In his book, The Shadow of the Sun, the famous Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski labours to explain the concept of “African time.” He for instance pointed out that a bus in Accra, Ghana would not set off without passengers regardless of the time.
Kapuscinski’s words became more relevant to me recently, when I asked a teller at Banque Populaire’s Kabuye branch what time the bank closes.
His response was 6:00pm but he quickly added that in case there are no customers they close earlier! On three different occasions, I have found this bank closed fifteen minutes before the scheduled time.
On two of them, I found the door closed (but not locked) and I forced my way inside.
My whole reading of this is that the staff at this bank work and once they feel tired, they order the security guard to close the door. He always says he has been told to close.
They care less about some of the clients who follow the prescribed business hours.
Like the bus in Accra, once they see no one in the banking hall, they call it a day frustrating the lone customer who takes a motorcycle rushing to the bank just before it closes the end of business hours.
They care less whether he wanted the money for an emergency or whether he was at work and had just found some time to rush to the bank.
No wonder, the cashier advised me to come to the bank ‘early.’ I therefore wonder why they stipulate banking hours that they cannot abide by.
One day I arrived at the bank at 5:30pm, thirty minutes before the time it is supposed to close.
Instead of being attended to, the brown lady behind the counter simply informed me that they were balancing their books and that I should return the following day.
I found this to be very disrespectful. Why were they doing this during the same hours that are set for clients to come to the bank?
To make matters worse, no where outside or inside the bank’s hall can you find the banking hours displayed. The same situation prevails at the main Banque Populaire branch in the city centre.
Banque Populaire, unlike other banks has a strange and worrying practice of displaying (in A4 size) photos of those who have defaulted on loan repayment.
These pictures are displayed on the walls. It is like a hospital displaying photos of all those who have died while on treatment!
Does the management of this bank ever stop to think of the impression other decent customers get each time they see these photos? Does it not imply that our deposits are at risk?
Surely, there are better debt collection methods than this one.
In the final analysis, it may be easier for me and others like me to move our accounts to other banks that respect their business hours and do not paste debtors’ photo shoots on their walls.
Banque Populaire should improve on its service delivery if it intends to be competitive.