Hundreds queue for lai see cash

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 February, 2010, 12:00am

Hundreds queued outside banks yesterday to get new notes for their lai see packets.

Despite the environmental impact of printing new banknotes, customers still demand them.

'Printing new banknotes is wasteful, but it's okay once a year,' said Elsie Chan, mother of a 10-year-old girl, who was lining up outside Standard Chartered Bank in Yue Man Square, Kwun Tong. 'Children are very happy when they see new banknotes,' she said.

Queues started forming an hour before the bank opened. The branch operated a rationing system limiting the number of HK$10, HK$20 and HK$50 notes each customer could exchange. To cut waiting time, staff marked down the numbers of notes required on a ticket while the customers were in line.

Chan said she lined up a second time because the rationing system meant she had not changed enough notes. During the first round, she exchanged HK$4,000 worth of notes, which took 45 minutes from the time she started queuing to finishing the transaction at the counter. She said that was quite quick.

Although she did not have an account at Standard Chartered Bank, she exchanged notes there every year because she preferred the designs of its bills.

'The qilin [mythical animal in Chinese culture] on the HK$100 bill carries a good meaning for the new year,' Chan said.

So Nui, 70, was the first in line outside HSBC on the same street with her husband. She said that they left pieces of cardboard outside the bank to sit on at 5am and went for yum cha, before returning at 8am. 'My grandchildren say new banknotes are nicer,' So said. 'It's a habit to get new ones for the new year.' She was exchanging HK$4,000 worth of HK$50 bills for her two daughters and herself.

Both Chan and So said that they would give the same amount this year.

So said she would give her children and grandchildren HK$50 each. Chan said she would give HK$50 or HK$100 to her nieces and nephews, and HK$20 to acquaintances, such as the watchman in her building.