work day. Resisting the urge to look about me at the obviously crowded branch and the obviously hard-at-work tellers and then nodding sagely, I looked confused instead. She further informed me that since Saturday isn't a work day, they didn't have an exchange rate. She did point me towards the post office (actually, here, it's 'Post Office™' but that's another issue).

So, I went to the Post Office™ where they have a large, digital display (two of them, actually) showing their exchange rate for both currency and traveler's checks. Ah yes, I thought, this must be a place where they can cash my traveler's checks without looking at my strangely. Silly me. I handed the teller my traveler's checks and my passport and she immediately began to look worried and frantically looking to find someone else in the Post Office™ who could help me. Finding nobody else, she resorted to looking at an instruction card.

"I have to call for authorization," she told me. "Anything over 400." Now, I'm assuming she meant 400 dollars, but I'm not sure. I asked if I could simply exchange $400 rather than $500. Again she looked worried.

"That's up to you, I suppose," she told me, again looking at her instructions.

"How about $300?" I offered, beginning to feel as if I were at some sort of reverse auction. I don't know why, but the $300 seemed to relax her. I signed my checks, she typed a few computer keys, and I got my money.


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