The bank queue
19 February 2019
"Yu kam," I felt a firm hand tapping me on the shoulder. I turned and faced a clean-shaven security guard, looking smart in his bank issued uniform.
"Em ya, sanap long hia," he said, pointing with his left hand which also clutched a bundle of bank deposit slips.
I had arrived at the bank at 8:40, 10 minutes after the morning queue was ushered in.
As I joined the end of the queue, the image of Alice being late for tea with the Mad Hatter jumped at me.
I slowly scanned the winding line of bodies as it coiled around the foyer looking depressingly like "a long and sad tail".
I glanced at my wrist watch – I’d probably be in the bank for three hours max. Two or three hours of jostling, complaining and chit-chatting. Not to be defeated, I looked around to occupy myself.
The deposit queue was a confusion, its arrangement hard to decipher. But like all bank queues in Papua New Guinea, some semblance of order would be unexpectedly be worked out. PNG is the land of the unexpected if you don’t know.
The enquiry queue was shorter. The smart-looking security guard continued to usher in clients. The maze continued to grow.
"Security, pasim dua!" someone suddenly called out as two more clients rushed to get in first.
"Nogat moa speis ya!"said a voice behind me.
I turned. There were five or six people who had piled in before the door shut. I was reminded of what a slow morning had entrapped me.
The young man behind leisurely spoke. "Ol security tu ya! Yupla lukluk na controlim dua!" he hissed, "benk pulap olgeta ya!"
"Larim ol wokim lain na sanap autsait pastaim," he continued while those in hearing range turned and nodded in agreement.
"Hey! Maski lo katim lain," a skinny man with a small bilum around his neck reacted angrily to well-dressed man who looked like a former government employee who was standing lost in the maze.
"Nogat, mi no katim lain. Mi painim lain blo Enquiries ya," he explained to the skinny man.
"Oh, okay ... sori, em ya! ... lain blo Enquiries lo hap ya," the skinny man said, pointing.
"Ol security tu stap we? Kam na stretim ol kastomas ya," the skinny man continued talking to nobody in particular.
Then the main entrance door opened and a senior looking female bank employee walked in.
"Hey! Yupla sanap lo hap givim speis lo wokmeri blo benk!" the other heavy-set security guard barked and pointed into the queue.
The bank employee strolled over with the guard, the human maze parting respectfully like the Red Sea.
The bank employee paused. It seemed like a light bulb had suddenly switched on.
"Ol security! Yupla controlim ol lain kam insait lo benk! Sapos pulap, larim sampla stap autsait!" She spoke firmly looking at the two security personnel and eyeing the human muddle that had fallen silent to give her space.
"Yumi mas save olsem Papua Niugini nau i gat ol cases blo strongpla sik TB! Disla kain yumi olgeta pulap na bung olsem bai isi tru lo sik TB i ken spred!"
And she walked on, the burly guard used the security ID card to unlock the electronic door to the bank's work area. The queue spread out again.
I scanned the foyer. Everyone just continued with what they were doing before. Everyone clung to the “long and sad tail” feeling secure in their spot.
Customer service in PNG banks, especially BSP, is very poor and time consuming with long hours of lining up.
There is only one bank in Kundiawa which serves the Simbu population plus Jiwaka and Bundi. Jiwaka people don't go to Hagen because there is risk involved and Madang is too far for Bundis to cross rivers and mountains.
BSP in Kundiawa needs to be upgraded with more staff and capacity to meet the demand. Towns are growing and the bank must improve its customer service.
Posted by: Philip Kai Morre | 23 February 2019 at 11:01 PM
Bit like the little buggers in Mosbi who stand in front of Steamies in the city and sell parking spaces. As soon as a car leaves a spot they jump in and claim it. When someone drives into the spot they hold their hands out.
My first job in 1966 was with the National Australia Bank. In those days it was Monday mornings and Friday afternoon that were especially busy.
My daughter now works for CBA. They spend a great deal of time trying to talk people into using internet banking and ATMs.
I guess PNG is a bit behind the times there.
Incidentally, I opened a bank account with the ANZ in Mosbi in 2012 and they said they'd post me a debit card (to a PNG address). I'm still waiting. My K50 must be all gone by now, what with fees and stuff I probably owe them money.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 23 February 2019 at 08:17 PM
Pay days are worse, Wednesdays to Fridays, patience is tested and tempers sometimes fly.
When I was at Goroka, some years back, young enterprising boys would stand in line and then give away their space to anyone for a small fee.
Posted by: Raymond Sigimet | 23 February 2019 at 03:41 PM
The ANZ bank lines in Mosbi are a killer but the ATM lines at the Westpac across the road are deadly, especially when it's raining.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 23 February 2019 at 02:53 PM
Phil, the Royal Commission should also investigate the ATM lines as well, I think.
Posted by: Raymond Sigimet | 23 February 2019 at 01:44 PM
I've stood in PNG bank lines for hours on end and can sympathise with Raymond. When it comes to bank lines having a white skin no longer matters.
Perhaps PNG needs a Royal Commission into Bank Lines.
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 19 February 2019 at 07:19 AM