Last night, I went to the Bank of America ATM nearest campus to deposit a check. It’s not a full banking center, but rather a small, unstaffed indoor cutout on a streetcorner that’s ATM only. I push my card into the slot, only to find that the machine hasn’t actually responded, and my card is just sitting there in the slot, pushed ever so slightly past finger-pull-out-able distance. “Great,” I said, “I have to get a new card before Spain anyway because mine expires in March, but I didn’t really want to deal with all that and canceling this one right this instant.” I first start thinking of what numbers I should call to cancel the card and tell BofA that they need to give more money to their ATM maintenance guys.
But, rather than panicking, I had the presence of mind to think resourcefully. I could barely flick the card with my longest fingernail. I pulled out my keychain and used another discount card I had mounted to it to slide up over my ATM card in the slot, and then with the half-millimeter of space I had left, took a key and used the serrated edge to grab onto the raised numbers of the card and extricated my rectangular plastic friend ever so delicately. If you’ve ever tried to get out of a very tight parallel-parking spot, you know how it is: pull it a little bit this way, adjust, pull some more, adjust, pull some more.
After about 3 minutes of effort, I had siphoned it out just far enough that I could grab it with my fingers; once again, I was reunited with my monetary lifeline. Relieved, I had the idea to warn anyone else who might get caught in the same situation, and stuffed a deposit envelope scribbled with the words “DONT USE SLOT BROKEN” into the slot. Frustrated, I drove down the street another mile and a half to use the ATM there, which worked fine.
But there’s a proper fix to this situation. Yes, Bank of America could pay its maintenance division overtime to check every small unstaffed ATM across the country. Or, if only some piece of software existed that allowed you to remotely monitor all your ATMs and determine if something was wrong, and if it was, you could actually fix it automatically by issuing the command “run card_eater_motors backwards();” And these ATMs are all connected to the internet already, so it wouldn’t even be that hard. Man, that would be cool!
Oh right, such a piece of software exists. It’s called Axeda ServiceLink. I help bug test it over the summers. It actually runs on Bank of America ATMs. Diebold ones, to be exact, thousands of them across the country. After I stuffed the deposit envelope in the slot, I looked up to see the manufacturer nameplate. The letters “NCR” are proudly emblazoned in silver across the top of the screen.
“Dear National Cash Register, Have I got a deal for you…”