I was just reading back over the last entry I wrote from France, and at the part where I said “Three cheers for BNP!”, I guffawed a little bit. I may not live in France anymore, but I’m still the proud owner of a French bank account containing 650 euros.
All I have to say about this particular bit of French incompetence is “J’en ai MARRE!”
Rewind to two days before I left France, when I blithely walked into my branch of BNP Paribas to close my account. More accurately, I walked into the bank believing that it would be possible to close my account.
Because, you see, here’s the thing: French banks don’t actually carry cash. I lived in Paris for a full year and it took me until the last two days to find that out, to my dismay. I was told that the only way to empty my account was to even up the amount and take the money out from the ATM. The woman at the desk looked at me and said, “Euuuuu, peux-tu acheter un sandwich ou quelque chose comme ça pour 7.39 euros?” (Could you buy a sandwich or something for 7.39?)
I went back to my room and cried. A lot. And appealed to Facebook, as one does in times of tribulation. My lovely friend Celia in Brussels offered to help me out, but before we finalized the logistics, I went back to the bank to see if there was any other way. The same woman behind the desk said, “Oh, tu peux clôturer ton compte par le poste!” (You can close your account by mail!)
Well, gee. That would have been excellent to know the first time I came in here. But my understanding of French bureaucracy and institutions is that they never give you all of the information the first time you ask, because otherwise why would you go back to them? How hard would it have been for her to have said, well, we don’t carry cash, but you can always close your account from the States, here’s how? Apparently a little too hard for her to manage.
So she gave me a piece of paper with instructions on how to close my account, and accordingly, as soon as I got home to Arizona, I sent a courrier with my American account information and my checkbook, cut laboriously in half.
Now, here is where I have to admit that I am not entirely blameless. Part of the reason these proceedings are still going on is because I forgot to include my routing number the first time.
But what’s even more frustrating is that the powers that be at my bank apparently didn’t notice that some crucial information was missing from my letter, and they sent it off to the closure department, who then informed them that they couldn’t process it without the routing number and sent it back…at which point it was lost in the void, never to be seen again.
They didn’t tell me this, of course. When my account was still open and the money still trapped inside a few weeks later, I sent a secure message, and was told that the original letter had been lost, so I needed to send another one. Which I promptly did, this time triple-checking to make sure that the routing number was on it, along with all the other pertinent information.
Unfortunately we’ll never know what happened to the second courrier. Suffice it to say it never made it to its destination, and so, on the morning that my dad and I began our drive from Phoenix to Chicago, I handed a third sealed envelope to my mom and begged her to mail it for me.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I realized that it had been more than two weeks since the third letter had been sent and I hadn’t heard anything. (By this point I had realized that the only way I was going to find out anything about the status of my account closure was if I sent a message, because the bank didn’t seem to have much to gain by keeping me in the loop.) I was told that they had received my letter, but that it was missing the routing number.
…um, actually, I’m pretty sure the routing number is on there, because the first time I went through this nothing could be done because I had omitted the routing number. Just to make sure I wasn’t going mad, I opened up the Word document and sure enough, there was the “numéro ABA (‘routing’).” So my question is, is it deliberate?
I considered just wiring the money to my American account myself; I wasn’t paying any fees on the account, so the only issue, really, was the contents. But naturally, as is always the case in these situations, a technical problem had made the online international wire transfer service indisponible (unavailable). But then I received a message informing me that all I needed to do was send the routing number via secure message. I was sort of hoping that the woman at the bank would admit that she hadn’t bothered to read the whole letter and just assumed that the routing number was missing because being an American, I must be a total moron. But she didn’t. I had to be contented with the message I received on Friday, letting me know that the process of wire transfer and account closure could finally be started.
So I guess all’s well that ends well, though I think I would have preferred fewer setbacks, a closed account and my 650 euros back. But as they say, the course of account closure never did run smooth.
Bisous (but not for BNP Paribas, who can just go ahead and bisou my derrière),