The Ten Pound Note

While rummaging through some old papers, I found some money, a single bill worth ten British Pounds. It was old, but not of any numismatic value, so I just took it to my bank for a currency exchange. I went online and checked the rate before I went to the bank, ten Pounds Sterling was worth $18.37. Not too bad, that’s almost like finding a twenty dollar bill.

So I went to the bank, they said they can’t exchange it on the spot, they’d send it along to their head office, do the conversion, and deposit it in my account, and it would take a few days. So today I got the receipt, they valued the £10 at $17.19. Well, I suppose that’s fairly normal to get a bad exchange rate, that’s how the exchange services make a profit, by skimming a little bit off every transaction. In this case, they made $1.18, about a 6% surcharge, a fairly standard rate for money exchangers.

But that wasn’t the final insult. The bank charged me a $7.00 fee for the transaction. They never mentioned that when I gave them the money. If they had mentioned a 40% service charge, I never would have deposited it through them. I only got $10.19 out of the deal. I could have saved the £10 bill until I traveled somewhere by airline, and exchanged it at an airport for free.

I phoned the bank to get to the bottom of all this. They transferred me to the branch Manager, but all I got was her voicemail, and she did not call back by the end of the day. So the next morning, I headed down to the bank, I figured I’d start at the bottom and work my way up to the Manager. I went to the teller and showed my receipts, and explained that nobody told me there would be a $7 service fee, and was it the bank’s normal policy to assess fees without advance notice? All I got was a bunch of explanations of how their foreign currency exchange works, and what the $7 fee was for. I asked for a refund of the $7 fee, as a courtesy. The teller refused. I demanded my £10 note back. The teller again refused. Things started getting a little heated, so the bank’s receptionist stepped in and suggested I speak directly with the Branch Manager.

I explained the situation again, and the Branch Manager instantly credited my account with $7.

4 thoughts on “The Ten Pound Note”

  1. As someone who has worked in customer service at a financial institution (at a fairly high level) here is some simple advise that can actually save some readers a lot of anguish (relatively speaking).
    When this type of thing occurs – where you are charged some inappropriate fee or suffer some form of error on the part of the institution (and of course it does happen)- just stay very calm and polite and keep asking to escalate the issue. Most lower level employees think their job is to enforce standard policy and to insulate their Supervisors from upset clients. You need to reach someone who understands that the monetary issue is not the main point (and it usually is nominal) and who has the authority to reverse a fee. If the monetary issue IS important you should do the same thing, but at each escalation be sure to tell them that it’s a major matter to you and (if this is the case) that it is time sensitive. Institutions would like for problems to disappear but the second best thing is to have them resolved quickly and to the customer’s satisfaction. The longer they drag on the more it costs the institution. Also, many problems can get worse if not addressed promptly. I know that it’s silly that it happened in the first place but institutions don’t usually waive fees automatically when they are disproportionate to the transaction.
    Of course it’s another thing to ask them to help you out when you make a mistake on your own, or where the culprit is the US mail, or where the institution may be open to liability. Some policies shouldn’t be broken (or bent as a kind of favoritism).

  2. i tried to use a £10 note today and they could not accept it. they said it didn’t have a circle on it?
    what does this mean….?
    i was given as my change by another shop, but am now unable to use it
    [I have no idea. Perhaps you should take the bill to a bank and have them sort it out. –Charles]

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