How Many Russian Cashiers Does it Take to Cash a Traveler’s Check?

I’m beginning to get the idea that traveler’s cheques are an antiquated form of traveling with money. They may have been de rigueur in times past, but now it’s all about the ATMs. After being rejected from four different banks, including two Citibank branches, the bank at which I purchased the traveler’s cheques in the US, I decided to google where in Saint Petersburg I could actually cash the checks. Turns out there are only three banks in Saint Petersburg that cash them.

So last Saturday I dragged Lindsay along to one of the banks that supposedly would cash them. We asked the lady at the reception desk “Do you cash traveler’s checks?” She said she thought so but that we needed to ask the lady seated at the desk to her left. We approached the lady at the desk, “Do you cash traveler’s cheques?” I asked and lifted one from my purse as a visual aid to my question. She held up a finger signaling us to wait and picked up the phone and had a brief conversation. “To the cashier’s desk” she mumbled while signaling to a corridor on her left.

Lindsay and I walked through the corridor and slid the cheques under the glass window separating us from the cashier. “Can you” I asked? She nodded her head.

Then began what appeared to be the most lengthy, complex process one could possibly undertake in a bank. The cashier quickly called in two other cashiers to help her with the process while another looked on from her booth beside. The cashier, Masha, examined the cheques as if they were specimens from a lost world. She would arrange them in straight lines and then stack them together again. She flipped them this way and that and read the minimal text upon them at least ten times. She made several phone calls and kept blowing her cheeks in exasperation. I tried to tell them that I needed to sign them but they didn’t notice; they figured it out on their own fifteen minutes later. After signing them, they spent another twenty minutes calling around and shuffling the cheques. It appeared as though no one at the bank could concisely tell them what to do with them.

Lindsay and I waited patiently for 45 minutes before the money drawer finally opened and I could declare a victory….except I still had another stack of them at home.

 

 

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