Trouble at the ATM

One of those aggravating moments where you try to do something nice for a stranger but it ends up just backfiring in your face just happened to me.

I got off work 45 minutes ago. Coming off the weekend with most of my cash in my wallet sucked dry I made a trip to my bank to use their drive through ATM. I pulled up behind a few cars. Finally the car in front of me got through using the machine and I drove up to perform my business. When I rolled down my window I saw a familiar sight. The ATM screen had two options listed on it: “Return Card” or “Perform Another Transaction”. This person had done their transaction, got their cash, and drove off totally forgetting their debit card.

This did not surprise me. This particular ATM at this particular bank branch had done this to me on a few occasions. Whereas many ATMs will spit out your card or make a loud noise to remind you to grab it, this machine doesn’t do that. Rather, after you answer all of the questions and take your cash thinking you are all done a quiet prompt comes up asking if you want your card returned. Although a couple times I have for a split second drove off without it, I always backed up quickly and retrieved my card, my mind miraculously somehow reminding me.

This particular person did not remember. They drove off and I took her card out and put it on my dash. I made my transaction as quickly as possible because I wanted to pull around to the bank parking lot because I figured the person would soon be coming back to the bank and I would personally give the person her card back. I waited in the lot for 5 minutes but the car did not return. Not wanting to wait I did the seemingly responsible thing and entered the foyer area of the bank where they have an additional ATM and bank slips. I placed the card in an envelope, wrote “CARD LEFT INSIDE THE ATM”, and slipped it under the door into the main bank lobby. For whatever inconceivable reason, my bank’s lobby closes at 4 p.m. on business days. They have employees staffing the drive through windows until 6 p.m. but the main bank area itself is closed.

Satisfied that the card was in safe hands I left the bank and started the commute back to my apartment. Right before I entered the freeway I stopped at a gas station to fuel up. As I always do, I use my debit card for fuel purchases. I parked my car, opened my gas door, and reached into my wallet…my debit card was GONE.

I had done the exact same idiotic thing that the person in front of me had done.

After a moment with myself to express my frustrations I hopped in my car and hauled you know what back to the bank. I drove right up to the drive through hoping that the “Return Card” or “Perform Another Transaction” prompt would still be up from when I was there last since it had only been about 7 minutes. It was not.

Seeing the big line at the non-ATM drive through windows and not wanting to bother them with a non-transaction inquiry I called the branch with my cell phone. I simply got a recording telling me the bank was closed. I listened to this recording twice while watching employees walk all around the office area. Knowing it was no use, I drove in line and waited. Finally, I reached the window.

I told the employee, a girl about the same age as me, my story. I told her about finding someone else’s debit card, pushing it under the locked bank doors, and then realizing that in my frantic attempt to do the right thing I had made the same stupid mistake. I asked her if someone had turned in my card. The employee offered her apologies and then told me the only card they had was the one I had turned in myself. A little unnerved about what had become of my card, the girl told me that the ATM most likely ate the card up when the final screen prompt went unanswered. Unfortunately, the only person who could get my card out would be their ATM Tech who doesn’t come in until the following day.

I hate not having my debit card. I feel worthless and unprotected without it. The employee let me make an additional withdrawal. I wanted to make sure I have enough cash for the peanuts, hot dog, and beer I will be buying at the minor league baseball game I am going to tonight in addition to any other expense or emergency that might come up.

Of course my biggest fear is what if the ATM didn’t eat my card. What if someone took it and has plans to live large on my money tonight? I guess I will find out for sure tomorrow morning. Sometimes doing the nice thing doesn’t always pay off. Don’t Blink.

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