Two years ago my then bank in Martina Franca told me that due to “changes” after a merger they no longer had access to an IBAN number and could not move money into my account from abroad. They seemed surprised when I therefore asked to close the account.
It took 5 visits and 12days to actually close ( as I thought) the account. I lost count of the amount of paper I signed almost as much as when I had opened the account. The bank had given ( €25 a month set charge) me and my wife credit cards and as they took 2 months charge in advance we were due a refund. Come in and sign some forms and bring the cards was the instruction. We signed another rain forest worth of paper and gave up our cards. I felt a little like a soldier facing a court marshall in films of old when the guard rips the epaulettes from the uniform and breaks the sword across his knee . Some two months later I received a letter from the said credit company that they had refunded the amount to …………. my credit cards which I had sent them. The bank said to try and sort it out would take more in costs than the €100 so we gave the money up. The account has been closed for 24 months but each month I still get a statement from them showing my account at €0.00 .
I then went to Unicredit to open an online banking account. They were slightly more efficient only 4 hours to do most of the business but then two more visits to sign two more rain forests worth of paper for the “online” account.
Today I had to do the same in Cyprus, close one account which took one phone call and the account was closed and the bank transferred the money to my new bank. Opening the new on line banking account at The Bank of Cyprus took 20 minutes and three signatures and we are up and running though our debit cards will take 5 working days to arrive.
There is no 3 ( Tre) mobile phone shop in Martina Franca so we have to deal with an agent Primal in the centre of town. I have a standing joke with the two sales girls there that I should have a bed in the shop as I spend so much time there. I am the proud owner of a WEb Pocket that allows me to access the internet at home and can use three devises at any on time. Because it is rechargeable I can obviously take it with me in my pocket (hence the name) and where ever there is a Tre signal I have internet. I swapped it for an old Cube whose contract had expired . Cancelling the old one took two visits to the store and in the end it was impossible to cancel completely ( too much paperwork the harassed sales girl told me) instead I received ( for another €10 ) a SIM card with the same phone number on it but from a competitor company Wind ( go figure). There were twenty pieces of paper to sign for the Web Pocket a two year contract and a maximum usage of 1 GB a day with big penalties for going over it. From past experience I will always pay something for exceeding the limit even though I don’t. I will also pay a tax on phone lines introduced in 1973 to help spread the use of land phones!! Plus a plethora of other taxes and charges on top of the €18 a month charge.
This afternoon I phoned the local internet shop here and asked about internet. . €120 installation charge said the guy and €25 a month unlimited usage. Buy monthly or weekly or daily, when you aren’t here no charge. When can you come? Now was the reply. Two guys arrived 5 mins later one up onto the roof the other running wires through the TV ariel socket. 20 mins later I bought €25 of internet for a month and am online with as many devices as I need.
I am delighted that Matteo Renzi has got his labour reforms through the senate and now is to start on the tax reforms but Cyprus is not known as a powerhouse of efficiency nor a place that is easy to do business. Indeed most Brits here will tell you that it is like living in the dark ages . It just shows how far Italy has to go to leap into the 20th let alone the 21st century. What is really galling is knowing the salaries the Italian bankers are paid for performing in such an inefficient manner.