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6:00pm on Thursday, 8th September, 2011:



I went to the bank today, to change some currency. I had four requirements: change some pounds into Swedish money; change some pounds into Norwegian money; change some Icelanding money into pounds; change some Romanian money into pounds. Ideally, I would have done it without going through pounds (so as to avoid getting hit twice on conversion fees), but I didn't think the bank would have the spot rate for lei to kronur.

Our branch of Lloyds used to have a foreign currency window, but they changed it so all windows could handle foreign currency transactions. This was announced as an improvement at the time, which indeed it was — no more waiting behind the one person trying to arrange for £200,000 to be transferred electronically to a bank in Spain the instant the £/&euro rate drops below some threshold. So, I went to window number 4 and asked if they could perform my four requirements.

They couldn't perform any of them. They only had dollars and euros in stock, and they had to look at pictures to make sure the Icelandic and Romanian money really was from Iceland and Romania, in the process of which they learned that they would have to send it off to get it converted into pounds.

Having wasted 25 minutes reaching this stage, I went to Marks & Spencer. They were able to sell me what I wanted to buy, and to buy what I wanted to sell. I left 10 minutes after arriving, deal done.

How come a clothes shop had a better bureau de change than a bank?

Should I go to Lloyds next time I want a new jacket?

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).