What does $10,000.00 look like?

Posted: March 13, 2013 in Investing, Life, Stupidity
Tags: , , , , ,

and… “No, you can’t do that.”

I’m on a trip to Uruguay for a week in order to deal with bureaucratic bullshit that absolutely positively cannot be done remotely, like renewing the gun permits for the arsenal. Facetime. Something which I hate doing. 1 week is 1/52 of a year is 2% of a year. 2% of my year wasted dealing with asinine, petty morons in order to maintain that they steal the bare minimum. And this won’t be the only trip, I assure you. Other things are BOUND to come up, guaranteed. There is no such thing as finished business in Uruguay.

The first stop was Banco Republica, which purports to be the hands-off bank, “It’s your money, take it or leave it as much as you please, we care not,” yet fails to live up to the promise. I had a couple of tasks I needed to do: First was to get a second digital-key authentication device so that WifeBob could take care of the bill payments remotely.

“No, you can’t do that. She has to ask for it here in person.”

“Well, what if I then ask you for a second one for myself, as a spare, just in case. As you see, I am sitting here before you,” I offered an alternative.

“No, you can’t do that. You have to order it from the website.”

“So you are telling me that the bank, which issues the devices, cannot issue me the device. As I sit here, right before you, at the bank which issues them.”

Blank stare.


I go to the teller to withdraw some cash for a property purchase I am about to engage in in Chile; every time I have wired money out of the country, it has taken them weeks to get it done despite the fact that they have specific people dedicated to doing bank wires who spend all day doing nothing… a phenomenon which I have literally watched happen, in my own bizarre nature-film experience, like David Attenborough, when I stuck around, curious, and spied.

“No, you can’t do that. You can only withdraw $10,000 per day unless you are at the bank which issued the account.”

“Yes. I am at Banco Republica, right here, right now, as I stand here before you. Is my account not at Banco Republica?”

“Yes, but you can’t do that. You need to be at the specific branch which opened the account.”

“Is this a different company?” I ask.

“No, señor.”

“Is this a strange franchise of Banco Republica which has different rules?”

“No, señor.”

“Well then why does one rule apply here and another in Montevideo, where I don’t want to go, which will take another entire day of my life if I decide to torture myself through it?”

“Sorry, señor, those are the rules.”

“OK, then give me $10,000. And I’ll be back tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that… your rules, not mine. And I’ll have my money anyways, and all you did was make the whole process supremely annoying and inconvenient. Good thing I came here for a week and not just a couple of days.” Bumbling knuckledraggers. Other BROU customers, take note.

So, that brings me to something I realized on the way back to the old bunker… what exactly *does* $10,000.00 look like?

It looks a little something like this:

2013-03-13 17.01.01So, it’s a stack about a centimeter high. Not terribly impressive, considering all the work that went into it.

Something strikes me, and that is: as commonplace as this is to me, most people will never get to see this, let alone hold it in their hands. Many people might work through this severalfold during a year but will never accumulate it. All that work, distilled into this volatile, evaporating paper.

What will 10k buy you?

  • A really crappy new car.
  • A decent used car.
  • Two basic trail horses.
  • 78 cows.
  • A whole set of household furniture.
  • A whole set of household appliances.
  • Food for a couple of years.
  • 6 gold coins.
  • 333 silver coins.
  • A year’s worth of rent payments, maybe.

As you can see, it’s not a whole lot in the big picture.

Yet, this is the amount that most governments in the world will limit you to carrying across an invisible line in the dirt, and, in fact, will take from you if you do not tell them (and they find out about it), and/or throw you in jail for daring to scoff at their rule. This is the limit at which red flags are sent up if you wire as much or more from one place to another. A stack of paper no bigger than a notepad. A single year’s worth of rent can have you put in jail. The price of a pair of horses, or a used car.

Most countries participate in this financial shakedown. And in many, if you announced that you had this small amount with you, you would never make it out of the airport before you found that someone, or several someones, have forcibly traded your money for knives in all of your major organs.

And as if that is not enough, the “know your customer” rules have banks spying on any transaction larger than $3000, and it was even proposed that all transactions greater than $600 require both buyer and seller to file a form with the IRS.Has the world really truly become so petty?

  1. LiesDamnLiesBob says:

    It may hearten you to know that exporting >$10k quantities of cash from Uruguay is simple. At least from Carrasco airport, you go to the Arrivals area, then wait patiently in front of the sliding glass doors and motion at one of the air force comrades to let you in the door to go to aduanas. (He’ll ask for your cédula, and just tell him that you’re there to see customs.)

    You then walk up to the little customs window on the left, cough and stomp your boots a bit to try to get someone to come to the window (if not, go bug the guys sitting by the X-ray machines), and then fill out a little form that they’ll give you, telling them how much you’re carrying and whether or not you’re acting as an agent of the Banco Central de Uruguay. They stamp it and give you a second copy, and then you’re done. You don’t have to show it to anybody else (not even migraciones), so you’re on your way. The whole process takes five minutes.

    I should add that I have done this very recently (within the last two weeks). I didn’t see anyone lurking around with daggers either!

  2. Nicole Beck says:

    Great post Bob, just what I needed to take my mind off things before hitting the sack! Hope you are well!

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