In my pre-Philippines life it wasn't unusual for me to have two or three weeks pass without ever having to touch a single bill in my wallet. About the only time I would delve into the folds of my billfold was when I went fastfood for lunch, but even that would no longer be the case these days I've found. Virtually every imaginable establishment, including all fastfood places, now take, and even prefer, that their customers pay with plastic.
When I first arrived to the islands in '02 the archaic requirement for "cash only" was one of the toughest things I had to get used to, after the wonderfully therapeutic heat that is. (No complaints there mind you!)
By now, you've guessed that my "thing two" observation about American vs Philippine living has to do with credit card use. Of course many stores in the Philippines do take them, but they are few and far between and many of these establishments make it a very drawn out and difficult thing to do. Not only that, despite recent regulation forbidding it, many places of business still charge substantial fees when cards are proferred. I heard that we are supposed to turn these "law violators" in, but where? Just point me the way!
I mentioned in an earlier post how my favorite travel agency in Angeles doesn't even accept credit cards anymore and how outrageous is that! A near lawless place like "Sin City Angeles" and they want customers to troop around with what might be thousands of dollars to pay for airline tickets? I don't get it. It's crazy.
That's my main point here. American business practice is to make it absolutely the easiest thing in the world to access and pay for products, any product, whether its a cup of coffee or an airline ticket. There is almost nothing a person with any kind of a paying job here can't find a way to acquire, and all because of Misters Visa and Mastercard. It might not always be a wise thing, but these days, even kids right out of high school are preapproved for substantial credit. Ten years ago, I was incredulous when my kids all received their first plastic right out of high school. They promptly ran them all up and eventually they all declared bankruptcy. Now THAT sure wouldn't happen in the Philippines (Okay, granted, so that's a good thing).
Still, I wish the Phils would get with the program and start making it more widespread to be able to pay with a credit card. But even at the places that take them they at times can turn the "approval process" into a time consuming ordeal. At one of the malls in Makati last year I wanted to buy three rechargable battery fans worth a total of just over $100. My wife went with a sales girl to some little back room to get our credit card approved. Almost an hour later and the transaction was complete--an HOUR LATER! Its bogus, because it seems as if they don't want my money! They DO want us to buy from them, don't they? Isn't that what stores do? Sometimes it doesn't seem like its a very high priority for them. Baffling!
I'd kind of forgotten how much the Philippines credit card thing irks me until I came back home here this trip and saw that it has become even easier and more convenient than ever to use plastic than it was five years ago. Right off the plane I watched my brother swipe his card at the Detroit airport even before getting into his car--off we went, no lines, no cash, and no slow moving cashier to deal with.
At a last second stop through a Burger King drive through in Texas I paid for everyone's order in the car by handing over my Mastercard. I didn't even have to sign a receipt. The young fellow at the window swiped it, verified the 6 dollar and change payment, and three seconds later handed back the card. I don't think I've ever spent less time getting a fast food order filled and payed for. As an impatient American, I CAN appreciate that!
Waiting for my flight out of the dimunitive yet nifty Killeen community airport shared with the Fort Hood flightline, all I had was a hundred dollar bill. I really didn't feel like breaking it for a cup of coffee, so I handed over my MC. Bing bang boom, I'm drinking coffee and eating a donut for just over two bucks. I'd like to say, "Only in the Philippines," but instead I find myself saying, "Sigh.....!"
This will be easy enough to believe, but I didn't have to break my Ben Franklin until I went to get my new stateside drivers license at the Michigan Department of Motor Vehicles. Leave it to a bureaucratic and mostly inefficient institution like a state DMV to ruin my run of NOT having to use cash! Typical, and it only makes sense since, basically, this is a post where I whine and moan about an aspect of the Philippines that I'm not so happy with, so naturally, what do I find right here in the states to compare with my complaint concerning a lack of institutional efficiency, a Michigan DMV. Perfect!
Only less than a week and I'll be back in the Phils where once again I'll have little need to bring out and dust off my plucky little credit card. ...Sigh... I'll miss you old friend...!