Burning Through Their Cash

, , , , | Right | August 25, 2018

(I work at a bank that caters to the mix of population that California has and the languages they speak, primarily English, Spanish, and Chinese. While our Chinese-speaking tellers are Asian, they’re what we call ABCs — American-Born Chinese — and therefore may miss some cultural things on occasion. A lady of uncertain ethnicity comes in to trade foreign currency at the teller next to me. Neither of us are qualified for foreign currency transactions, but when my coworker is looking at the bill confusedly for a while, I peek over, and see a lot of telling things. The first thing I notice is the Chinese, and since I know Chinese, I plan to offer input. Then I notice the rest… It is green, and looks and feels like US currency, but it is a “Hell Bank Note” of “Ten Thousand.” It features a non-chubby cheek portrait facing right, and has the blatantly fake serial number of j023456. In fact, you can find this exact one on Google Images. It’s even signed in fancy English Calligraphy, with the names associated with “Hell” in Chinese superstition. Lastly, the biggest and most obvious factor for this being not real that convinces my coworker, at least, is that it has no country written on it.)

Me: *to coworker* “I’m pretty sure that’s money you burn.”

Customer: “What? You don’t just burn ten thousand dollars! I want my ten thousand dollars’ worth!”

(Judging by the customer’s tone, she isn’t trying to scam us, but genuinely thinks it is valuable and is horrified that I want to burn her ten thousand dollars. My coworker, on the other hand, seems skeptical, but has at least heard about the tradition of burning money. Every teller begins to take a peek and see what the fuss is about. At first I am trying to explain what I see and what I know. Then we just start to wonder what should we do. Some of the options include confiscating the “fake bill” and reporting it to the Feds, returning the bill and dismissing service, or trying to explain what it is to the customer — which we try to no avail. All the while the customer is getting more and more frantic at the idea of losing ten thousand dollars, until finally I try this to satisfy the customer’s needs.)

Me: “Ma’am, if you’ll look here, it says that this is a ‘Hell Bank Note.’ Perhaps the Hell Bank will cash this for you.”

(She seems satisfied with the answer, takes back her bill, and goes out on her way to learn more about this “Hell Bank.” After all the tellers go back to their places and are relieved it is over, my coworker has this gem:)

Coworker: “Did you just tell her to go to Hell?”

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