Dresses And Banking
You have to take the good with the bad in life. The good is pleasing, the bad, inevitable. Whatever and whenever you can eliminate some of the bad, life is better. When I was introduced to #5 in Bangkok, it eliminated a lot of bad in my life. A lot of Stickman readers eliminate a lot of bad in their lives by coming to Thailand. Notwithstanding the observations of Jayson and HCG, isn’t that what life is all about. However, my Thailand experience also introduced me to a little “bad” as well. Having read and enjoyed the washing machine story, I’ll share a similarly off the beaten path story. My bet is that many of you have been in the same situation, but just took it for granted.
First off, things between #5 and me couldn’t be better. I went back to Bangkok in May. We had a great time together and I’m all the more happy that I used an introduction service to meet #5. There were some humorous experiences which I will save for another time. This posting is about a white wedding dress and international banking.
#5 is awaiting her interview with the American embassy. When we were together she mentioned that she would really like to get married in a white wedding dress. Fair enough, she has not asked for anything else and off to the dress shop we went. Never having been through the wedding process in any manner, I was more than surprised to discover that there are magazines that are nothing more than hot western women photographed in wedding dresses. There is more than one magazine and the magazines are thick. My intended was given a couple magazines; I found her enthusiasm in this endeavor amusing. To be polite, she involved me in the process by asking what I thought of some dresses, but frankly, my opinion really didn’t count and I didn’t have any opinion. The seamstress and her ladyboy helper were far more involved in the process. A dress was selected; a lot of Thai went back and forth among #5, the seamstress and ladyboy. Finally, #5 turned to me for the sell. I’m not really sure what she told me; I was waiting for the price. Turns out getting all this done in Bangkok was clever; total price was $300.00. My reaction: “sure you don’t want lace with that”?
While the price was agreed upon, the seamstress did not yet want a deposit and #5 didn’t want to hit me up for any money, yet, to pay for the dress. About two weeks later, after I had gone home, the time arrived and I agreed to wire her three hundred American dollars. Seems simple enough, right?
Went downstairs to my local banker to set up an international wire into #5’s Bangkok Bank account. Because I wired out of my client’s account, my bank does not charge me the usual $35.00 fee. I knew that because I had previously wired the agency fee to the agency’s account at Bangkok Bank. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the wire agreement with my bank because the first wire, to the agency, went so smoothly. The process then took about four days.
The first notice I had that something had gone wrong was when #5 emailed me. I have read on Stickman how Thai women can throw hissy fits but never experienced it before with #5. The gist of her annoyance was why did she only get 8,300+ baht when I had told her that I had sent her 10,000 baht. I explained that I sent $300 American, the exchange rates may vary and that if she only received about 9,700 baht, that was pretty close, but she certainly should have received more than 8,300 baht. We got on the phone and she told me that the bank told her I only sent $265. I told her to go to back to Bangkok Bank and get the paperwork on the wire and I would scan and email to her the paperwork from my end showing that I was true to my word and did send her $300. I had previously introduced her to the concept of “having a plan”. It had worked out for her when we did plan and execute; while she used to laugh at the silly western concept of “having a plan”, she doesn’t laugh anymore.
She went back to Bangkok Bank, got a receipt (put together by Bangkok Bank – it was not the original wire paperwork) and emailed it to me. Sure enough, Bangkok Bank stated that it only received $265 and took out a 200 baht “tax” from that amount which is a fair enough fee. During our next little chat, I explained that $35 was missing (which she knew because of the original paperwork I sent to her). I then explained to her that it was not my $35 that was missing, it was her $35 that was missing and why would anyone want to take that money so that she could not pay for her wedding dress. She was one motivated woman at that point and off to Bangkok Bank she went with my original wire paperwork in hand.
Meanwhile I was back at my bank talking to my favorite banker about what happened to the money. If you read the wire paperwork, it clearly indicates that any corresponding or intermediary bank can charge a fee and deduct it directly from the wire funds, without further notice to anyone. Your local bank does not know what that fee could be and could care less what that fee might be. The fact that a fee was not charged on previous wires is immaterial to them. They could trace the wire to find out who took the fee, but they would charge me for the service. Of course, the fee charged would be more than the missing $35 but they couldn’t tell me how much the fee actually would be. I told my local banker no thanks, I’m a lawyer, I’ll just file a lawsuit and subpoena the records; I would then know exactly what the costs to me would be, aren’t they a bit callous as well as careless in the wire department and win or lose, wait until the bank learns what the costs to defend that lawsuit would be. Instant attitude change – what can we do for you; we’ll call our corresponding bank right now as a courtesy. The ensuing call to the New York City corresponding bank (which has a presence in Bangkok) was equally as comical. The bank could not tell me if they charged me a fee (all according to the original wire paperwork). They would be glad to look it up, for a fee. Luckily we were on speakerphone and when I loudly asked if they were serious that they wanted to charge me a fee to see if they had charged me a fee, everyone in the local bank branch started laughing. Again, an instant attitude change. If the corresponding bank did charge a fee, they would refund it by immediately sending on the fee to #5 and she would never be charged a fee in the future. #5 now has more status in the international banking community than she does in the hotel where she works. Despite all this effort, no money was forwarded or returned and the $35 dollars remained missing. EXCEPT…
When she got her package from the American embassy in Bangkok, #5 needed to get a few things done, including a medical examination with vaccinations as well as pay the newly increased (more than doubled) visa fee for the embassy. I guess the fee has to double for the legal immigrants to make up for all the illegals coming in through the southern American borders free of charge (and fee medical as well). I needed to send more baht to Bangkok.
What a difference a couple weeks makes. I sent the wire Wednesday morning. On Thursday evening, #5 indicated she got the wire hours ago. Instead of three or four days, this was a one day wire. When I told her how much she should have received, she said she did not receive that amount which can’t be a surprise to anyone. What was surprising was her statement that she actually received about 700 more baht than what I sent. Allowing for the vagaries of currency exchange and the fact that with a captive audience, you can’t shop the exchange rate, you simply do not get more than what published exchange rates indicate except in those apparently special cases, usually involving Thailand, when you do.
So where did the extra baht come from. My guess is that I will never know for sure. If it originated with the corresponding bank as a refund of any charge from the first wire, it would have arrived to #5 long before the second wire. The manner in which the extra baht appeared (without paperwork, receipt or any other further ado) suggests to me that it originated in Bangkok. #5 on a number of occasions visited a large branch of Bangkok Bank with my original first wire paperwork asking questions. Bangkok Bank never did produce the original paperwork regarding the arrival of the first wire and #5 assures me that she told Bangkok Bank officials that her farang wanted to see that paperwork every time she visited the bank.
The really funny thing is, I have asked Dennis WV what happened when he wired funds to his Thai intended. He replied that he was always charged fee(s) but didn’t know who charged it or why. A cousin who has done business regularly in China states that anything more than a $15 fee charge from his remitting bank is a rip off.
An interesting lesson learned. Your local bank can’t give you any information and has zero interest in the whole procedure; they discourage you from asking by charging a fee greater than the amount of the missing funds. The corresponding bank apparently does not keep records of such fees and again discourages you from asking by charging a fee greater than the amount of the missing funds. Is there any wonder why a clever Somchai would help himself?
I do scratch my head when it comes to the banking system here in Thailand.