#94– Surviving the communications age, part 2.

Being an early adaptor of technologies can be its own curse.  You should always wait until the technology is at least out of the initial testing stage.  The early automated teller machines (ATM) were an excellent case in point.  The Bank of Commerce should have paid its customers who were willing to put their trust in the darn things when first tried.

Being much more progressive than its main rival, Royal Bank of Canada, Commerce was always among the first to offer new technologies.  If you were crazy enough to trust these people, banking there was fun.  And you could be the first on your block to have a special card that gave you access to your money both day and night.

Mind you, day and night was not always the case.  Those test machines were never supplied with very much cash.  At that early stage, the machines did not have cathode ray tube advisories.  Instead they used a wheel of prepared responses that appeared in a small window. The most common response was that you had no money.  Annoyed customers gradually learned that what that really meant was that the machine had no money left in its innards to dole out to them or else it had a paper jam caused by old crumpled bills.

Today, it seems that all $20 bills start their life cycle in ATMs, before a short life in circulation, before heading back to the Bank of Canada incinerators.

One of the lessons learned by the bank in those first tests is that all branches had to have them.  One very frustrated customer once went into a branch manager’s office to announce that he would never bank with Commerce again because he could not find the slot to stick his access card.  Since the branch did not have one of the new ATMs, the manager was finally able to deduce that the customer was trying to stick his card into the night deposit.

Today, ATMs are everywhere.  They save banks millions in payroll costs as they replace human tellers.  ATMs have also become a profit centre for companies that prey on the unwary.  These no-name ATM suppliers, who will place their machines in any convenience store or other location, that will take them, have been forced to inform people using their fly-by-night machines of their direct (and outrageous) charges for using their machines.  What they do not tell you is there is an additional charge from the bank that guarantees the ATM company that you have the funds on deposit.

Your bank blames it on the ATM operator and the ATM operator blames it on your bank.  The blame game is annoying but you have found that you have been charged up to $7 for needing less than $100 in cash.  Your bank tells you there is no charge for using their ATMs but they will not help in resolving problems with ATMs belonging to others.

And for goodness sakes, if you go to casinos, never ever play the ATMs there.  They give the poorest return of any slot machines in the house.

– 30 –

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to   peter@lowry.me

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