Meet Blake! (the one on the left)
He is on our team here in Jamaica and works at the Kingston campus of CCCD. He wrote the following story on his blog awhile back and I have always thought I should post it here. It is a great example of how "business" gets done in Jamaica. He does a great job telling the story and it is an all too typical story.
In January I went to one of the main banks, ScotiaBank, to open an account. They said I needed two letters of reference (one personal acquaintance and one validating my employment) and $5,000 JMD. No problem. I got the reference letter and already had a letter from my VISA adventure that validated my employment. I went back to ScotiaBank feeling confident. After waiting in line, a gentlemen checks my documents. No, he says, you need proof of an overseas bank account. But you never told me that last time...Sorry, you need proof from another banking institution. Alright, so I get a hold of PEFCU back home and I get an email showing the standings of my account. ScotiaBank tells me that's not good enough, it needs to be an official original document from the bank that's notarized. Are you serious? It has to be a physical letter? I can't fax it or email it? That could take weeks! Yes, the man says, it needs to be a real letter. Ok, so I call PEFCU and they mail a document to my mom. Mom then mails it to me. 3 weeks later I go back armed with what I'm certain will be enough evidence. I see the same gentleman, he asks to see my documents, so I hand them over. Sir, he says, the letter validating your employment needs to be addressed to the "Bank Manager" (it was addressed to the "Consulate General of Jamaica," a bit more prestigious than a bank...). Really, I asked. This isn't good enough? Nope, he says, it needs to be written to the bank manager. Ok, I say. Let me get this straight, and I proceed to lay out all of my documents. What you're telling me is that this reference is good enough, my bank stmnt is good enough, my ID is good enough, but you just need the employer letter to come from my employer. Right? Yes, he says, then you should be good to go. So I leave, again.
Wow. All I wanted to do, ScotiaBank, is give you MONEY, so that you can keep it safe and USE it to invest in other things. All I expect is for it to all be there, and maybe a little interest, when I come back. You see, ScotiaBank, you are a bank. Generally your kind of institution FIGHTS for people to bank with you. Its the whole reason you exist, and the only way you exist, is if you have people that are willing to give you money. Generally, you would beg me for my business. Now, I feel like you don't really want my money...Does this make sense? (Remember, banging your head on a wall will prove to be more effective than trying to figure this out) Ok, so I need a new letter from CCCD stating I am actually here legitimately (note, I have a gov't issued work permit stating I work for CCCD, but apparently this government issued ID is not good enough....no, I need a letter that could be generated by myself in my apartment and completely faked). So, I call the main office and talk to Nicholas (campus manager at the Knockpatrick school and overall jack-of-all-trades). No problem he says, except Mr Jones (the boss) is out of the country and won't be back for 4 weeks. I won't be able to get the letter signed until then. No worries I say, March is approaching and I will be too busy anyways. So, April comes and Mr Jones brings me the letter. It sits in the office here in Kingston for a while before the office staff finds it. I finally get it earlier this week. Now the climax. Today, I go back feeling like it is going to IMPOSSIBLE for them to deny me. I sit in the right line that I am completely familiar with now. The same gentlemen that dealt me two frustrating blows before comes over to me to check out my documents, again. I'm thinking, take this sucker, as I hand him 4 photo ID's (two US, two JA), a personal referal, an employer referal, and a statement notarized by my bank in Indiana. No way you can deny this. He flips through it all, and says, sir, I'm sorry but you only have one personal referal here, and you'll need two. What?!? But sir, I explained, here is the paper you gave me in February showing what I need, and this meets the criteria. For non-residents, I needed a bank account statement also, and I gave that to you. He responds, yes, I know, and I remember talking to you before, but we've actually changed the policy recently and you need two personal references. I'm getting a bit ticked. Sir, I have been here like 5 or 6 times now, and EVERY time I come you tell me I need something else or something is wrong. All I want to do is give you my money so you can invest it and make more money for yourself....Here is a form sir, have a friend fill this out. (yeah, I know the drill).... And then my head about explodes in the next 30 seconds. The ridiculous lack of logic that follows should be made into an epic something.... Just then the guy sitting beside me pipes up and asks the bank man, hey, could I fill one of those referrals out for him?
Ummm, the bank dude stammers. Have you had a ScotiaBank account for more than two years? Yes, he says, I have my card right here. Umm, ok, fill out this form. I whisper a "thank you" to my new friend sitting beside me. Then the bank guy asks, how long have you known Mr. Widmer (the minimum is 2 years...). Umm, about three years the gentlemen responds. Ok, the bank guys says, just sign and date here. No problem, my friend says, I gotta run anyways, my wife just finished at the teller. Good luck he says as he walks away. The bank guy hands me my "2nd" personal referral and says, just wait a minute for this lady to help you. Wow. My mind is racing. This is perfect I think. I can tell this story for years and it will paint a very realistic picture of some of the unexplainable things about life here. I'm already pulling out my blackberry to put this on my facebook status. This bank was going to turn me away, again, just because I didn't have enough "personal referrals" of people saying, "yes, I know Blake and he's a decent guy." Yet I had gov't ID's, passports, Jamaican TRN card, a Jamaican Alien Registration, US drivers license, a notarized bank stmt of 3 accounts in the States, yada yada yada. All of that is not good enough for him. BUT, BUT, BUT, he will sit there and let a complete stranger, who he KNOWS doesn't actually know me, sign a paper and claim he has known me for three years, and thereby somehow make me legitimate enough for a bank account. I mean, this guy just randomly sat down and volunteered to sign for me. And the bank guy saw the whole thing. YET he accepted it. It appeased him. How in the world does that make sense? The rules they were enforcing were pointless. The employment letter I needed could have just been printed at home. This "referral" that I needed came from a guy who clearly didn't know me. These were the things keeping me from opening an account. These were the things the bank guy was choosing to pull out as red flags and say sorry, you can't give us your money. It still doesn't make sense to me, but hey, I'm starting to make a pretty good hole in this wall.... And at the end of the day, its really not a big deal and I probably (certainly) still need to learn more patience. Maybe some day...