Monday, April 30, 2012

Skanky Money

Something you learn very quickly on arriving in India is not to accept dirty, stained or ripped rupees, because once you have them, they are virtually impossible to get rid of. I have never come across a country that is so obsessed with crisp clean money and such a disdain for dirty bills.

It seems that the people of India believe that the value of cash is multidimensional; you have to take into account the number written on the bill as well as the condition… sometimes a rumpled old 20 rupee note is not actually worth 20 rupees when you consider the trouble to get rid of it.

I have become pretty good at scanning the cash that is handed to me and rejecting any of questionable quality, but Ray, not so much. And this means, that most of the time, it becomes my job to get these dirty buggers back into circulation.
So how do you get rid of them-
  • Invest in a roll of invisible scotch tape… it will pay for itself.
  • Repeat the karma and palm it off on someone else...à la Chicago bank roll- hidden amongst clean notes
  • Give it to someone who wants your money no matter how dodgy the condition. I find this works well in cafes after you have eaten and you insist.. 'this is the only money I have'.
  • Hand it over at a toll plaza or a parking garage and sit there until they open the boom gate; it doesn't take long before the people behind you are going off their na-na forcing acceptance.

Interestingly, I heard about an enterprising man sitting in a marketplace with a pile of dirty bills and a pile of crisp clean notes. He was changing old ripped and dirty currency for new clean notes and charging people for the service…entrepreneurial indeed. On average he would give people 70% of the notes face value.

Here is a thought… in a culture dense with social hierarchy, where rank is pervasive; I wonder if those of a higher rank can use their position to palm off their undesirable notes to those of lesser social stature.

Now, the official position of the Indian government is that money is money and that you should be able to trade your damaged notes at any bank, however, in reality, this is not the case. I have heard of people receiving dodgy notes from ATMs and upon taking them inside the branch they are refused an exchange as the ATM is serviced by another branch on the other side of the city.

It must be entertaining watching Indians traveling abroad refusing to accept damaged notes of other countries. I can just imagine the confusion of the other party.
Yes, the clean rupees fetish is just that; it is not a clean US dollar or Australian dollar fetish. In Australia damaged notes, where large chunks of the note are missing, are handed from person to person without incident until they find themselves at a bank and are removed from circulation.

Oh, and if you want to know where all the crisp new rupee notes come from, it seems to be from the ATM at the American embassy ;)


Priya Kundu said...

awesome post! i love this! for gifts for men and women visit at:-

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I'll watch out for that this trip. Karen A