There is so much in Brazil that is advanced. For example, the
cinema experience (see Segregation Cinema). And I saw a parking security guard rolling around the complex on a Segway the other day. Yet there is so much that is still so behind.
Consumer banking in Brazil is another one of those curious processes that reeks of inefficiency.
Instead of dropping off a check at the source of the service for something like, say, rent or school, you must take the bill the bank. Not your bank, but the bank of the vendor. Not ideal from a customer service stand point. But that’s just the beginning.
I’ve only done this a few times so far, usually my husband takes it on, but I will be shouldering more of this task moving forward. We’ve been here almost a year now, I’ve run out of excuses not to. Let me tell you, it’s a painful process. There is always a line (sometimes I drag my daughter with to get in the preferential line, but she’s getting a bit old now…). A line despite the many employees behind the counter who are “working” but not working. At least not working on helping customers. One time I counted and there were more people not working behind the counter than there were in line. The fact that I didn’t completely freak out at this shows how much I’ve relaxed and grown as a person since being in Brazil (ok, ok – it shows that I still haven’t learned to yell, complain and threaten in Portuguese…) God forbid you go on the 30th or the 1st of the month when everyone in the country is paying their bills. Lines out the door.
Yesterday I thought I might buck the system. I needed to make a deposit to a hotel that we will be staying at next month in Tiradentes (yes, this is also common and annoying). So I went to a small Bradesco branch on a side street a few blocks from where we live. I walked through the door and found only one large window. No line. “HA,” I thought. “This is going to be quick and easy.”
However, my theory was reliant on the idea that someone might actually come to the window. I saw two people working, but as soon as I got to the counter they disappeared. I could hear them on an adding machine in the back room. I must have waited over 10 minutes. I realized that I hadn’t waited in line at a bank in… years. Maybe ten. Payments in the U.S. are made by check or online. I would only need to stand in line if I needed a money order or something.
(Some payments here in Brazil, like utilities, are actually made online, or automatically withdrawn, which is great – unless your bill was wrong and then you must spend hours upon hours for months trying to retrieve your money.)
When the guy finally emerged, I thought about telling him that I knew the president of the bank (I don’t) and demanding his name. But I realized that lying was an insane reaction to an insane situation. I did ask him name (something that usually scares people just a little in the U.S.), but he thought I was just being friendly. And he turned out to be really nice.
There was no malicious intent in making me wait. He hadn’t been in the back mocking me, flipping through a magazine. He was just doing… something else. As my husband often says, simply “it is what it is.” From a business perspective, it’s an interesting quandary. Would a consumer bank gain market share if they improved their customer service? Considering most of the people in line aren’t their actual customers because they are making payments TO the customers of the bank, shortening the lines may have an impact so minimal that it would not justify the cost of doing so.
But for me, I’m taking notes. If any bank approaches me to get my business (which would be quite worthless right now since my income is less than that of my housekeeper’s) I’m planning on initiating a change in the system and letting them know I will not bank with them because of my bad customer experience in their branches. Well, that is, as soon as I learn to say all that in Portuguese.