As hundreds of tourists, travelers and locals enter and leave South Africa’s shores every year and with 2010 tourism still on everyone’s lips you would expect South Africa’s foreign exchange services and Banking options to be custom catered to assisting our lovely visitors.
You would be kidding yourselves! I have just booked my very first Overlanding Truck tour through Southern Africa and with great excitement I am counting down the hours till I board the truck and set off to trail-blaze through all the great attractions Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have to offer. Imagine my horror then when I went to my local First National Bank Foreign Exchange Services Office (Bureau de Change) to exchange my Rands for some US $ and I was told that because I am not flying and do not have an air ticket I needed the vehicle registration papers of the truck that I was booked on? What? You are out of your mind - I duly replied!
After being redirected to an incompetent services consultant, who sat on the phone with the fat cat FNB foreign exchange bosses above her for another half an hour and had to be reminded three times that I did not actually own the truck but was going on a tour, I left the office muttering some unmentionables about how they should change First to, well you get the picture.
I then headed to Rennie’s Foreign Exchange Office having been told that I would not be asked for registration papers and that their customer service was excellent. Guess it was opposite day, not only was the staff surly and unhelpful but I was impolitely informed that they would not exchange my Rands for US $ because I was travelling to Namibia first and could get dollars there.
The more I tried to explain that I needed an upfront payment for my tour operator and wasn’t even sure whether we would be stopping near foreign exchange offices in Namibia, the more disinterested looking the faces became behind the counter.
In South Africa where tourism and travel is one of our largest economies and markets and where we just hosted one of the biggest international sporting events worldwide how is it that our foreign currency exchange services and options are this ridiculous? Surely we want our visitors and tourists to Southern Africa to spend as much money as possible when they come here? As for the customer service at First National Bank and Rennie’s Foreign Exchange, I vow to never enter your offices again!!!!