October 28, 2020

How to lose money!

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An odd title for an article, you might think, but maybe an apt part of the world to air it.

Poor old me, a struggling author (violins please) with a few novels to my name and about 30 stage plays, performed all over the world. The vast majority of the performances of my stage plays are in the UK, with a much smaller number overseas (including a couple in Grand Cayman), which is where my problem arises.

Let’s say, for example, a theatre company in the USA would like to read one of my full length plays. Ignoring postal charges for a moment, the plays are £6.00 a copy. Let’s imagine the US Theatre Company say that’s fine (it is after all, similar to the price of a comparable play script from US publishers) and they send me a cheque (or in this case a check) for the dollar equivalent of £6.00 plus whatever carriage charges are
on top.

Fine so far…

Then the cheque (sorry, check) arrives in my mail in the UK. I take it to the bank and they will convert it into shiny Sterling Pounds for a fee. This fee varies from bank to bank but is usually in the order of £10 per cheque. So I sell my script at a loss of £4.00 – not exactly a good business transaction.

Undaunted, I take this up with the UK Clearing Banks. “In crease your prices,” suggested one. Great answer; I am then trying to compete with the US playwrights and publishers who are charging the dollar equivalent of around £6.00 when my price is now almost three times that amount. Not exactly a good business transaction.

One thing a couple of banks will offer is a US dollar account. Eureka! Except for the small print: I have to have over £10,000 held in the account at all times. To save myself £10. I think I can find better uses for £10,000 – if I had £10,000. Not exactly a good business transaction. (or did I say that already?)

As with most countries, UK banks have been under threat in recent years. I did think of trying to open an offshore account who would take my checks and send me cheques, or maybe do that new fangled thing the banks don’t want us to know about – BACS transfers. Apparently that would be classed as money laundering, not that I was aware that organised crime syndicates are in the habit of dealing with stage play scripts.

As an aside here, I was moving house a few years ago and had to get £5,000 from B*****s Bank (in Altrincham, Cheshire) to  the seller’s account in another bank, lets refer to them as Royal Bank of a Country in the UK. A simple matter of pressing a few computer keys, yes…?

No. To do that would take 24 hours we didn’t have (I think they need some keyboard training or faster wires) and a cheque would take up to 5 days to clear (what actually does happen to your money during all these lost days? The banks what…? No, they wouldn’t, would they?)

The only free and instant suggestion they could make is that they would give me £5,000 in cash and I could walk the half mile to the other bank to deposit that cash over the counter. So, in all seriousness, they proposed to give me a substantial amount of money over the counter in a crowded lunchtime bank (where anyone could be listening) and I carry it up the road (where any of the aforementioned listeners could be lying in wait) in a brown envelope.

And guess what? I did it. There was simply no other way.

Anyway, back to the plot. The troubled banks are not prepared to help or be reasonable. Sometimes I just tell the people who order the scripts to put a few dollars in a charity collection box; I’d rather give it to a worthwhile cause than give it to any of these b*****d banks. And there, on the horizon, are the likes of PayPal. No problem for them. They don’t care if it’s a Sterling cheque, a dollar check (or even, I’d guess, a Czech šek) yet the banks probably imagine these technological upstarts will go away if they just ignore them long enough.

So come on, good people of the Cayman Islands – educate me. I am told all world banks are represented in Grand Cayman, but are they all as bad and are they all as intransigent? Maybe someone would like to cheque for me… I mean… you know what I mean.

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