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the commonwealth bank, and doing business in china

China likes money. Walk into a hardware store, find the generator you want, the hydraulic hoses, fifty five grades of sand paper, two litres of cockroach poison and all they want is money.







The CBA doorman takes Bill’s name sez won’tbe-a-minute and goes away, in a while comes up the young lovely.

“Hello Bill, come this way.”

They go into an open-doored see-through cube and sit down.

Bill explains.

‘Can I put a $100k AU into a $HK Travel Money Card right now today?’

This is a smart move, Bill knows red Mao’s are about as cheap as greenbacks this week and business is business. He’s going over for a week to buy stuff from the commies for his Ballina Wavepool. Hydraulics, hoses, sheeting, ironmongery, tools, electrics, wiring – the full container. Forty-five boards, floaties, deck chairs. Buying all that roster will need a local spiv to drive the van, interpret the lingo and find the shop. Rent the container, fix the shipping, transport the inventory, spray for bugs, and hide the cheap bikes. This guy you hire by the day and he’s busy – he has a queue of his own.

Eddy is ready to go.

Eddy has family in whrolesrale and to do all that buying in cash which is the only way to go in downtown backstreet chinatown shoppingtown. Bill has to carry it around in a suitcase or use the local ATMs.

That’s the background.

‘Yes, you can, it will cost you fifteen dollars.’ A lovely big smile from the young lovely, a giggle, and then ….

‘How many digits are there in the Travel Money Card PIN?’ asks Bill.


‘Not sure, I think four.’

Bill waited while the sweet young thing plunked a song with no notes on a keyboard without soul.

‘Yes, four.’ Another smile.

Sometimes, in a conversation with a bank, because this is what this girl is, THE BANK – you get to help with the training. Bill took the gift.

‘Will four digits work in China?’

‘Yes, I think.’

‘So you don’t know.’

‘I can check,’ and check she did; rang a number, spoke to person, waited, spoke again and waited some more while the help on the phone waded through the Travel Money Card’s onsite FAQ’s.

Bill leans forward on the desk; he’s not a big man, lean, and old. Ropey forearms and restless hands. She hangs up and turns, smiles.

‘You will need six digits in China so you will just have to add two zeros to the end of your PIN.’

‘This you just learnt from an onsite forum did you?’ Bill’s away, ‘whaddabout Hong Kong?’

‘Yes, the same. I think, maybe before.’

‘You think?’


‘Have a manager, do you?’

Bill waited ten minutes for the lovely to return with a supervisor, a woman with a face that could cut paper. ‘How do ye do?’ he sez, standing, ever the gent. They shook hands.

‘How can I help you?’ Such a steady gaze from this woman, management in front of the lower order: the untrained lovely.

Bill has found the target. Snipers do this, they camouflage up in a bush and wait for a little glitter on some soldier’s shoulder, pop a General Patton.

Bill asks, ‘why do I need three PIN numbers on the Travel Money Card when I’m doing business in HK and China?’

‘You don’t.’

Snapper bite like that, all of a sudden. Bill leans into the catch.

‘I buy the card now, that’s one. I find an ATM at the end of some deserted subterranean passage in a chinese train station, and plink two zeros at the end of the PIN, so that’s two.’

The paper-cutter tries to interject, this you don’t do, not when Bill’s not finished.

He holds his right palm up, the Ayatollah of neural logic.

‘I haven’t finished.

.. and the youngster here,’ – he gestures nobly to the young lovely, who’s beginning to enjoy seeing her supervisor being monstered by a codger from Bondi wearing a McConaghy Leopard T and odd sandals – ‘says that a Hong Kong ATM needs two zeros plinked at the beginning of the PIN, maybe.’

The snake makes no sound as it slithers through the open door, into the open-doored, glass-walled cubicle. Where it coils between Bill’s odd sandals. Fixated on the paper-cutters’ long tanned legs, black high heels.

Bill asks, ‘the HSBC? they have ATM’s, how many do I need with one of them?’

‘The same, I think. It’s not up to the CBA.’

‘The same as what; 4pin? 4pin plus 00? 00 plus 4pin?’ or maybe the same the other way?



Someone should hire a banker and put him into downtown workingman’s China in front of some dusty ATM at the back end of a row of noodle bars and have him watch their poor unfortunate lowlife client bastard get his card swallowed on the third attempt.

Then the absolute fuckery begins, because that ^ sort of shit you cannot fix on a mobile phone and the office is a caravan onsite. Locked. And who has a partner in the waddle-pool business after the dome* got burgled?

So everything fails and a week later, when you have had to wait amongst the unshaven and unwell for the local bank’s attention once more, the change back to $AUS hurts for twenty-five hundred.

*K Slater






One Comment Post a comment
  1. sjh #


    April 24, 2014

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