As I stood in the queue at the bank and watched a woman try to load $1,400 worth of coins into the Coin Deposit Machine, I felt a little sorry for her. It seemed like a time-consuming process, kind of like playing to pokies but with even worse odds.
Every time she put money in, it came out again down the bottom. Then the machine started flashing error messages: it was full. She had hit the jackpot! Unfortunately though, she couldn’t keep the loot – instead she had to wait while the harried bank assistant bustled past her saying, “I’ll get someone to help you in a minute.”
It wasn’t a minute. It was more like five.
When the machine was finally emptied (the assistant leaving bags of coins sitting on the ground in the process, the would-be bank robber in me noted with amusement – although we all know that coin robbery yields far too little reward in this day and age) the woman resumed her coin loading process.
There were two coins in particular that the machine refused to take, but the woman persevered and they cycled through the machine several times. Finally, when she admitted defeat and pressed ‘print receipt’, the machine defiantly lit up again.
Time to find that bank assistant again. When I reached the front of the queue, the bank teller called me forward and I presented my small fortune: $76.20 to go in my eight-month old son’s bank account*, comprising Christmas gifts and any spare change found lying around the house in the past six months.
The teller took one look at my bag of coins and said, “I can’t take them here, you’ll have to use the Coin Deposit Machine.” We both looked at the machine, still flashing, with the assistant pressing all of the buttons in a seemingly random order to try to get it to work again.
“Sorry,” she said, and I wondered if she actually meant it.
“What about the notes?” I asked. All $35.00 of them.
“Oh, I can take those,” she said, “just come back to me after you’ve put the coins in the machine.”
So I wheeled the pram over to stand in a different queue, one with depressed looking people clutching heavy bags of coins.
The man in front of me fared a little better than the previous woman. His coin loading seemed to go off without a hitch – although he did only have $95.00, so at least he was in no danger of filling it up.
When he went to print his receipt the machine made a whirring noise, then nothing. “I think it’s stuck in the machine,” I told him, as we both tried to signal the bank assistant (who really should have just set up a chair next to the machine and been done with it).
His problem solved, it was my turn to play the dodgy pokies game. I put my coins in and watched them disappear, with only a couple coming out for a second trip around. I don’t know what I was worried about.
I pressed the ‘print receipt’ button and listened to the whirring sound – one hand already up to wave over the bank assistant.
“It didn’t print my receipt either,” I said, watching as she opened the door and poked around inside. She looked puzzled.
“How much money did you put in?” she asked.
“$41.20.” I didn’t even have to think about it, I’d had so much time to stare at the figure in the bank book.
The assistant made noises that indicated something wavering between concern and wariness to believe my story. Sure enough, my transaction came up on the screen.
“It says it failed,” she said.
Failed? What does that mean? I had the money, and now I don’t. Just because the machine broke, it doesn’t mean it didn’t eat my money first.
After some ten minutes of confusion, in which the deputy manager was called over and the offending machine patted countless times (to coax it back into working order?), I was finally offered this reassurance: “We’re not sure what’s happened, but what we’ll have to do is take your details, wait until the bank closes and then call you to let you know what’s going on.”
Because that doesn’t explain what happened to my money, and won’t help the fact that the timebomb in my pram (whose money it happens to be) may start wailing at any moment.
We both stared helplessly at each other for a moment until I gave in and trudged back to the counter to (at least) try to deposit the notes. The bank teller looked at me apologetically as she counted out the money.
It wasn’t hard: 20 + 10 + 5 = 35.
She probably could have counted through $1,400 worth of coins too, in the time I had been there. I did feel like the sun would be going down by the time I finally made it outside.
I won’t tell you which bank it was either, I don’t want to name any names.
Just as I was about to leave, the assistant triumphantly came over wielding a slip of paper. My receipt! Proof that those coins didn’t disappear into the ether! What sort of miracle had occurred to make the machine kick into gear?
“I just pressed ‘cancel’,” she said, “and it came right out.”
Marvellous. What would we do without all of this new-fangled technology to make our banking lives easier?
* the process of acquiring said bank account was actually surprisingly easy – go figure.