Monday, February 07, 2011
Rise of the Machines
My cellphone bit me the other day.
Well, it didn’t actually bite me. I wasn’t paying attention while closing the damn thing and it pinched the top of my index finger.
It hurt like hell and if I hadn’t been coming out of church at the time I would have launched into an aria of obscenities. But thankfully I kept a civil tongue in my head.
I’ve been having a tough time with technology lately. In the addition to the carnivorous cellphone, my office computer got clotheslined by a virus, I lost my internet connection on my home machine, the battery in my landline phone died, and my bank refused to honor my ATM card.
That last one was particularly spooky as I was really short on dough. The bank freeze-out happened on the same day as the cellphone attack-only I was on my way to church instead of coming out.
I thought I’d pick up some cash before the service, but the ATM refused to hand over my money. For some reason I tried changing machines as if another ATM would be more cooperative. But they were all against me.
I was running late, so I went to church and tried real hard to keep my mind on the sermon, but it wasn’t easy. And that probably explains why I almost sliced my finger off.
On the way back to the office I stopped in my bank and asked for a human being. A young man—his card said “Personal Banker”--sat me down and after hearing my story and consulting his computer, he told me that I had run afoul of something called Federal Regulation D.
This fellow told me that Regulation D puts a monthly limit on the number of transfers you may make from your savings or money market accounts without your physical presence being required. This includes online transfers.
“It’s not just us,” he said, “it’s all banks. We send out two warning letters letting you know what’s going on.”
I don’t recall getting any warning letter, but then I get so much junk mail that I usually toss everything that doesn’t look like a statement.
I had no idea there was a limit to online transfers. I was just trying to be more tech savvy and avoid going out in the hideous weather. And now I couldn’t get my money.
As a result, the banker guy told me, my savings account was turned into checking account.
“Okay…” I said, somewhat in shock. “So can’t we switch it back?”
Apparently not. Regulation D is unforgiving and now the bank would have to create a whole new savings account for me. So the guy started clicking more buttons and then gave me a new ATM card.
“Let’s try your card to make sure it works,” he said, pointing to the bank of ATMs.
Well, we tried twice and it didn’t work. This young man and I walked back and forth across the bank floor like we were pulling sentry duty and finally he called tech support for some answers.
I’ve had bad experiences with tech support of all types and this wasn’t much better. The bank guy told me I’d have to wait 24-48 hours before the ATM card would work.
I couldn’t believe my ears. In this age of instant everything I’d have to wait up to two whole days before I could get to my money?
Well, ah, yes.
“But I need cash,” I whined. “I have to buy groceries.”
The guy offered to get take out some cash for me and I felt like a teen-ager asking his father for money.
“Ah, could I have $40?”
The banker disappeared for a few minutes and came back with my cash. I thanked him for his help.
“Let me know how that works out,” he told me.
“Oh, I sure will.” I said.
I stayed away from my bank for two days and held my breath when I went to my local branch. The ATM accepted my card without complaint and handed over the money.
When I got home I went through the mail and found a letter from my bank. It was the second letter warning me about Regulation D.
I tell you I got so mad I wanted to bite somebody.