Brian & Ann's European Experience

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Little Differences

Let’s say you get a new debit card in the mail and have to activate it, how would you normally expect that to be done? You call the number on the back, punch in your card number, maybe punch in some personal info, and voila, done right?

See, this is where those “little differences” that Travolta talked about in Pulp Fiction come in. Here in Yurup they don’t trust such important things as activating your credit card to the phone system. They make you come into the branch, during bank hours (which are, incredibly, even shorter than regular work hours), and bring an acceptable form of ID to do it in person.

So I’m at the bank, during lunch. Everything is going fine until I say, “oh, the card had my wife’s name on it, I hope that won’t be a problem.”

Duh!!! Give any person a chance to say no and chances are good they’ll take you up on it. Give a Dutch person that chance, and fuhgeddaboutit. You’re history.

“Oh, actually, that WILL be a problem. If it has her name on it then only she can activate it.”

“But it’s my card, it was sent to me. See here, the letter from your bank, addressed to me.”

“Sorry, if it says her name, then she has to activate it. You can order another one, it will take 4-5 business days.”


I swipe the card back and hop onto my ever-present bike and take my card and my passport to another bank branch to see if I just keep my mouth shut if they will activate the dam card so I can finally have a means of getting money that doesn’t involve begging my wife for my allowance.

I get to the second bank branch, wait in line, and present my credentials for authentication. I even show her two bills I have to pay with my name on them, to try and distract her. Turns out she doesn’t need any help from me. She wanders over to a drawer. Wanders back with a binder. Leisurely flips through it. It’s a binder full of examples of passports from all different countries. She’s checking my passport for authenticity. Can you freaking believe this!

So this ditzy bitch is flipping through the entire book looking for examples of passports from the United States. She goes over “Ukraine” like seven times, riffling the pages with her fingers to make sure she hasn’t missed any. She tries “America”, then “United States”, then “Verenig Staten” (‘United States’ in Dutch), and she can’t find anything.

Give me a fucking break! We have to be the largest issuer of passports in the world and she can’t figure out where in the stupid book the U.S. is?!

Finally, she shows the book to her manager, who spends a few minutes staring at it dumbfounded, WITHOUT looking through it, and then she comes back to the counter.

“Did you know this card has your wife’s name on it? She has to be the one to activate it.”

Cue exploding head.


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