Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paying in Cash. As in Cash Cash.

Like most Serbs, my husband is not truly comfortable paying with plastic. How can you be careful with your spending if you don't have to feel the pain of parting with actual bills? How do you know how much money you have left if there's no thinning wad of bills to touch? Not to mention relying on those bank computers! Someday, due to sunspots, Ukrainian hackers, or cheating executives, your electronic account will get diddled for sure.

Which is why, when he went down today to pick up the new car that we purchased under America's Cash for Clunkers program, he brought along several bundles of hundreds which he'd saved up in his safety deposit box at the bank to pay for it.

He's planning to ship this car over to the Balkans soon. You can't ship a car internationally unless you own it 100%. So, he had told the car salesman he'd be paying cash up front, instead of financing the purchase.

Why then, was the salesman so surprised when my husband thunked down a wad of cash onto his desk? I think the guy's eyelids were going to peel back into his head.

The salesguy jumped up and ran to the corner office in the dealership to confer with his boss. Apparently there was some terrible concern. Nobody was sure if they could receive in their own hands actual cash for a new automobile. How were they supposed to handle the bills? What if it was drug money from an illegal deal? What if it bit them like a live rattlesnake?

My husband asked what the problem was. "Well, when you said 'cash', we really didn't think you meant cash cash," the salesguy explained. I understood completely. To most Americans, 'cash' means anything that's not a formal bank loan. It could be a debit card, a check, or even a credit card. My husband, on the other hand, looked at the guy like he was a complete idiot.

I started laughing. You can take the boy out of the Balkans, but not the Balkans out of the boy.


merkat said...

LOL!!! This is really funny story!

When I've visited US, during 90's, I've noticed that people were staring at us when we were paying cash (cash-cash) for anything that was more expensive than a hamburger. :o) But, you have to admit that using plastic has some really bad sides,like spending something you don't have, and then applying for another credit card to cover the "minus" on your first card, then the third to cover the second one... Plus, we've been victims of all kinds of frauds during 90's, including banks taking your money and disappearing afterwards with your entire life savings.

And no, I don't use plastic - there's nothing like a cold hard cash! ;o)))

temunka said...

"You can take the boy out of the Balkans, but not the Balkans out of the boy."
True, so true :)

Anonymous said...

This is a hilarious story. The reason why Americans are so much in debt is because they don't appreciate money. Of course they don't... credit cards with $5000+ limits come in the mail (or used you before the recession). all you had to do is call to activate it...

Holly said...

"You can take the boy out of the Balkans, but not the Balkans out of the boy."
Ditto on the truth!
No matter how much he denies or refuses to admit it!
One has NO idea just how different the "cultural differences" will be until after marriage and living together. Then it hits like a small bomb, at regular but unscheduled intervals. Sometimes funny and many, many times ARGH!!

Anonymous said...

...and we (the rest of the world) are paying for American attitude of owning everything on credit.
Since last year, when crisis hit our region as well, all my property and credit cards were blocked by a bank - they said that they cannot tolerate being late with payments, due to financial crisis created in USA. Since then, I have learned again how to rely on cash only...

Balkan Boy

merkat said...

You said "No matter how much he denies or refuses to admit it!" And why do you present it like it is a bad thing? This was supposed to be a funny story. You know, American way is not the only way to do things, and many times it is not the right way at all. Especially with credit cards...you know where the crisis started.
I live in multi-cultural environment, and every day I see two different worlds with so opposite way of doing many things - and that does not mean that either way is wrong. It is wrong to contemn the other way.