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I went to Global Bank this morning to deposit a check on my U.S. bank account and to make a cash withdrawal to avoid ATM fees. I’ve done this innumerable times over the past ten years, it’s always unnecessarily time-consuming. The main road out front was closed, so it took a while to find parking and brave the wind to the bank. So I admit I was already disgruntled. After standing in line, I was greeted by the cashier with a new twist: I would have to complete separate slips for the deposit and the withdrawal, which I’ve never had to do before. After redoing the paperwork and standing in line again, the cashier took my check, scrutinized it at length as though she had never seen such a thing before, and then made the usual time-consuming trip to somewhere in the back of the bank to have it okayed! This always annoys me. Don’t they know me by now? Why does a deposit require an okay anyway?

After spending 25 minutes in Global, I moved next door to Banco Nacional to pay a tax. Everything was filled out and ready to go, but there were 18 people ahead of me in line and only two tellers. The wait was interminable as every transaction took forever, but I finally got to a cashier and produced my document and cash. The cashier scrutinized it for a period of time as though it were something new, took the money and gave me my change, and then set about inputting the information.He clicked, and clicked, and clicked some more with a puzzled look on his face and after at least ten minutes got it entered and gave me my receipt. What could have been the problem? They regularly receive tax payments from hundreds of people. Don’t they know the procedure for inputting them yet?

I left home at 9:00 and returned at 11:15 from an errand that should have taken no more than half an hour. Panama banks have become no better than when I first visited them 12 years ago. I go into every bank errand with a sense of dread.

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Bonnie,

 

I used to fret about these what seem to be daily occurrences of inefficiencies until I made the realization that this is what keeps the cost of living so low in Panama in comparison to other Latin American countries.  Costa Rica?  A can of domestic beer is twice the cost and a bottle of decent vodka can cost double or triple compared Panama. 

 

Priorities!

 

 

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It’s not clear to me how inefficiency keeps costs down.

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14 hours ago, Bonnie said:

It’s not clear to me how inefficiency keeps costs down.

What he's saying is that you need to drink more vodka and beer so that you can cope with the inefficiencies of Panama Banks. Here's my story. Last week I went to Caja de Ahorros to pay two separate annual tasa unica fees (annual corporate or foundation fees). I've done this 15 or 16 times before. You use a pre-printed and numbered form. One of the forms had the corporation number (RUC) with a few of the numbers written darker than the rest of the numbers and it was rejected -- and, of course, they had no blank forms. The other form was accepted and I got a receipt. However, an hour later they called me and told me I had to return as the number was wrong on the form. Thinking it was the corporation number I returned with a new blank form. What was wrong was the pre-printed number on the form. The number supplied by the taxing office and printed on the form. How can that be? Well, the answer is "this is Panama" so let's just shrug and continue. Then I presented the second corrected form and they rejected that for the same reason -- the preprinted number was wrong. I took that form across the street to Banco Nacional and they accepted it without question. I waited for them to call me to come back and bring a new form. No phone call so far.

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I'm so glad you posted this, Penny. I had intended to go to Caja de Ahorros, but the wind was strong and Banco Nacional closer. If I had had to go home and then go back, I would have been truly disgruntled.

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I would add that, while the type of thing Penny and I suffered is annoying and inconvenient, it is nothing compared to the major errors by the bank that I've experienced. My husband was added to an account I had opened but, months later when he tried to make a withdrawal, there was no record of it. Even more alarming, I made my son the beneficiary of my bank account to avoid probate in the event of my death. Later, when I was in the bank checking on another lesser error, we discovered that the beneficiary designation had never been recorded. In fact, the paperwork had been completely lost.

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Maybe you were “sort of lucky” with the lost paperwork.

Our experience was that a listed beneficiary was someone we didn’t even know!

We now check for name(s) listed as beneficiary on our bank account on a regular basis plus request written letter from bank manager indicating date & names on our documentation.

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WOW   Thanks.  We would never in a zillion years have thought of that

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19 hours ago, Marcelyn said:

Maybe you were “sort of lucky” with the lost paperwork.

Our experience was that a listed beneficiary was someone we didn’t even know!

We now check for name(s) listed as beneficiary on our bank account on a regular basis plus request written letter from bank manager indicating date & names on our documentation.

Bud, how do you check for the name(s)  listed as beneficiary? Ask at the bank? I named my daughter as beneficiary of my bank account, and after reading this, I want to make sure!

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2 minutes ago, Dottie Atwater said:

Bud, how do you check for the name(s)  listed as beneficiary? Ask at the bank? I named my daughter as beneficiary of my bank account, and after reading this, I want to make sure!

Yes, go to the bank where you filed the beneficiary statement, and ask that they confirm the filing and names(s) shown thereon.

As Marcelyn wrote, you can imagine the surprise (alarm) expression that we experienced when learning that someone we did not even know was listed as a beneficiary on our account. And we do keep the written documentation that was signed by the branch manager, just in case of another mess up. I/we would like to believe that this was an honest mistake.

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Anyone requiring a beneficiary for their Bank account is welcome to contact me via CL message. 

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On 1/21/2019 at 4:47 PM, Bonnie said:

It’s not clear to me how inefficiency keeps costs down.

 

Let me use an analogy to explain.  Let's assume you want to have lunch at say McDonald's.  Picture two McDonald's restaurants next door to each other and they're identical in every respect except for the quality of service.  One has fantastic service whereas the other has poor service.  Which one would you choose?  Most likely the one with the fantastic service.  However, if the restaurant with the poor service had significantly lower prices and cost is a factor in your decision, you would be more likely to choose it.

 

I've lived and worked in many Latin American countries and my experience has been that Panama ranks at the bottom for customer service.

 

That's on top of the usual surprises you get when you rent cars and stay at hotels here in Panama.

 

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5 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

Anyone requiring a beneficiary for their Bank account is welcome to contact me via CL message. 

Curious why you recommend that people contact you for such a business matter???? Are you wanting to be the beneficiary of my account? No way Jose.

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16 hours ago, Siempre Soluciones said:

 

Let me use an analogy to explain.  Let's assume you want to have lunch at say McDonald's.  Picture two McDonald's restaurants next door to each other and they're identical in every respect except for the quality of service.  One has fantastic service whereas the other has poor service.  Which one would you choose?  Most likely the one with the fantastic service.  However, if the restaurant with the poor service had significantly lower prices and cost is a factor in your decision, you would be more likely to choose it.

 

I've lived and worked in many Latin American countries and my experience has been that Panama ranks at the bottom for customer service.

 

That's on top of the usual surprises you get when you rent cars and stay at hotels here in Panama.

 

Thank you, Siempre. I'm still digesting your post, and see its merits. An initial thought, though: it suggests that the more financially able will select the better-service McDonald's (i.e., Costa Rica), leaving the lesser McDonald's (i.e., Panama) to the less well-to-do and more conservative spenders. Doesn't Panama want to compete for the more moneyed, spendy class of expats? Wouldn't better customer service go a long way toward attracting them?

Too, your comparison somehow seems inapt for Boquete, which is not inexpensive by Central American standards.

To those who object to criticism of Panama by expats on the basis of its being our host country, I would reply that I am complaining as a customer of the bank who is being poorly served. Even so-called "guests" of a country have the right to expect good customer service and to complain when they don't get it. When meetings with managers of a business get you nowhere, it's time to take it public.

 

 

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