Monday, August 25, 2014

check mate

I should use this as essay material for tomorrow, but I hope to have other news for you then.  More important news.

One of my tasks this morning was to deposit the Tricare check in my Mexican checking account.  I stopped at Rooster's, my usual breakfast haunt right across the street from the bank, and placed my order.  While it was cooking, I decided to walk over to the bank and deposit the check. 

After all, what could take much time?  The check was in pesos.  The greatest variable was how many people would be in line on a Monday morning.  Usually, a lot.

But, not today.  I walked right up to the cashier window and presented the check (along with my account information) to the teller.  He looked at it as if it was a piece of trash I had found in the street.

I told him I would like to deposit it in my account.  Same look.

He called over another teller who usually deals with customer service matters.  Same look.  She then told me I would need the manager's approval before she could process the check.

No problem.  I know Gregorio well.  He was one of the first people I met when I moved down in 2009.  But he was busy with another customer.

One lesson I learned long ago was that everything has a sequence.  In this case, I needed to return to Rooster's to eat my egg sandwich.  Once that was done, I headed back to the bank.

I mistakenly believed getting Gregorio's approval meant his initials on the corner of the check, and that would be that.  But not so.

Mexico is still very much a cash society.  The fact that I call my bank account a checking account would be a matter of amusement to most Mexicans.  It is more like a non-interest savings account.  The bank has never bothered to send me checks.  Why should it?  No one in town accepts checks for payments.  Thus, there is a great deal of mistrust when a check is presented for payment.

Gregorio was in the vault when I returned.  The teller took the check to him.  I did not look at my telephone, but she must have been gone for close to ten minutes.  When she returned, she asked me to have a seat -- telling me that the process would take at least 30 minutes.

It did.  Actually, it took almost 45 minutes. 

I am not certain what she did during that time.  Maybe she contacted the other bank to ensure the funds were there.  After all, the United States government is know to be quite the debtor. 

A darker version of that tale would go like this.  She actually deposited the check on my first encounter with her.  All of the rest was merely street theater to see how any tricks she could get the old Gringo dog to perform.

What struck me as odd was that she never asked for my passport, something the tellers have done with every prior deposit or withdrawal.  And she did not require me to sign the back of the check.

But this is Mexico.  Banking regulations are a lot different than the habits I learned up north.  In this case, I am not certain one process is better than the other.  I simply know one better, but I am learning this new one.

The good news is that the funds are now in the bank, and I had an adventure (plus a great breakfast sandwich) to start my day.

And I now know something new.  I am going to request all future Tricare checks be denominated in dollars.  That way, I can deposit them using my telephone.  That is, of course, until the regulators in Washington discover another practical bit of life to spike.

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