You might say, that calling the Bank of China SHIT is a bit harsh, but let's look at my five year history of dealing with said institution and their less than logical, efficient or even meaningful practices.
Of course, like every other bank or business in China, there are 10 people at work, and actually only two people working, but this would not make any one bank anymore useless than any other bank in China. I have heard of banks telling people, "Sorry, we do not have any money today!" and I have heard of banks losing wire transfers of significant funds. But, at the Bank of China...things run especially crap.
About 5 years ago, when I first got to China, I started working at the Korean International School of Beijing and it had one excellent benefit, which was that it payed in US Dollars. This was especially convenient because at that time the government would not allow people to change money from RMB to the USD, unless it was less than or equal to the amount of money you had changed from dollars to RMB...even if you were working on a proper VISA. After my first couple of pay checks, I decided it was time to send some of my USD back to the USA, so I went in on a Friday to the Bank of China at the Ye Qing Building in Wang Jing (I did not work on Fridays at that time) and I proceeded to ATTEMPT a wire transfer of funds. I had been in Korea for a while and I knew what information was needed and I had it all ready. I got into my Lonely Planet Chinese Phrase Book and bookmarked the section on banking and had all of the words I thought I would need ready. I filled out the forms, waiting for my number to be called, sat at the booth for 45 minutes before this idiot today me that the needed the Physical Address of the bank to which I was sending money. I was floored.
"Are you going to mail them the money?" I asked, in English because my Chinese was non-existent and they did not have a section for asking what you would think would be stupid questions in the bank of my Lonely Planet Chinese Phrase book.
"There is nothing we can do! (Mei You Ban Fa!)" They told me in Chinese and so I returned to my apartment to ask my mom for this information as I would try again next week.
The next week, I went back to the Bank of China at Ye Qing Building with the physical address and waiting for my number. I got another idiot and spent another 45 minutes negotiating with them about sending the money. After 45 minutes, I lost it...completely. I started yelling at the guy, pointing at my lonely planet phrase book to the word "Important" (zhong yao) and telling the bank teller that the physical address is not important, even though I had it for him. I was pointing at the routing number and telling him it was important...until finally one of the fifty managers who were sitting in the back counting bills by hand, after they had been counted by a machine and three other managers and machines, got of her lazy ass and came over. DONE! And guess what, NO NEED FOR A PHYSICAL ADDRESS and it took five minutes.
Since that day, I use Western Union to send money.
But wait, there is more good experiences from this bank, at different branches.
While working at the Korean International School of Beijing, I took on the kindergarten program, which was a separate entity from the rest of the school and thus, could not pay me into my same bank account. Don't ask me why not...I have no clue. So, without me knowing about it, the office took the liberty of starting me a new bank account, in my name, without me authorizing it...with only a copy of my passport. How the bank of China let this happen, I have no idea. But they would not give me a card, only a book, so I could not take money out of the ATM. What a joke! What is the point of having an account if you cannot access the money. I finally got the office to get me a card, after asking about 50 times, by saying exactly this...
"You take this passbook down to the bank and get me a card, otherwise pay me in cash and shove this book up your ass!" Imagine the hand action with the book, then I tossed it at them and left. I got the card that day.
The reason that I did not go to get the card was that the bank was all the way out in the middle of nowhere and I had no time to get to the bank before it closed...this will become important later.
After leaving the Korean International School of Beijing, I went to Zhong Guan Cun International School, where I worked with Shawn. At this point, I had two accounts at the Bank of China, but I was only using one, the one from the Ye Qing Building in Wang Jing. The other was from the branch in Hui Long Guan...which is nowhere.
In November, my passport was stolen and it took me forever to get a new one...and guess what, it was a new passport number and so a few months later, when my card stopped working for that account...they would not let me get another one because it did not appear to be my account. So I took out all the money and stopped using that account. I could take out the money cause I knew the password! HAHA
SO, I opened another account at the Lidu branch of the Bank of China thinking that they would serve customers better because they deal with foreigners all the time...How wrong could I be?
Now I had three bank accounts in the Bank of China. Why didn't I close some? Cause they would not let me, unless I went to the actual branch and closed them. I was not about to go to Hui Long Guan to close a bank account, nor waste my time at the Ye Qing when they thought that the account was not mine in the first place.
When I moved to Yew Chung International School of Beijing, I was able to continue to use the same bank account for the duration of my stay. This was a world record for convenience when dealing with the Bank of China. But, other problems did arise recently as we are trying to clean up the lose ends with the bank.
A couple of weeks ago, we went into the bank to take out a large sum of money for purchasing plane and train tickets for our most recent travels. We inquired into the procedure for closing a bank account and they informed us that we could now close any account at any branch of the bank, so we thought we could close my Hui Long Guan account at the Lidu location. So, last weekend we took in all of my bank books into the bank. The first account, the Hui Long Guan account, we gave them the card and book and they closed it easily (despite the seventeen insences of signing my name on a random piece of paper before returning it to them) and then they got to the second account, the wonderful Ye Qing Builing's account. That account had previously had difficulties with the card and the card was now missing...probably cut to pieces and trashed. They refused to close the account without getting the card. They said, "Our records show that you still have a card and so we cannot close the account without you giving us that card."
"Well, I do not have that card. I have not used this account in three years. If I could use it, I would use it. I lost my passport and they would not give me a card because my passport number is the same. I did not keep that card, there is nothing I can do." I explained.
In typical Chinese banking form, they said that the policy is the policy and there is no way around it. So I said, "Well, I cannot close that account then and you will be giving yourself service charges to infinity and it will show up in your financial reports as debt, but it is because you won't close this account as I am requesting."
So, we took back that book and informed the teller that she was an idiot and continued with other business, which was to replace my current bank card as it had a crack in it and I do not want to have any problems during the Olympics.We filled out the forms, the woman cut up the card and then said, "You will get your card in two weeks!"
"Excuse me?" we asked, "Two weeks? If you would have told us two weeks we would have used the broken card!"
We were livid...Maybe we should have known that it was going to take some time, but neither of us are working in the bank so we were not aware of the time it should take to get a new card. Flashbacks of previous dealings with the Bank of China came and I said..."Fuck it, open a new account, take all the money out of this one and put it into the new one, then call us when out new card gets here so that we can come and close that account." And we left it at that.
Earlier in that day, we had another run in with the Bank of China and their garbage internet service. For about six months, I have been checking my salary on the internet (after spending about 40 minutes in the bank getting that service activated) and just this week there is no internet banking for Beijing accounts. Previously, I just selected Internet Banking, then Beijing and then log-in. Now, there was not a link for Beijing. When we called the banks less-than-helpful service, the conversation went something like this.
US: Why can't we log-in to out banking.
Bank of China: Oh, we changed our site around.
US: How can we log-in.
Bank of China: Oh, maybe try another link.
US: That did not work.
Bank of China: Oh, you should go to the bank and register for internet banking.
US: We have registered, we have been using it until you changed it. So, how do we use it?
Bank of China: Try to log-in again.
US: That did not work either.
Bank of China: Then your computer must have a problem.
US: Eat shit! What is the complaint line for the Bank of China?
Bank of China: Why do you want to complain?
US: Cause your useless.
And so, it is a good thing that the government keeps the Bank of China afloat because if they had to do it on their own they would certainly all go bankrupt! Unfortunately, if you come to China, you will probably have no choice but to use the Bank of China for you finances.