Where did all the money go?

By: Susan Belknap, Placer Herald Editor
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Have you ever come home from an errand to the bank or made a call to an airline or credit card company and felt totally powerless? That’s exactly what I was feeling after a recent trip to a local bank ATM to deposit a few checks. It wasn’t a big deposit, but nevertheless, money is money and I had two checks I wanted to put in my account. I hadn’t visited this particular ATM in several months and when I arrived to the outside depository I noticed all the buttons and screen looked different than the last time I was there. At first I was a bit intimidated with the new system, but upon further observation I decided I could follow the on-screen directions and would be able to complete this weekend chore in short order. I followed the prompts on the screen and prepared to add up the total of the deposit to put in one of the ATM envelopes. But with the new set-up I noticed there were no envelopes to be found. The screen just instructed me to put the checks into the bottomless, irretrievable slot. As soon as my checks disappeared into Never Never Land, a message on the computer said one of my checks was “unacceptable.” The machine then spit out a receipt with a phone number to call for account problems or questions. Since I was attempting this transaction on a Sunday afternoon I did not have the option of walking into the bank to ask an employee for assistance. That would have to wait. The next day I called the 800 number listed on the transaction receipt and after several minutes of listening to the automated recording telling me to “press 1 for new accounts,” “press 2 for balance inquiries,” etc, etc, etc, I was finally talking to a live person who told me the matter of the missing check would be investigated and I would have an answer in about 45 days. Forty-five days was unacceptable. I decided to make a trip to the bank where the ATM swallowed my deposit. As I entered, a bank “greeter” inquired the nature of my business. Things had really changed since the last time I had been there. I don’t remember anyone ever greeting me before. I gave the greeter a summarized version of what happened to my checks and she told me the bank had no way of getting into the ATM machines. She didn’t really say how the money and checks retrieved from the machine are ever deposited into the correct accounts but, oh well, I guess it was too complicated. Or maybe she didn’t know either. She told me it was out of the local bank’s control and I had to wait the 45 days the gentleman on the phone had told me the previous day. I walked away frustrated and angry – I know technology and machines have made life easier for many industries and what would we do without computers, cell phones and the Internet? But in the case of the missing check I found myself longing for the good old days when you could walk into a bank and talk to a live person who would take your money and you just knew it would be in your account as soon as you walked out. So, now I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if that lost check ever gets deposited. Isn’t technology wonderful?