Well, BB has prompted me to put the Credit Agricole story first.
If you follow the charming and second best card player Winchester Whisperer, you will have spotted we were in Albert over the last few days.
I had stayed there before in the Hotel de la Basilique, where Didier and Sandrine looked after us excellently again.
As you do, I got chatting with Didier, telling him how nicely I thought they had done up the hotel since last we were there. Whereupon he told me his story.
The Credit Agricole, with which his family have banked for more than 100 years, lent him about Eur 20,000 to do up the hotel last year. Admittedly they took no security, but the hotel and its business must be worth , ooh, say about Eur 400,000
Things were quiet running up to Christmas, but no payments were missed, but money was tight.
Before the January payment, due 24th of the month, and in fact on 10th January, his bank manger walked into the hotel and without any discussion said two things.
1) We will not honour any of your cheques which are presented as from today.
2) We want our remaining loan ( about Eur 16,000) repaid immediately.
Taken aback, Didier asked why.
" Because you have only paid Eur 500 into the account in the last 10 days"
" So what? " said Didier. " I have 14 more days to make the payment, and if necessary I can borrow money from my father"
" Nevertheless, as from now your account is effectively closed. And we have taken your credit balance into the loan account."
Bouncing a cheque in France is a criminal offence.
Absolutely shattered, Didier spoke to his father who wrote a cheque on the spot for Eur 20,000, but on his way to pay it in, he passed another bank, CIC.
He walked in and asked to see the manager, who he knew ( Albert is a small town), and told him the story.
The manager smiled.
" Well, I think I know why. Here are account opening forms so that you can at least trade. We will honour your cheques meantime. Once we have this open we will see about the rest. They have to give you 6 weeks notice to repay anyway."
Still shattered, but mightily relieved, Didier filled in the forms, then paid the Eur 20,000 from his father into the account, and proceeded to contact his suppliers to sort out the mess of CA's making.
A few days later, Didier spotted in the paper that CA had made a loss of Eur 5 BILLION. He went along to see his new, friendly bank manager.
" Ah yes," he said ," This is the reason, as I thought."
As Didier said, " It's not me nor people like me who have lost CA Eur 5Billion. In fact they have made it from us. It is they themselves who have gambled and lost, something we would be punished for. But, of course, not them."
As a postscript, the CA manager was furious with Didier's father for giving him money - it was a CA cheque and was Eur 20,000 less that they had to weather their own storm.