Why the rant you ask? Well today we drove to the HSBC in Downtown L.A. to sort out my American bank account. In an ideal world we really shouldn't have needed to, but as with most things in life, nothing is ever as easy as you think.
A few months before we left London, I'd popped along to my local Chiswick branch to investigate setting up an American account with a view that it would be really helpful to have the credit history or at least familiarity of dealing with a bank I know. Aside from HSBC becoming a very elitist bank recently (or am I just being naive?), i.e. the introduction of their two-tier service - if you don't have £75,000 in savings or a mortgage with them, you're not entitled to their Premier Banking Service and quite frankly they no longer want to know you.
So, I'd tried to set up a checking account in advance of arriving in the U.S. so I would have an American debit card and be able to take cash out of ATMs without being charged and also just to have some financial independence as I'm not able to work. After paying a £100 fee (as I'm not a Premier HSBC member), thinking in the long run this investment would help simplify things, lo and behold my new debit card and internet access password were 'lost' by DHL when they tried to deliver them. I tried about 3 or 4 times to have them redirected to our home and to my work, but to no avail. The whole reason I started the application early was to allow time for unforeseen circumstances like this, but unfortunately our time in the country just ran out.
Ultimately I had to battle with HSBC to get my £100 refunded (but I did - yay me!) and I was told my American account had been set up and new cards issued, but all would need to be cancelled due to the security risk of my 'missing' debit card. Hence our trip Downtown today.
Interestingly in the U.S. IKEA is marketed as a much less quirky and edgy 'chuck out the chintz' place and their ads are much more about quality, inspiration and creating a sanctuary (oh to be working still on home interest magazines). Mind you I'm pretty sure the in-store experience is still as unpleasant as the UK one.
American cinemas (or the ones here in L.A.) are fab - they have nice comfy seats which are on a nice steep incline with great visibility and massive screens. The only downside seems to be the dodgy popcorn, which is very salty (no choice of sweet here, which is strange in the land of SUGAR!!)