Just write me a check!
Many Russia students and visitors do not realize that there is no check writing here. This lack affects daily life, and is one of the key differences between how Russians and Westerners use some of their day
It’s also surprising that Russians take paying bills seriously, as contrasted with an often cavalier attitude about this task in America.
We looked at this checkless society a year ago in Just Write Me a Check! http://www.amrusob.blogspot.com/2009/02/just-write-me-check.html.
There’s got to be a better way!
Bill paying can take time. People wait in long queues in poorly ventilated banks, post offices, and the Petersburg Electric Office.
Since around three years ago, banks have been issuing customers debit cards. But few places accept plastic for payment. People are fed up with standing in line to pay bills, they have no checking, so… what to do?
A nifty answer to the problem…
The Russian solution is the payment machine, a tinny brightly painted touch terminal that takes payment for a 3% to 5% fee. These have become popular just in the last couple of years. Other countries where checking is rare, such as South Africa and India, use the same machines.
Russians, particularly men, don’t worry about incidental fees. These are the guys that leave kopeks of change in the checker tray, and would never deign to check a restaurant bill… they are above all that, and not (worst of all!) cheap.
Our April Fools Day…
On April 1 my computer stopped working. I was worried until Larissa kindly explained that probably I needed to pay the monthly Eltel cable bill. She offered to stop at a pay machine and set things to rights
Poor Larissa! She entered my pay number, got the screen with all the internet cable companies, and pushed InterZet instead of Eltel. The machine’s alligator jaws grabbed her 500 ruble note and no receipt was issued!
No receipt can mean money lost…
Larissa was ready to cry. This unusual model requires you push a button to get a receipt. She walked around looking for someone to help her.
She was thinking, “Bye, bye, my money!”
On returning to the machine, a receipt was hanging from it with the correct payment number and amount. Larissa was happy to have the receipt, and that she could decide all my problems.
Right church, wrong pew…
But on her returning home, I told her the computer wasn’t working. She was shocked. We looked at the receipt and found that Larissa had paid the wrong company!
It turned out that InterZet has a similar numbering system to Eltel, and applied our 500 rubles to the account of of a lucky Russian stranger
Larissa blamed herself, not my negligence in paying Eltel, for causing this problem. She quickly went to another payment machine and got the internet active for me.
I’ve got your money, now try and get it back!
Larissa spent the rest of the day on the telephone trying to get the misplaced 500 rubles back, talking first with the payment machine company, Novo-Plat.ru.
It’s clear these companies have no procedure to handle a common misapplied payment. The clerks usually refuse to give their names, or that of their manager, and will not connect you with him or her.
In Russia customer service usually means a certain level of official rudeness that sends you in circles, expecting you to give up and go away. From her seven years in the United States and her own strong personality, Larissa doesn’t buckle.
The InterZet Runaround…
Larissa moved on to the InterZet office phones. Between the 1st and the 6th, Larissa had contact with perhaps six to eight operators at InterZet who didn’t know how to help, but told her to apply to the machine company Novo-Plat again
Go to a higher level to get fast results!
After many hours she was connected by an intelligent man with someone apparently in their financial department. She asked Larissa what she wanted her to do. We had decided to get the 500 rubles applied to our son-in-law’s InterZet account
The Interzet manager quickly switched the debit from the lucky stranger to our lucky son-in-law. Case closed!
Life is easier with these brightly colored machines in stores, supermarkets, and shopping malls. But if you don’t double check everything, and follow sequence, you can land in Misapplied Hell!
Russia catches up!
Russia is leap frogging the bank check system by using payment machines, Visa debit, online payment, along with mainly cash. It appears, except for a brief time for a few commercial accounts in the late 1800’s until 1917, Russia hasn’t had and never will have a paper bank check system.
Is it leapfrogging or leaptoading?
Let us know what your think!
Will bank checking disappear in your town with Online Payment? Can you get by without paper checks?
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