Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Non-Consensual Giving

For the past few months I've been depositing money into a friend's bank account. She's in Europe, and I'm making use of her apartment, so I'm paying her, but it makes no sense to send a check all the way to Germany, so we looked into it and it turns out this is the easiest way to do it.

The first time, I thought to myself, "Wait. Even if I have the account number, surely they're not going to just let me put money into someone else's account. Are they?"

But they are. And they do. No questions asked. You have someone's account number, you show up with the cash, you can put it in.

Does this strike anyone else as odd? I mean, it's your bank account. Someone can just show up off the street? Any person? Who wants to give you money? And they can just put it in your account without needing any permission?

I know it's your account number to give out, suggesting a kind of permission, but it's not like you can show up with just someone's account number and take money *out of* the account. No.

So there seems to be an assumption that with giving, it doesn't matter. But in ordinary life, I think people take the "acceptance" of a gift pretty seriously. There are times you don't want a gift. Maybe you don't want any favors from person X because your're pissed off at X, or you think X has evil motives, or you think X's money came from ill-gotten gains. Or maybe you already have enough.

In ordinary life you're usually there to fight about it. "Take this." "No!"

My (relatively poor) Italian grandmother used to want to give us money all the time when I was a (middle-class) kid. She knew my parents wouldn't accept it, so she'd try to sneak it to me, figuring I was young enough not to really know what was going on. It was, like, you know, five dollars at a time. Then also she'd try to buy stuff for us. There was always a fight. I can hear her making her Thanksgiving declaration. "I'll pay for the turkey!" and a chorus of "No, no you won't!" Indeed, when we wanted to tease her by mimicking, we'd always start with, "I'll pay!"

So, wait, you mean she could've just shown up at the bank, put the money in, walked away? It's a surprising world out there.

1 comment:

Captain Colossal said...

What's funny is I think way back in 1997 I was going to be in Germany and needed a way for somebody to put money in my account, and I was told that the person in the U.S. could not just deposit money into my account.

And I was like, really? Nobody else can add to my bank account directly? And then I thought about the things you mentioned and it made more sense, but I was still taken aback.

There's a moral in that somewhere.