Being our holiday, and F having given me a money box (a Shaun the Sheep one, in case you were wondering), we decided to save all our loose change at the end of each day. We’ve been dong it for about two months.
Surprisingly, it was quite heavy.
And, on Saturday, we decided to count it all. It was surprisingly good and came to much more than we had thought it would. I had also been putting €5 notes in there too, so the haul was nice.
In coins, we had just short of €300. Now, although this is nice, paying for a €50 meal with 50 cent coins may not be welcome by the restaurant owner. So it seemed quite reasonable to get it all changed for notes.
In the UK, this would have been a bit of a pain. First I would have gone to the bank to get some special bags, then I would have had to bag it up, and then take it to the bank. Any bank, of course – although they might insist on their bags. Here it isn’t like that.
I suggested to F that I would go today (this was written yesterday – or most of it). He said to try the tobacconist first. I mentioned it to them (one of my regular tobacconists) – and they would have been interested but they were shutting up for two weeks. F seemed to think that this might be a problem – but didn’t explain why.
Yesterday, as I didn’t have bags, I put the coins into rolls of paper – similar to the ones that are given to shops. Obviously this was my own, made-up, paper rolls – not nearly so neat as those used by the banks but, at least, I could write the amount and the type of coins on the outside, once they had been rolled up. It took forever! The coins kept slipping sideways until I got the knack of doing it.
But now they were all rolled up in blue paper (it was the paper I had to hand) and each one marked with the coins contained and the total amount inside. What more could the bank want?
And so, this morning, I went to the bank. As there is one just across the road from me I thought I would try there. It is Banca Intesa or Intesa San Paolo or something. anyway, one of the bigger banks in Italy, with branches everywhere. In fact, there is another branch on the opposite side of the piazza that I (almost) live on! So, opposite the one I first went to.
First I had to get into the bank. All banks here have a series of doors to get it. This is to prevent robberies by a mass of people I suppose. You have to enter something similar to an airlock! The door behind you has to close fully before the one in front of you will open. Funnier still is the ‘no guns’ signs that I have seen in banks – but, then, this isn’t the UK, I guess.
So I get inside the bank after repeatedly pressing the ‘man’ sign to find that, in fact, you had to press the small green button (that I mistook for a green light). But I’m in! There is hardly anyone around – this being 11.30. A nice young lady comes forward eventually. I explain in my terrible Italian, that I want to change some coins.
Apparently this is not possible. Why? Because, at 11.30 a.m. on a Monday morning, there are no bank tellers. Apparently, she explains, they will be here this afternoon – from a quarter to three to a quarter past four!
You have to remember, banks here do not work like they do in the UK. In the UK (more or less), the account holder is the customer. Here, you have to be grateful for a bank at all – and you should treat them as the customer. Certainly the opening hours are, more or less, from about 8.30 or 9 in the morning until about 1.30 p.m. and then for another hour or so in the afternoon!
I asked if I should try the Banca Intesa branch opposite. She said that sure, I could try – but she looked doubtful.
Of course, I am, somewhat determined (some may say pig-headed) and so off I go, across the piazza, to the other, grander and newly refurbished, Banca Intesa. At least, here, I thought, they will have cashiers.
And, true enough, they did! Two of them. Both occupied with clients at the moment. I see, like the post office and other places, there is a queuing system, done by printed ticket. I look around for a machine, expecting something like ones you see in the post office! I don’t see anything. There’s only me anyhow, so maybe it won’t be necessary, I think. But, to be on the safe side, I keep looking. I see a thing that looks more like an information box or cash dispenser. I go over, on the off chance, as, anyway, this is the only thing that looks remotely like a machine to print a ticket.
Sure enough. This is the ticket dispenser! I am, at once, both relieved (to have found it) and slightly peeved (at how stupid I am not to have seen it before). I get a ticket.
It seems I wait ages. However, it is air-conditioned AND they are playing some light pop music (although I forget which song – although I could sing along with the chorus, so it was a song sung in English). It’s not an unpleasant wait.
Eventually I get to go to a counter.
Unusually, this is not a stand-up counter but one where you sit down. However, this IS a cashier – my Italian is good enough to know that.
I don’t sit down. I ask the guy if I can change the money here. He asks if I have an account. I don’t and, in my best English, which, to be honest, is a life-saver more often then it isn’t, ask him what I should do, ignoring the fact that I’m not an account holder.
He explains that I need to put the money in these special containers. OK, I say. No problem. He gets out two. This will hold about €10 worth, if that. I explain I will need a lot more than that. He goes to chat to a colleague who is hidden behind an opaque glass screen.
Apparently they can’t change it for me because I’m not a customer of theirs. I protest – but you’re a bank, I say. Apparently that makes not one iota of difference. I protest some more. He is Italian. We have the blank face and usual shrug of the shoulders. It’s not that they can’t, it’s that they won’t. In other circumstances, I would have been more persistent but, maybe, I am succumbing to the Italian disease of giving up when faced with a ‘can’t/won’t do it’ shrug. Or maybe it’s because I really couldn’t be bothered and had better things to do.
I told F. He said he would do it the next day. But, being me, I hadn’t quite given up.
Just after a quarter to four, I went to the bank across the road. The same bank I had been to in the morning where they had no cashiers.
There was one guy being served – and one cashier open. I waited. For some reason I felt more hopeful about this, in spite of the fact that it was the same bank, just a different branch. This branch was not sparkly new. It didn’t have music playing. It was air conditioned – but then, of course it would be.
It was my turn. I explained what I wanted. He started to open my carefully prepared packages – he saw my face. He explained that they had a machine. We could just put all the coins together. He and I spent the next ten minutes undoing my 3 hour work and mixing it all back up. He put it all in a plastic bag.
He asked if I knew how much it was. I got out my piece of paper. ‘No, don’t show me’, he said. And walked off with the money. I laughed. This would be a test of both my counting and the machine.
I could hear the coins being tipped into something. After a few minutes he returned. He wrote down the number and showed it to me. I showed him mine. They matched. We both laughed.
He gave me the money. F said I should have asked him why the other bank could not do it and yet they could. I explained that I didn’t know enough Italian. But, to be honest I didn’t care. OK, so I wasn’t so persistent with the other branch – but I did get it done in the end – and that’s the important bit, really.
The other branch just had lazy, good-for-nothing people!