Posted by: scribe9 | April 30, 2010

International commerce

We’re heading to Europe for a couple weeks (I’m sure you’ll commiserate) as Rick has two conferences there. (Don’t worry, I’ll keep posting blogs about New Zealand—you know how well I stay on subject.) We decided to get a chunk of euros, so we don’t have to worry about finding bank machines when we’re just off the plane after 11 time zones and 30 hours in transit.

I went to our usual bank downtown. Whangarei gets a certain number of international travelers, so of course the bank had euros; it just didn’t have very many. (Of course it would have had enough had I ordered a week in advance, but that never crossed my mind.) I cleaned them out and moved on to the next bank.

Almost all the big banks are owned by Australians, and the next one happened to be the one we’d used when we lived in Australia. Sure, they had euros, but I couldn’t have any. Why? Because they only sell them out of bank accounts. They’d be happy to buy any that I had; they just wouldn’t sell me any.

That bank referred me to a foreign exchange dealer up the street and around the corner. One of the skeletons in my closet, however, is that I was a banker back in the dark ages, when Chemical and Manny Hanny (that’s Manufacturers Hanover Trust to you laity) had not yet ended up in Chase’s family tree; Continental Illinois was still on its way to proving that it was not too big to fail; ATMs were off-line, so the limits on withdrawals were wishful thinking; and the only book-entry securities were Treasury Bills. So I turned in, two doors down, at the next bank. They would sell me all the euros I wanted, no questions asked, no identification required. Done and dusted.

I also needed a laptop sleeve.  I had carefully measured with my metric tape. Computers are sold by appliance, furniture, and electronics stores. At the appliance store, the salesman brought out his measuring tape, which had both metric and US/English measurements on it. It turns out that laptops are measured in inches. Ah, the vagaries of international commerce.



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