My customer queuing ticket read 13.58 (should have read 12.58 because Egypt did not change the clock this year) queue number 463 and number of people before me 84.  That’s ok – I scanned the row of cashiers and counted approx. 8 or 9 apparently working.  Found myself a seat and made some phone calls.  15 minutes later I realised there had been little movement in the people seated around me and that I had not heard the ticket numbers being called very often.  A quick glance at the ticket counter tells me it has only moved up 5 numbers in the past 15 minutes.

I know this is Egypt.  I know life moves at a different pace here.  I know I would be more peaceful if I were more accepting of these two pacifiers BUT it’s not working for me!!!  Funnily enough on my way back to Egypt last June I met an English man – on his way to do some employee training in Egyptian Banks – ironic – my bank must not be on his list.

I scanned the cashier windows again and noticed a big discrepancy between the automated ticket numbers on them – the biggest one being 338 .v. 384.  What on earth was going on?  To get a better view I stood up against a counter facing the cashier windows.  For the next  20 minutes I watched them work.  One bank employee in particular greeted some persons quietly as they came through the bank and ushered them to various windows (forget the ticket!)  Some veteran customers of the bank were savvy on their own account using one of the following two modes of operation.

1.  Come into the bank, stand slightly to the side, observe the numbers as they flash up on the teller windows – now comes the clever part…..if they see nobody rising to go to the available teller, they quickly walk up with a smile, before the cashier pushes the number button again, and an “excuse me” and the teller does their business for them.  That is part of the “a smile goes a long way” culture in Egypt.
2.  Choose the line where you know the cashier or choose the line where the automated ticket sign is lower than the others – this is the most likely cashier to serve you without a ticket.

20 minutes of watching this and my temperature was RISING – now I had come into the bank in a very calm and happy mood.  Of the 8 or 9 cashiers working only 4 or 5 were following the ticket numbers more or less.  I could see myself in the bank for another hour at this rate!  Unable to control my anger any longer I turned around and asked the three staff members chatting away behind me if there was a floor manager for this part of the bank.  I got no answer other than “What is the problem?”

For the next 20 minutes (how do I know because I was watching the clock!!!!!) a pretty young lady called Yasmine proceeded to tell me I had to wait my turn.  This was rather annoying because, though she apparently spoke perfect english, she appeared not to understand I was quite prepared to wait my turn – but,  I did want someone to tell the cashiers to work the customers by their tickets!  The gentleman originally involved in the conversation I had interrupted told her about 3 times exactly what my complaint was – in arabic, before removing himself from the scene.

I took Yasmine by the hand over to one of the cashiers and asked her to ask the customer being served if he had a ticket, because I knew he had not.  Instead she told the cashier to work the ticket system.  I also explained to her how I had been watching the people coming in from the street and choosing cashiers – without having tickets.  “This,” she kept saying, “is impossible”.  The next one I spotted and pointed to Yasmine – she went and spoke to that cashier also.  I pointed out another 4 customers quietly standing behind people being served by different cashiers, obviously without tickets, obviously just going to chance that they would be served without producing the ticket.  She would not check on these but no matter everyone in the bank was now aware that I was working up a steam about something.

The crowning piece of irony was when a young man named Amr came to see what was going on and in spite of Yasmine’s explanation ——-OFFERED THAT I SHOULD JUMP THE QUEUE MYSELF!!!!!  Was he upset that he had put his foot in his mouth?  No, he actually thought it was funny – as did Yasmine though she did her best to hide it!  I told her that if this situation was being observed by a western bank manager i.e 80 – 90 people waiting on cashier service in his bank he would have to see where the hold up was or were all his cashiers incapable of doing their jobs with any kind of speed at all?

Now an amazing thing happened which I cannot really explain – except that maybe the cashiers got the message to speed up their work or it was nearing closing time…….at exactly 13.55 (by the bank clock not the one on the ticket machine) one hour after I walked into the bank MY NUMBER COMES UP!  Which meant that most of the people waiting since I started to create a problem were served in the last 20 minutes!!!  Odd isn’t it how quickly things move when cashiers are following the ticket system and not giving preferential treatment!

As I left the bank the three employees were having a little laugh – which I am hazarding a good guess, was at my expense – this blog is my bit of honest revenge for that!  The worst possible thing to do when someone is angry is laugh at then…….cardinal customer care rule.  This is the bank that keeps my business visa account, this is the bank where I cracked up over a similar situation a few weeks before.  This is Banque Misr on Mohamed Farid St. in Downtown Cairo.

Are Egypt’s banks ready to serve the world, would they be able to cope with an influx of foreign investment?  Are they capable of implementing workable systems catering to their customers’ needs without wasting their time?  Is there a need in Egyptian banks for time management audits?  Are the banks employing the best workers?  Do all the employees actually have work they are supposed to be doing?

I have to end on a positive note – HSBC banks in Luxor and in Cairo, which I have used – follow the ticket system and do not allow queue jumping.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *