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May 16, 2013
The ATM took my money
On Saturday May 11 I headed to the bank to deposit the week's receipts. Of course the bank itself was closed but that's not unusual. Like many people out there I have grown to trust those little holes in the wall that dispense cash in our times of need.
So it is without reservation that I saunter up then the machine, grab a couple of envelopes, sign my cheques and put them in the envelopes (all the while moving away from the machine so a couple more ready than I am can go ahead of me). I then head for the machine only to see that it is closed. Ah well, back to the truck and off to another branch.
Arriving at the second branch I proceed to put my card in and enter my PIN. I deposit one envelope into one account and a second envelope into another account. I remove my card, grab my receipts and turn to head out. At this point, I realize that I have a quantity of cash in my pocket and a bill coming due VERY shortly. I know that the cheques will be on hold for a week (as they always are when I deposit then in the bank machine), so I decide to deposit some of the cash to cover the bill (since cash will clear the next business day).
I place a number of bills into an envelope, close it up and head back to the machine. I put in my card, enter my PIN, push the necessary keys and when prompted I put my envelope into the slot. The machine makes the usual motorized sounds as it gently takes my envelope of cash and the door cover closes. But those motor sounds don't stop like they usually do. Instead they seem to reset and repeat as if my hard earned cash was refusing to go where it was supposed to go. No panic (thinks I) the machine will do this a time or two and then it will give me my receipt. The whirring repeats itself a few more times then the screen changes to a "Please wait" message (in more languages than I ever considered) and the whirring repeats itself.
Okay. Now I'm getting a little concerned, but the machine says wait. so I wait. The screen clears, the sound stops and I feel a moment of relief. The the "Please Wait" screen re-appears, the whirring restarts and my sense of calm crumbles just a bit.
Again the whirring stops, the screen resets and this time my card comes out (please remove your card). I take my card relieved that this transaction is over and look the the screen where I expect to see the usual "Do you wish to do any further transactions" or the "Do you want a receipt" questions. But instead I see "please insert your card to begin".
Uh Oh! I just put $600 in cash into a machine that hasn't acknowledged that I've done it, and seems to have forgotten that I was in the middle of a transaction (and of course the bank is closed). But, not to panic, I pull out my trusty Nexus 4 and load up the internet. Online banking here I come. Uh Oh! no record of my cash transaction. It shows both of my prior cheque deposits. Maybe it's just going to take a few minutes. I give it about 2 minutes and check again. Still no deposit posted to the account.
Being the calm guy that I am, I pull out my bank card and dial the number on the back. I push 1 or 3 or 436 or 0 or whatever the heck it is they want me to push to talk to a real person. I get a lovely young lady who asks me questions I have absolutely no idea what the answers might be. What type account do I have. I dunno it's a business account that's been open since before she was a sparkle in her mother's eye. I put money in and I take money out (chequing is not the right answer). She adjust the question to "how much is my service fee every month? Now as a responsible business owner I should, of course, know this down to the penny. It's a business account. They up the fee every time I sneeze. I tell her I don't know, but I'm sure that it's under $20 per month. She asks if I have no idea, how is it that I'm sure it's under $20 per month. I answer "because I still bank here". I guess that was the right answer cause she seems to accept that I am who I say I am (whatever happened to asking me my mother's maiden name or my home address or any number of questions I might actually know the answer to?).
She checks my accounts and verifies that indeed my cheques were deposited but has no record of the cash deposit and of course no way to question the particular machine I used as to its status. She tells me that she will make a note on my account and that I need to speak to the branch manager first thing tomorrow morning. Of course, this branch is not open on Sunday so it becomes first thing on Monday morning.
I go home and tell my wife that I'm out $600 and explain the story to her. We both make the obvious notes that it had to happen with the cash deposit (as opposed to cheques which could be cancelled) and that we have to rely on the honesty of the guy or gal who empties the machine (Hey here's $600 in cash and no record of how it got here - party time!).
Monday morning I show up at the branch bright and early (well maybe not so much bright as early). I ask the branch manager who to speak to about the bank machine borrowing my money. He begins with the typical date/time amount questions. I hand him the receipt from the deposit just prior as a reference for time and machine etc.. He heads over to the computer and brings up my account and asks me if the phone rep started a "claim" when I spoke to her. I say "no" but this brings to mind "why not" - this simple action could have saved me the not so bright, but early trip to the bank this morning. After a few more ups and down and back and forth to his computer, he informs me that he's done all he can do and it's now up to "whoever" empties the bank machines. He tells me "IF" when they reconcile the envelopes they find my $600 it will be deposited to my account. I of course ask "and if not?". His response to that is "Then we take the next step." I accept this and leave.
Wednesday Morning I get a call from the bank manager who's just checking to be sure that I'm aware that my money was deposited to my account. Of course I already know this because I have been checking periodically. I thank him for the call and my day goes on.
In the end, all is as it should be. The people handling my bank machine were honest and I have my money. But I can't help but wonder how easily it could have gone wrong and what "the next step" might have been. But more so being a bit of a computer nut, I can't help but wonder why the computer doesn't "know" there's been an error. Why didn't it say " I'm sorry an error occurred, please see your branch manager reference number #11111" or some such thing. I guess I'll never know
But at least you can have some solace knowing that it happened to me and it got sorted quickly. I hope it never happens to you but if it does, consider this. If I had followed this transaction with "another" attempt to deposit $600 and just put in an empty envelope the second time, the hassle could likely have been avoided entirely. Just sayin' . . .