Well, the story of an estimated 100,000 euros worth of 500-euro notes (real ones) found plugging up the toilets of some down-town restaurants (and a bank—who knew that banks had human toilets?) keeps floating to the surface.
The incident happened at the beginning of the summer tourist season. Traditionally the time of year when stinking-rich tourists come to town to enjoy the fabulous hotels on the lake shore and go diamond and watch-shopping, cash is the essential ingredient for these discreet transactions.
It is not a crime in Switzerland to destroy currency, and a moderate amount of appropriate paper is also suitable for toilet bowls. However, the affair of the scissored-up euros found littering and blocking some public conveniences seems inexplicable.
The toilets had to be dismantled and the pulpy evidence is now in thick plastic bags under lock and key one assumes. Obviously, the police, lacking experience and imagination, need some help with their investigations.
First of all, everyone knows that a 500-euro note is just about worthless. You cannot change it anywhere. Pubs, ice-cream trucks, the chestnut man, supermarkets, bus drivers, flower ladies, banks (even if you have an account) will not change them into either lesser denominations or exchange them for francs.
Then there is the bad attitude of bank employees. In India, for example, during the winter’s cash crisis, I had taken, as advised, crisp new American $100-bills as back-up. After standing in a Pondicherry bank line-up for hours, I was told that these could not be changed into rupees as I did not have an account there, and I could never ever possibly get one.
The same scenario occurred last month in Canada when I tried to change a few of those very same bills into Canadian dollars. There I even got a moral lecture on how, as a traveller, one must arm oneself with the currency of the country (as she, the savvy teller, would). If not, then tough luck to you, lady-probably-American-tourist!
So, still smarting from these instances of financial humiliation, here is what I believe happened on that fateful day in Geneva in June.
Some nice lady took 100,000 euros out of her safety-deposit box to go buy her grand-daughter a little souvenir Swiss watch with small tasteful diamonds. On the way out of the bank she stopped at a teller to ask ever so politely to have the money in Swiss francs, please.
She was told no.
So, to improve her mood, she went to the ladies loo and chopped up enough euros with her nail scissors to block the toilet.
Feeling a little peckish, she then visited three small bistros close by and each one refused her 500-euro notes. In each one she asked for the washroom, got out the scissors and worked her mischief.
There is no point, after all, in being stinking rich if you can’t raise a stink when necessary.