Before travelling from Amsterdam to Kigali in Rwanda, my employers asked me to purchase the air ticket and I get a refund in Kigali. I did exactly that. In Kigali, I was asked to provide any source document to enable them prepare a cheque for me. I printed out a copy of the e – ticket and the process began.
The next day I was invited to the finance manager’s office to pick the money. I had expected a transfer to my account in the Netherlands only to be presented with a cheque of a one million plus Rwandan Francs.
I sincerely didn’t know what to do with it! I was advised to cash it at the bank near my hotel.
After work I walked into one bank near the hotel where I was staying.
There was so much disorder. I tried to line up, but guys came in and dropped their cheques or cash at the counter. I tried that, and I was asked to follow the line! I disgustedly moved out hoping to try another time.
When I arrived at the hotel, I saw another bank just opposite. When I crosschecked the names of the bank with the cheque, they were similar.
I had inadvertently gone to Banque de Kigali instead of Banque Commerciale du Rwanda! I walked in. The counters were cashiers sat really intimidated me.
I was used to the Dutch banks, which abandoned counters long ago. Dutch banks are friendlier, with an open office arrangement.
In any case after opening an account one usually has no business to do with the bank. All transactions are done on phone, by mail or internet/online.
I lined up at one counter, when my turn came; I handed in my cheque and passport. I was asked to endorse it behind with my name and signature. I again went to the end of the line. When my turn came; because the figure on the cheque was more than one million, I was asked to see the supervisor first at another counter!
I found the supervisor talking on phone. His informal manner of dressing did nothing to endear him to me. He talked for about 7 minutes.
When he was finished he took my cheque and passport and consulted his computer. After about 5 minutes, I peeped to see what he was searching for, only to realize he was on a sight of another bank checking on some job description.
Where was customer service here, I screamed within me? Not to let my frustration get the better of me, I went away and sat in another section of the bank. I promised to wait 15 minutes and go demand my passport and cheque back.
Fortunately after about 10 minutes, he came looking for me. And God! He asked me to write my passport number at the back of the cheque and return it to him!
I wrote the number but deliberately didn’t return it to him. I took it to the teller. Who rang the supervisor requesting what to do? He asked him in Kinyarwanda language what he should do for the confused foreigner.
I swallowed the building anger in me and thought positive. I think he was given the go ahead to pay me. He took his time to count so many notes, which he passed on to me. He was kind enough to accompany the notes with a paper bag.
I asked him the possibility of buying Euros at the bank and he responded negatively.
He said they sell foreign exchange to account holders only! I walked to the hotel praying that I don’t get mugged. At the reception, I handed in the paper bag for safe custody.
The receptionist opened it and her eyes almost popped out! She must have thought this foreigner had started wheeling and dealing.