Jeanne Koré Salvato

n a word, don’t do it!  I would like to take you on an imaginary, virtual trip to two different banks to change your home address.

First, let’s go to Capital One.  On their website, you click on the little person at the top right of the screen, and, voilà, you have the option, “profile,” where you can change your address, which you do. In the time it takes to read this, you have changed your address.  So much of banking is virtual, that I believe they don’t care where you live.  Ah, but France cares very much, too much, three years too much!

Next, let’s try La Bred.  This is the French bank, something like a credit union.  You don’t ever just call a bank.  Oh, dear.  You are assigned what is called in an old-fashioned way, a “conseillier,” a counselor.  Who doesn’t need a counselor, like the kings of old? You can call them, message them, and set up an appointment to go and see them. Super! That is until your most wonderful counselor gets promoted and no longer deals with the great unwashed.  Then, oh, then, Dear Reader, all hell breaks loose.  The new counselor has no clue what to do with somebody who lives overseas.  I sent her a message, in French, naturally, when I first arrived  Stateside three years ago.  “Hi!  I have a new address and phone.  Here they are.”  No response, so I figured this was a no brainer. Ha!

The bank introduced a means of confirming a withdrawal to cut back on fraud. (Once someone helped themselves to a couple hundred dollars of computer equipment with my card number, a sum which was speedily put back into my account.)  To cut back on fraud, a text would be sent to my phone to confirm my purchase.  Great. But the bank had a disconnected French number for me. Effectively, I couldn’t use my debit card because they had a defunct phone number. I called the bank, my counselor wasn’t home.  She was at a meeting.  I called her several times, to no avail. Finally, I had to break the rules and just call the bank number.  People tried to help me; they said the paperwork wasn’t in order. They asked me, “Did I really want to erase a French number?”  Hard to believe, but yes. “Use WhatsApp?” I suggested. They transferred me to a certain M. Robert who, halleluja, needed no paperwork.  He just set up the phone number so that the bank could text me. 

Then, exhausted, I was a bit half-hearted about changing the address, since after all, it’s a virtual world, except for one thing:  the debit card.  The bank mails you the debit card. And a few weeks before my card was about to expire, I got serious about changing that address.

Here are the steps to change the address of your French bank, which you must get right so they can mail you your new debit card. 

First, believe, like Adam Smith, in the unseen hand. This from Investopedia: “What Is the Invisible Hand? The term ‘invisible hand’ first appeared in Adam Smith’s famous work, The Wealth of Nations, to describe how free markets can incentivize individuals, acting in their own self-interest, to produce what is societally necessary.”

In my case, the unseen hand supplied me with a new counselor, who told me I needed the following documents to change my address.

1. Send a hand written letter, (Une lettre manuscrite) requesting address change.  (Seriously?)

2. Because I lived with my sister, no utility accounts were in my name.  Red Flag!!  So I needed a signed form called an attestation de hébergement from my sister saying this.

3. Accompanying the signed form, we need a photo of ID from said sister to prove she was who she said she was.

4. Accompanying all that, a utility bill from said sister to prove that she lived where she said she lived.

My scanner stopped working, but my very smart brother-in-law showed me how to scan via the Notes App on my iPhone.  So some good comes out of everything. 

At last and hooray!  I sent everything.  I marked the subject “urgence,” (urgent),  so that I could get the card before it expired.  This was August, after all, so I had six weeks.  I dusted off my hands.  At last.  Ah, hold your horses, there buddy.

For some reason, (Is there a good reason—a question for the philosophers), I could not send my personal counselor any attached files.  Anti-fraud?  Anti-malware? Anti-embezzlement?  Anti-consumer? So I had to send them off to “the bank.”  Ok, fine.  Then I was riding in a car with friends on the way to a hike.  (Why is this important?) and the phone rang.  It was the bank!  Right up there with the anticipated appearance of Godot, that call made me practically weep in gratitude.  “Bonjour,” I said, noting the incoming address was in France. “Vous parlez français, Madame?” said the voice on the other line.  My tears dried up immediately.  I have had an account there since 2003.  How could I not speak French! This time they needed me to sign papers to attest to my domicile fiscal.  My financial holdings were either housed in France or in the US.  How do you know, I asked her.  She wasn’t sure.  It’s complicated when you have revenue streams in more than one country–my streams could be called rills. (The bank didn’t know, but I was supposed to?)  I researched, I picked, I filled in the form and scanned it on the Notes App and sent it.  Really, I said to myself.  We have triumphed. 

However, a return e-mail asked for all the other forms, the handwritten request, the sister’s docs, all of it.  Good grief! So I re-sent. I told my new counselor of my hard work.  I got the following message from the counselor.  “Hi! Your counselor is on vacation.  What is it that you need exactly?”

Time for a phone call! Remember that they are six hours ahead, so the beginning of your day is doomed!   I explained I’d sent all the documents for the third time the day before at 15h26 (3:26 p.m.).  The person from the bank checked the e-mail. She said she had nothing from after 14h00 (2p.m.), an hour earlier than when I’d sent my stuff. “Why is that?” I asked her.  I mean, you have to push in France.  She was ready to hang up. “Oh, yesterday,” she said in response to my question.  She’d been looking at today’s emails.  Anyway, bless her heart, I re-sent everything with her staying with me on the line.  Then, she sent it all off to the change your address department.

So then, a few days later, I thought I’d check.  I looked under my profile and guess what!  Misspelled address with an added “Lot 114” to the street address; the town written right on the line with the street.  99999, that’s right, five nines added to show it’s an international address.  But by the time it gets here, all these nines will confuse the hell out of the post office. What will the post office do with my new card? 

I called again. “It hasn’t been sent yet? I said.  Remember, I had begun this process in August because my bank card expired at the end of September.  “Oh,” the bank said.  “You want a new bank card?” 

Guess what, Dear Reader?  You then have to sign a contract for a new card.  “Easy to do, Madame.  You can do it on line.”  But my link said you had to do it on the phone.  So on the phone we go.  I laboriously click on everything again, using the app, until at the very end, it says, “technical problem. No can do.” Meanwhile she sent me a pdf of the contract, which I printed out, signed, scanned and sent.  And meanwhile, meanwhile, I got a note from the bank saying that the electronic signature had actually gone through.

Godot, the illusory, sought-after figure from Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, has transmogrified into a bank card.  This change in a magical, unexpected manner is even accompanied by a time frame.  Two weeks, Madame, that is largement suffisant.  More than enough time. I am waiting for this card, much, I would submit, in the manner that the vagabonds are waiting for Godot.  A few teasing hints.  The question is, what will I do without it?  And the answer is, save money?  Get mad?  Go on walks?  Tune in next week.  What if it comes early?

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