It was intended that my next post would be regarding the conclusion of the licensing procedure. But that got trumped by this experience.
Our friend Suzi and her husband Harry had long planned a cruise leaving from Santiago, Chile. They were going to leave their pets with us. Planning to spend a week or so in Panama ahead of the cruise proved to be plans that couldn’t be kept. They barely got the animals dropped off when they had to return to Florida to deal with an unexpected turn of events. They asked us to make a local bank deposit for them. No problem. Or as they say in Panama, “Yeah, right”.
When I learned that Scotia Bank was their local bank of choice, my memory went back about 15 years to an experience on St Croix, USVI. I had not been on the island long when I realized I needed a local bank account. For no particular reason I walked into the downtown branch of Scotia Bank and inquired about opening an account. I was directed toward the back of the building. There I found a small area devoid of occupation. There was a counter and one of those little bells that my elementary school teacher had for use when she wanted to gain attention. I tapped on the bell. Before too long an employee appeared with the expected,
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“I’d like to open an account.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Well you have to make an appointment.”
“But there’s no one here.”
“You still have to make an appointment.”
Guess who didn’t ask for an appointment and never showed up there again?
With that background I entered a Scotia Bank in, more or less, downtown David, Panama. The first thing I noticed was a small area with a large number of chairs in a makeshift waiting room in front of the teller windows. I heard a number being called and someone vacated their chair. I groaned.
The consideration to just leave was only brief with the awareness that things would likely be no better later , maybe worse. I went to the counter where all the forms are kept. Clearly, you were expected to have the correct one filled out and ready for whenever your number might be called.
I selected the form that I thought most closely approximated the business I wanted to conduct. But soon realized this one was not correct. There was room for a loan number but not an account number.
Uncharacteristically, I broke line. Trying to display the total confusion I actually felt, I asked the teller to please identify the correct form. He asked for “my” account number. Huh? Well, I gave it to him. “Oh, for that account number you have to go to a different branch, across town.” WTF? Different branches for different account numbers? Well, this is Panama. And I already knew about Scotia.
Arriving at the “correct” bank branch I was met with another surprise. No one waiting for service. No one in line at any of the tellers. No desk with eight different forms. I went up to what I perceived was the most attractive clerk and stated my business. She received my information verbally and I was out of there in literally minutes. This country is full of surprises.