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Benefactors pay the price for lucky money
  • | | February 01, 2013 09:54 AM
The popular trend of donating small change to temples and pagodas by many Vietnamese people during traditional events has created a boom in unregulated exchange services around Hanoi.
 Two women change small notes at a stall near West Lake Temple in Hanoi.
Money offered during worship is believed to bring the benefactors good luck.

However, it is often money exchangers who cannot believe their luck, with the rising demand for small notes leading to a growing number of money changing services opening near places of worship.

The State Bank recently announced that this year it will stop printing notes worth VND500 and this has led to an increasing number of illegal money exchangers filling the supply gap in Hanoi. Typically they have been charging customers more for exchanges.

Mobile money kiosks around West Lake Temple (Phu Tay Ho) are currently operating at full capacity.

In order to change VND50,000 into VND500 notes, customers have to pay a fee worth VND80,000. The fee is VND60,000 for other types of small notes.

Normally, clients receive from a much better rate when they want to swap money for smaller notes.

"Now, the money exchange rates are more expensive at all the shops around here," said Nguyen Thuy Quynh, an accountant who often visits West Lake Temple.

Le Tuyet Mai, a resident of Hanoi's Minh Khai Street, who runs an exchange kiosk, said, "I offer the service to convert money to all kinds of smaller notes at a rate of 10:8, so customers get 80 per cent of the money they change."

She also admitted that this rate was raised higher on festival days or ritual occasions.

According to representatives from a bank on Hanoi's Phan Chu Trinh Street, banks do not currently serve the needs of retail currency exchange for people.

However, she admitted that some bank employees do change money at a rate of 10:10 to help relatives, who use the small change to donate to pagodas or as lucky money for children and the elderly during Tet.

Deputy Governor of State Bank of Vietnam Dao Minh Tu was quoted in a local newspaper saying that last year a famous pagoda in Hanoi collected VND6 billion ($288,000) in donations from small notes left by visitors.

Clerks from a local bank and machines were even mobilised to help the pagoda count the money.

Tu said that this was a big waste of time and effort for bank officers.

He suggested that pagoda goers use larger notes for the donation boxes, which will then be used to aid the disadvantaged.

He added that money is regularly scattered and trampled on during services of worship, causing disrespectful and unpleasant scenes..

Thich Vien Giac, a monk at Trinh Pagoda in northern Quang Ninh Province, confirmed that a lot of money is received in the holidays for donations.

However, he urged people to change their habits, warning that it is wrong for them to believe that the more money you donate, the luckier you will get.

Brand-new notes of small denominations have also been widely used as lucky notes during Tet, causing the money to be more sought-after on these days.

However, Le Thi Thu, a resident in Cau Giay District recommended people to follow her example by using used small notes as lucky money instead of paying to get the new ones.

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