Karencita de Perú

Different Ways of Doing Things – Maneras Distintas de Hacer Cosas

Posted on: May 19, 2010

Today I did something new… I went to the bank.   We don’t really think much of going to the bank in Canada, it’s just a normal everyday thing.  However, going to the bank in a foreign country can be tricky if you don’t understand the system.  Thankfully Luis explained it to me beforehand and it all went smoothly.  If he hadn’t I think I would have been quite lost.

The reason for my trip to the bank was that every month we have to pay a maintenance fee for the apartment.  The recibo, or bill, is given to the tenants by the doorman and it has to be paid  at a particular bank called Bank de Crédito BCP.   This is one of the major banks here is Perú with lots of branches everywhere.  I actually went to the one in the photo below which is about 5 blocks from where I live.

So, here’s the process…  You enter the bank, which in this case is quite large.  Luis told me to look for a little machine that dispenses tickets with numbers.  You have to press one of two buttons to get your ticket – con tarjeta or sin tarjeta – which means with bank card or without bank card.  Because I don’t have an account at this bank I had to choose sin tarjeta.

My first confusion was which direction to go once I entered.   Straight ahead there were some stairs going up and to the right there were some stairs going down.  I could see a little ticket dispensing machine to the right so I figured that was it.  I pressed the button, got my ticket (#A 175) and took a seat.  Yes, you actually get to sit while you wait and there are TVs to keep you entertained.  So far this system was looking pretty good.  The area had 8 wickets numbered 1 to 8 and the people being served were seated across the counter from the teller.  However, no one seemed to be leaving very quickly.  Every time a teller became available a tone would sound and the screen with the ticket numbers would bring up the next number indicating which teller to go to.  Apart from the tone sounding in the area where I was, I could hear another tone that was sounding much more frequently and it seemed to be coming from the other area I had seen when I entered.  As I began to look around and actually read the signs, I realized I was in the area for asesoría y servicios (consultancy and services).  I figured this probably wasn’t where I was supposed to pay my bill.

So, I left that area and went up the stairs instead.  This area looked much more like where I was supposed to be.  I pushed the button at a different ticket dispensing machine and this time got # S241.  There were 18 teller window here and many more people and seats.  As the tone sounded and the numbes came up on the display, some started with C (con tarjeta), some with B (not sure what this means) and others with S (sin tarjeta).  The bad part was that they served about 5 numbers con tarjeta for every 1 number sin tarjeta so I had to wait quite a while.  But is wasn’t too bad.  Much better than standing in a line in the bank in Canada.  I don’t know why we don’t adopt this system.

Finally, it was my turn.  I gave the lady the recibo and paid my 171 soles.  She said something to me that I couldn’t understand, took my money, attached a receipt to the bill and we were done.  Quite painless!

What isn’t painless, actually what’s quite painful, is buying things in certain types of stores here.  The major supermarkets and department stores are fine, but some specialty stores and smaller businesses have this strange system.   First you chose the thing you want to purchase.  In many cases, things are behind the counter and you have to ask for assistance rather than just grabbing it from the shelf yourself.  Then the salesperson tells you to go to the caja (cashier) to cancelar el recibo (pay the bill).  The cashier takes your money and gives you a receipt that is always stamped with Cancelado, which basically means “Paid”.  Then you have to take the receipt back to the person that was helping you and they give you your merchandise.  The crazy thing is that sometimes the cashier is standing right next to the sales person who can see that you have just paid but they still need to see the copy of the receipt stamped with Cancelado.  It takes two people to do a job that could easily be done by one person.  I guess it is a way to create more employment or maybe its a security measure to prevent theft… I’m not sure.

There is another interesting thing that happens here when purchasing things.  This actually confused me greatly at first.  The cashier always asks you “boleta o factura?”.  Boleta literally means “ticket” and factura means “invoice”.  I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me something about a “ticket” and I had no idea what factura meant.  It turns out that if you have a company with a RUC (Registro Único de Contribuyentes), which I think this is the equivalent of a GST number,  you can pay for things by factura and, if the purchase is business-related, you can use the invoice to claim as an expense against your income.  I have noticed that what people pay for via factura in order that they can deduct the expense is quite liberally interpreted.  In any event, I now know that when they ask me “boleta o factura?” I have to answer boleta.

Slowly I am getting the hang of the day-to-day things which we all take for granted.   It is these small, seemingly inconsequential things that really make up a large part of learning a new culture.

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