News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Money for Nothing

A funny thing happened on the way to Nat West Bank yesterday.

There I was on the High Street in Westbury on Trym needing to change a £10 note in order to pay my share of the lunch bill at the Thai Gourmet. I decided to call into the Nat West branch to carry out the transaction.

"Are you a Nat West customer?" I was politely asked by the cashier as I placed the note in front of the bullet-proof glass divide. Bracing myself for a sales pitch involving life insurance, a mortgage review or a free will writing service, I timidly answered that I was not.

"We will need to make a charge for that transaction, sir," replied the smiling cashier. Before leaving to cross the road to my own bank, I enquired of the cashier and her now hovering supervisor how much the charge would be to change my £10 into two fives.

"Five pounds, sir," came the reply from a staff member in an embarrassed-but-attempting-to-present-a-professional-front tone of voice.

On confirming that Nat West would like to extract half the value of the note in my hand in order to change it for me, I left for Barclays, asking the now-nervous cashier whether she would mind if I wrote an article on the bank's policy in my local magazine. True to my promise, I have done so.

This experience has got me thinking. Perhaps my next move will be to write to the governor of the Bank of England and ask him for clarification on his signed promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £10. Is this promise, I will ask, only valid at Threadneedle Street itself or does it hold good at every British banking institution? Despite a careful search, I have so far found no footnote on the £10 explaining that this promise will only be fulfilled if I pay them a fiver.

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