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Automatic Teller Machines: What Do They Want From Us?

page 2


at the ATMSlowly but surely, most financial institutions began to charge fees. In the mid 1980s some banks began imposing a fee on their customers for using another bank’s ATM. These so-called "foreign" fees became more common in the 1990s. Customers were told that these fees were necessary to offset the costs of the interchange, but the truth is that banks, as rich as they are, are insecure, like most of us. They feared other banks might look like greener grass to their customers and they wanted to keep them close to home. By the early 1990s, using ATMs had become an every day part of life for a large percentage of Americans. Many young people today have never experienced handing a deposit slip to a teller and asking for their withdrawals in a mixture of 5s, 10s and 20-dollar bills. ATMs have been around for thirty years, but fees, especially double fees, for using them are a more recent phenomenon.
A friendly ATM
Banks are truly amazing. What other business charges you money to get your own money back and offers no improvement or change in the process? No ATM can do more than accept deposits, transfer money between accounts and withdraw up to a maximum daily amount of cash. It can’t leap buildings in a single bound and it can’t make you any richer than you were before you decided to entrust your funds to them. And what happens when there are problems with the machine? One Sunday, I went to withdraw some money and found my ATM card being eaten alive by the slot because I could not recall my pin number. I tried a few times and I can only surmise that the machine assumed I was trying to steal my own money and meant well. In any case, there was a sudden sucking sound which brought the shark in the movie Jaws immediately to mind. I was going out of town and had to wait until I returned a few days later to get my card back. It caused much inconvenience, as I have never been taught how to communicate with an annoyed ATM machine. How can customers fight back? I’m not sure, but here are a few thoughts:

Talk softly to the ATM as you approach. All things living and of metal respond to soft tones. A lullaby might help, but that part of the research has not yet been proven. (Lab people keep falling asleep.) Never approach an ATM wearing a mask, dark glasses or carrying a weapon. The machine is very sensitive and will respond accordingly. Pretend you don’t really need the cash and that you would just like a little extra, for medicinal purposes only, you understand. Respect the ATM and punch numbers in with dignity and clarity. Will any of this help? I doubt it, but it might give you a false sense of security, which these days is just as hard to come by as your very own cash!

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