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สิงหาคม 2550
6 สิงหาคม 2550
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Service with a - crocodile - smile...

I had to get a new ATM card yesterday, to replace the one I lost on Friday night. A fairly straighforward task... or so I though.

The bank doesn't shut till 4.30 but when I mentioned to someone that I needed to leave school at 4 o clock on Monday, so that I could get there before closing time, they laughed and suggested that I leave at 3.

3 o'clock came around. The Thai teachers were no where in sight and I checked with my English boss that was it OK to sneak out early. 20 minutes, 2 motoribike taxis, and a green bus later, I'm stood outside my bank. It was exactly 20 past 3. I walk in and look for the little machine that prints out your queue number. I'm just about to hit the button when I hear 'Excuse me, can I help you.'
'Sure,' I say 'I need a new ATM card.'
'ATM machine, outside please.'
'Its OK. I don't need the ATM machine, I need a new card. I've lost my card.'
'Then you need to call 1551.'
'I called them already. I called them on Friday night when I lost my card.'
'Then you need to go to your branch.'
'This is my branch.'

The woman looked gobsmacked for a moment or two then told me 'you - sit down - here' I sat down, and waited. Then I waited, and waited and waited some more. Eventually counter 4 was free and I was beckoned over. The woman said 'พุด ภาษา ฝรั่ง ไม่ เป็น' to her mate, giggled, handed me a form in Thai and said 'you here' - (somehow or other I managed to avoid the urge to say 'I here ???' back to her.) I guessed that meant that the form was supposed to be for me, and that I should find some way of filling it in.

I've never liked fillling in forms. Some English government forms (such as the one for a new passport or, years ago - for a student grant) are horrendous things - 10 plus pages long. This wasn't so bad length-wise, as it was only 1 page but there was 1 problem - it was all in Thai.

I can read and write Thai a little bit, but theres a big difference between knowing most of the letters of the alphabet (theres still some weird looking ones that are hardly ever used like ฏ and ฐ that I'll never be able to remember), being able to read books aimed at 6 year old kids and being able to read and fill in a complicated looking bank form.

The woman who gave me the form walked off and I was left to stare at it. I managed to work out some things, like age, date of birth (DD-MM-YYYY) adress, mobilie phone number and e-mail address (the only thing on the form that was written in English) quite quickly but the rest looked very confusing and complicated. I had to ask for help.

Since the woman who gave me the form had spoken to me in English, I tried English first.
"Excuse me. Can you help me please ?"
No reply. Not even a nod or a look to acknowlege my existence. I tried again, and again. Then I tried asking in Thai. Again. No response. I'd been looking at the form for almost 20 minutes now. What I wanted - for someone to read the Thai out to me (as I was fairly certain I would be able to understand it OK, and write the answers) didn't seem to be such a difficult thing to do. Since the Bank staff didn't seem to want to help, I decided to ask the other customers.

The first one, a middle aged woman who was stood near me, waiting to be served laughed when she heard me explain what I wanted her to do. Then she called out " น้อง คะ" to the bank staff and asked them to help me. " ได้ค่ะ" (OK sure) came a big grinning response. All sounded OK except that 5 minutes later, I was still waiting for someone to appear to help. As she was still waiting to be served too, I asked her to help me again. Again, she asked the bank staff. This time the " ได้ค่ะ" and beaming smile was immediately followed by "ไม่อยากคุยกับฝรั่ง" (i don't want to talk to the foreigner) and lots of giggles whilst the staff worked out between themselves which poor victim would have to deal with me.

Eventually a woman in her mid 30's walked over, towards me. Her opening line 'Carn I Help-en ewe' was barely recognisable as English. I ended up asking her to speak - very slowly - in Thai. It was much easier to follow. Once she realised that I could speak some Thai, she happily took my form, read out the questions, and wrote my name, salary, school name and bank account details out in Thai for me.

One hour later, just as the bank was closing for the day, I finally recieved my new ATM card. One good thing about Thai banks (compared to English ones) is that you get your new card straight away. In English you normally have to wait for your pin number, and then your bank card to be posted out to you.

But - 1 HOUR!!!! Just to fill in a form!!!! All because the staff there didn't want to talk to the foreigner !!!!

Last night, when I got back from school (and the bank), I told the story to a Thai friend. He laughed and said no way!!! Thai people would never say something like 'ไม่อยากคุยกับฝรั่ง' right in front of a foreigner. It just wouldn't happen. But that phrase, the one my friend reckons Thai people don't say in front of you is something I hear almost everyday. 'People working in a bank wouldn't be that rude' he said. But they were! People here behave like that everyday.

A second friend said that she'd seen a smilar thing happen on the bus one day. A Japanese couple who were wanting to go to Siam and tried their best to ask the conductor in Thai, whether the bus went to Siam or not, were totally ignored. They tried asking the driver and some of the other passengers too. Everyone ignored them. No one even tried to answer. Eventually my friend (a Thai girl who speaks near perfect English) went over to them, asked 'can I help you ?' and told them what bus to get. She said she was amazed that bus conducters on buses in Sukhumvit - an area popular with foreigners - could behave like that.

One advantage, if you're foreign, and a bit skint, of bus conductors or the people working on the ChaoPraya Express Boats ignoring you, is that you never have to pay the fare. They happily collect money from, and issue tickets to everyone stood nearby but refuse to look at you, even when you try telling them where you want to go. One time I went from Pinklao to BangNa for free, all because the bus conductor was, as she happily told one of the other passengers 'กลัวฝรั่ง' I'm not proud of this. I don't particularly like cheating the BMA, especially when, given the state of a lot of their buses, they could really do with the money. But, that time I tried about 4 times to pay. Each time my 'ขอโทษn ค่ะ ' was totally ignored. By the time the bus reached the expressway, I just gave up.

Anyway, back to the bank story. If the bank was in some rural backwater somewhere, where people hardly ever see, or have to deal with foreigners, the staff's behaviour would probably be OK. BUT... the bank I went to was in Banglampoo. It seems so odd that in a place swarming with backpacking foreigners (some of whom I guess, need to use a bank at some point), few people spoke decent English and no one was willing to help me (in either English or Thai.) I also find it hard to believe that the bank doesn't have a bi-lingual form, since losing ATM cards is something one of the other foreign teachers at my school is scarily good at, or that the simple job of reading a few words in thai (something that - as thai people - the bank staff are much better at doing than me) is seen as such an ardous task.

Anyway, I guess I learnt my lesson - To be more careful with my ATM card, if only so I don't have to go through this again. In case you're wondering why I had to cancel my card in the first place, and think that this kind of serves me right for being stupid enough to lose it, here's what happened.

I had a mad panic on Friday night, when I went to the ATM and couldn't find my bank card. At first, I was worried that I'd left it in an ATM somewhere else, or even worse, that someone had taken it from my bag (as theres been a spate of thefts at school recently.) After searching my bag, and my room, I thought it best to cancel my card. I was a bit worried as I'd only just put my paycheque in my account.

Turned out that, when I went to the bank (a different branch) to pay my salary in last Friday aternoon, the woman who took my card from me, forgot to give it me back...

Create Date : 06 สิงหาคม 2550
Last Update : 7 สิงหาคม 2550 10:36:12 น. 0 comments
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