This morning I went to a branch of one of the biggest banks in Poland - PKO Bank Polski - to do what I thought would be a very simple task - namely withdraw 1500 złoty from my wife's account on which I have permission to use.
How I was wrong! Here follows a rant. I hope it will make interesting reading. At the very least it should restore my blood pressure.
First I tried to use the cash point outside the bank (read ATM if you are American :-) ). Not suprisingly it said I couldn't withdraw that because the daily limit is 1000 złoty. OK fair enough, time to head inside. Now normally when I go in to a bank or post office or similar establishment in Poland I like to calculate what I call my "service inefficiency index". Basically this means calculating the ratio of staff sitting on their arse to those actually serving customers. Today I counted 6 windows with staff, of which only 1 was open despite a long queue of customers. Thus PKO this morning managed to achieve an impressively low index of 16.7% - even lower than the post office yesterday.
Fine - this meant I would have to stand in line for a while. Now I am not a particularly patient person to start with, which is why I try and do most of my banking online when possible, and I could feel my blood pressure slowly rising as I contemplated what could possibly be more important than dealing with the customers whose money is in their bank and ultimately paying their wages...
Finally I got to the front of the queue. This is when I like to do my second test of Polish customer service - does the clerk have the common courtesy to acknowledge my presence at the window while they finish playing with their bits of paper in an "I'm very busy and important" manner? Or do they manage to go as far and say "dzień dobry"?
The woman today managed a half-smile. OK great start. Our conversation went something like this:
Me - hello I want to withdraw some money from my wife's account. This is her card.
Her - umm, do you have the account number
Me - no, I just have her bank card. Is that not enough?
Her - are you on her account?
Me - yes
Her - dowód please
Me - I haven't got one, I'm British. Here's my driving licence.
Her - aah. OK Pesel then
Me - I don't have a Pesel either.
Her - in which case I don't know how to look up her account
Me - so you are saying that despite having her PKO Bank Polski debit card in front of you, you are unable to find her account? Is this not PKO Bank Polski? I am a little surprised.
[Now I should point out at this stage that unlike in the UK where you can deal with any branch of your bank without a problem, the branches of PKO Bank Polski aren't so closely interwoven. Like in the UK, the bank where you open your account is your home branch, but unlike in the UK that means that some things (such as telling them you have moved address) can only be done in your home branch personally and physically, and not elsewhere.
So it took her a lot of effort and consulting with colleagues and playing with the computer to actually find my wife's account number. Of course there was a queue of people behind me before we started, now the queue is to the door (yes, still only one till open).]
Her - [looking at my driving licence] so what is this?
Me - [surprised, given that there are pictures of cars and lorries on the back] Err, it's a driving licence
Her - do you have your passport?
Me - not with me, why? Can't you just use my driving licence?
[By this stage I have been in the bank over half an hour (including queuing time), there are 11 people behind me and I am starting to lose my patience.]
Her - sorry I can't give you any money on just your driving licence. Why don't you use the bankomat outside?
[Is it not obvious that I would not queue up like a twat if I could have used the bankomat? I managed to restrain myself from saying that...]
Me - Because I want 1500 złoty. That's a valid ID document in the UK and I thought we were in the EU here
Her - sorry, passport only
Me - in which case can you tell me your surname?
Her - why?
Me - because when I make a complaint later I want to know whom I dealt with
Her - but I checked everything and we can't pay out on a driving licence
Me - fine, but I want your surname anyway
Her - [writes down her surname]
Me - [leave bank empty handed and incredibly p*ssed off]
I don't understand why my driving licence is not good enough for PKO Bank Polski when it is good enough for the Urząd Miasta and Urząd Transportu i Kommunikacji. It is good enough for me where we have our other accounts at Bank BGŻ.
PKO Bank Polski is clearly not geared up to deal with foreigners. I have access to my wife's bank account but as a foreigner not working in Poland I was not allowed to be a shared owner of it with her, which is another stupid rule in my opinion (again no problems with Bank BGŻ).
I have written to PKO Bank Polski and asked them to explain their position with regards to foreigners. I have also mentioned this article on my blog and invited them to respond. If/when I get a response from them I will be sure to post it here.
As mentioned, I opened a bank account with my wife without any problems at all at Bank BGŻ. I even have a credit card with them, so I know that not all banks are as bad as PKO Bank Polski.
I would very much like to hear about your experiences with polish banks as a foreigner - please leave a comment!
PKO's advertising slogan is "PKO Bank Polski - blisko ciebie". Blisko ciebie? Blisko dupy in my opinion.