Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When Bank Machines Go Bad

Photo by StopNLook
How many of you withdraw money from bank machines? Lots of money, not just $20 here and there? How about those drive through things when you're in a hurry?

About 5 years ago I had an experience that changed my opinion of bank machines, and a certain bank-that-won't-be-named-but-no-longer-has-my-business.

It was a sunny Saturday and Kevin and I were running some errands. I needed to withdraw about $500 and pay a bill at a different bank. We had already shleped through the grocery store and were in a bit of a hurry to just get things done.

You all know what it's like shopping and errand running with a six year old. 'Nuff said.

We pull up to the machine and I input all the numbers and whatnot, money spits out, and I take it and begin to drive away. The machine has made some mechanical noise that basically says, "I'm done now" and it shuts down. As the tires began to roll, Kevin chirped,

"It's not done Mom."

Lesson #1-My kid is smarter then I am when it comes to any mechanical device.

I stopped, backed the car up, and looked thoughtfully at the machine. It was off, there was no whirring of gears and things inside, certainly no money spitting out, and no indication that it was still completing a process. After all, I had the money and the reciept, right?

Lesson #2-For God's Sake, always COUNT the money that you get before leaving the machine.

So, content that all was well, I left. It wasn't until I got to the other bank ten minutes later and went to pay the bill that I noticed the amount in my hand was woefully short.

$320 short.

I'm sure you're wondering how anyone could be so stupid as to not notice that they have only $280 instead of $500, and you'd be right. I should have counted. However, dependance on machines for paying my bills had bred a sort of trust, and I never thought that the bank machine would actually give me the wrong amount of money. Ever.

But oh, it didn't just do that. It did something better. Some time after I left the machine, it spat out my $320 for the next person who happened along. Like a nice gift or something. This person, thinking they would be honest, left a note on the machine saying that they found it and left an e-mail address. I was elated that someone so honest and thoughtful had found my money.

So then began negotiations worthy of the United Nations. The bank eyed me with suspicion, saying that the machine actually spat out the money so I must have recieved it. I pointed out the note, that they found, and they weren't convinced. They began e-mailing the person who found my money, who by now wanted a finders fee and was reluctant to give it back. Ya. Can you believe it? I found your money, and I do have it, but I'm not sure if I want to give it to you. Jerk.

Lesson #3-No matter how long you have had an account in top notch standing at a bank, if you have a problem such as this they won't take your word for it. In fact, they may accuse you of trying to rip them off even when they have proof of the opposite.

A week went by of the person claiming that they would return the money, and the bank upping the portion of the money that the finder could keep. I was incensed. Not only was this negotiating happening without my input over my money, but in all reality, I felt that it truly was the bank's fault for the machine's mistake in the first place. Even if I had gone inside the bank immediately after to report the problem, this person still would have recieved the $320. They had proof that I never recieved it. Should I have stayed outside standing by the machine until it spat out my money? Probably. The problem is that I had trusted the stupid thing.

Lesson #4-Never, ever, ever, EVER trust a machine with more cash then you're willing to lose.

Finally I sat down at my computer and sent an incredibly angry assertive e-mail to someone up in the Head Office about the problem. I even said that I would call the media, because as far as I was concerned, I had nothing to lose. I obviously wasn't getting my money back and the bank was completely unsympathetic.

The very next day I recieved a phone call.

"The $320 has been returned to your account."
"Oh wow! The person returned it?"
"The $320 has been returned to your account." The line was repeated as if it was from a script. I wasn't going to argue, I had my money back.

They wouldn't say how it got there, or where it came from, but $320 did magically appear back in my account that day. As if the bank machine did the same mistake but in reverse this time.

I promptly went to the bank, closed every account, and never went back. Now I listen closer to Kevin, I count my money, and I never withdraw more then $60.

I'll take a person over a machine anyday.

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