Cashpoint Flashpoint II

Dear Mum,

It’s them again. The Bank of Cyprus. They’ve upset me again.


Sunday Morning

I went out for breakfast on the seafront. Bit short of funds so I went via a cashpoint machine which wasn’t the closest, but was on the way to my chosen destination.

I should have expected it really. I’ve mentioned before that they always run out of money over the weekend, and the machine was indeed empty.

Sorry, Pal, you’re too late”, said the machine. “Bugger off!”, and spat my card back out at me.

No matter. Not going to let it spoil my day. It was a lovely day for a stroll, so even though it’s against the law apparently, I strolled to another one, 10 minutes away, and inserted my card.

This machine didn’t say anything. He just fell on the floor laughing hysterically and spat my card out at me again.

Nothing else for it. Have to try the third one. The one which is actually closest to my apartment. Almost back where I started!

This machine didn’t eject my card. Woo Hoo!

Instead it gave a mighty “Gulp!” and swallowed it whole.

Sorry, Son. Card’s expired.”, he said, and began chuckling mercilessly.

I kept my cool. No point in arguing with him. I knew there was no chance he’d give it back.

But my card hadn’t expired. It wasn’t due to expire until the end of November 2009. It still had two years left. I’ve had occasion to look at that date a few times, so I know I’m right. I looked at it when it first arrived. I looked at it when I read an article about the new Chip and Pin cards which they’d started issuing as and when cards expired. So I wouldn’t get mine for a while.

And I looked at it when a new Visa card arrived in the post a couple of weeks ago, and I wondered vaguely which account it was for. But as this is the only account I ever use at ATMs, and the card was still valid for another two years, I didn’t bother inspecting it very carefully. I did however notice that the 16-digit number was different from the card I use all the time. Must be for one of the other accounts.

So although I was 100% certain that my card was still valid, something like this does tend to make you start wondering if you’re going mad. After all, it’s perfectly possible to be 100% certain about something, and yet still be wrong. We’ve all experienced it. How many times have we all had to back down and say, “I could have sworn…”.

The trouble was, the only proof I had that I was right was currently going through the digestive system of that obstructive, thieving machine.

I just about had enough cash on me for breakfast, so I strolled back to the seafront with my faithful German Shorthaired Pointer, Cleopatra, who’d accompanied me across Larnaca in my strolling pursuit of additional funds without complaining. Needless to say, I had a closer look when I got home at the new card which had arrived recently.

It turned out that the new card was indeed for this account. It was one of the new Chip and Pin cards. So I guess they must have abandoned their idea to replace them when cards expired, and starting replacing them anyway, but there was nothing in the accompanying literature to this effect. And I couldn’t help noticing that this new card was only valid for one year. So was I wrong about the expiry date on the other one? In spite of the fact that I knew I wasn’t wrong, it did make me start to wonder.

Oh well, the loss of the other card didn’t really matter I suppose. This new one would do the trick. I just wish I could look at that expiry date one more time, just to satisfy my curiosity. I guess we’ll never know.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Sunday Evening

I nearly always go out for a stoll and for some light refreshment on a Sunday evening. Needed funds though, so I strolled via the cashpoint machine, hoping there’d still be some money in it.

Got to the machine, the same one which had swallowed my card earlier, and inserted the new card.

You again? Ok, Sunshine, give us your PIN. Better luck this time!

I just stood there, my mind a complete blank. What was my PIN?

I’ve used it two or three times a week for the past year. It’s second nature. I just punch it in without even thinking. So why was there suddenly a problem accessing that part of my memory?

I mean, I knew roughly what it was. Obviously I’m not going to write here what it is, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s actually 8914. The problem I was experiencing was that I couldn’t remember if it was 8914 or 8941.

Nothing for it. Try them both. One of them is right.

I punched in 8914.

Oops!”, said the machine. “Been on the vino, have we? Have another go.

So I punched in 8941.

You’ll have to do better than that, Sunbeam. Why don’t you go home and sleep it off? Come back when you’re a bit more with it”.

Hmmmm! I was sure….

I stopped and thought about it. One of those two Personal Identification Numbers must be right.

The machine could hear me thinking. He was very polite on this occasion.

I’m really sorry, but you must understand that I can’t possibly give you any money unless you type in the correct PIN. More than my job’s worth.

Why was he being so nice? He was right of course. My anger and frustration levels were rising, but he was only doing his job. I shouldn’t take it out on him.

I kicked him anyway! Got to let him know who’s boss.

No need for that sort of behaviour. That won’t get you anywhere. Besides, I’m just a dumb machine. That probably hurt you more than it did me! Look, why don’t you try the first one again. It was very close.

And then it came to me. He was right. It was the first one. 8914. Definitely, definitely, definitely. I must have mistyped it the first time. No other explanation.

So I typed in 8914, brimming with confidence.

GOTCHA!”, he bellowed triumphantly. “Three strikes and you’re out. I can’t believe you fell for that one. You wouldn’t believe the number of idiots I catch with that one. Trying the same number again, when it didn’t work the first time. I love it! Thanks, by the way; I haven’t eaten since this morning.

And with that, he gave a huge “Gulp!”, swallowed my card, and said “Next!

As I strolled off, I could hear him in the distance:

Stroll up! Stroll up! Try your luck with the Bank Of Cyprus Cash Machine. Every one a winner!

I strolled to a bar where they know me and had a couple of pints on the slate. I was fuming. I needed to get on the phone and scream at someone. But it was Sunday evening. Have to wait until tomorrow.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Monday Morning

Refreshed after a good night’s sleep and ready to do battle. I checked my PIN and was slightly amazed to find that the number which I was definitely, definitely, definitely certain was correct  –  was incorrect. It was in fact the other number, 8941. But I had punched in that number, so it should have worked.

First step was to telephone my bank, in a small village some 30km away. Still haven’t moved the account to Larnaca yet. Must get on and do that. What am I talking about? I’m about to have a Mr Angry conversation and close all my accounts, so I’ll be opening new ones with a new bank anyway.

Actually I wasn’t angry to start with. There was an element of doubt surrounding this whole saga, and I needed some more facts first. After all, they had sent me a new card, and I just didn’t bother to look at it very carefully or I might have noticed that it was for the same account and queried it. If I’d done that, there’d never have been a problem.

And as I said, I did also notice that the 16-digit number was different, so it’s fair to assume that maybe the PIN would be different too. It’s probably waiting at the bank for me to collect. Can’t fault them for not sending both the card and the PIN by post.

So I conceded that I may have to take a small amount of responsibility for this fiasco. But if I was right about everything, then a written explanation would have been nice!

I got on the phone and explained what had happened.

No problem, Sir, I’ll telephone the bank whose ATM kept your card and get them to send it back here. It’ll be here tomorrow and you can stroll up here and collect it.

No I can’t. I’m in Larnaca and I don’t have a car.

No problem, Sir. We’ll just keep it here until you come in for it. And don’t worry about the PIN, we’ll issue a new one.

Er… I don’t have a car. I won’t be able to come and collect it. Ever! Is there any chance I could collect it from the bank whose ATM stole it?

I knew there was no chance of that happening. I don’t know why I do it. Why I deliberately seek rejection. It’s only going to wind me up. But at least it would help with this Letter which was already nearly finished in my mind. What was needed now was a slap-up argument.

No problem, Sir. I’ll telephone them right now and ask them to keep it for you.

Hmmm! This wasn’t going well. Or rather, it was. Give me something to write about! Stop being so helpful!

So why didn’t my PIN work?

Standard procedure, Sir. New type of card [chip and pin]  –  new PIN. We posted it to you. I’ll cancel it and send you another one.


He was taking all the wind out of my sails. If what he said was true, then the fault lay with the Post Office, not the Bank, because no PIN had arrived. I wondered vaguely if I should have a go at him for posting the PIN instead of holding it at the Bank for me to collect. But I guess that would have been a bit silly. I could imagine how it would go:

But I thought you said you didn’t have a car and couldn’t get to the bank.

Yes, but you didn’t know that when you posted it.

It wouldn’t really have gone anywhere, would it? Just looking for a fight. Clutching at straws so I’d have something juicy to write about.

So the conversation ended with me saying, “Thank you very much for your help” rather than “Close all my accounts forthwith”.

And he was helpful, it has to be said. Great customer relations. I’ve told you when they’ve got it wrong. I don’t mind telling you when they get it right.

I’d just put the phone down when there was a knock at the door. It was a neighbour who’d been away for the last week, and who handed me an envelope which had been delivered to his mail box by mistake.

You’re absolutely right! It was the new PIN!

So, another call to the bank to say I’d got it and there was no need for a new one. It would be too late of course. He would have already ordered a new one and cancelled the old one, so I’d just have to wait and hope it didn’t get misdelivered again. Or buy a car and go and collect it!

No problem, Sir. Glad it arrived safely.

Thwarted again. Stop being so nice!

But there was still the visit to the other branch to collect my card to look forward to. Something was bound to go wrong there.

I prepared for the visit. I still needed some cash. I checked my balance on the internet, and just to be on the safe side, I transferred £50 into another account for which I had a cash card, so if the worst came to the worst, at least I could still draw out some money. I probably should have thought of that last night instead of relying on the new card working.

I memorised the new PIN, sorted out sufficient ID, and strolled purposefully to the bank, prepared for trouble, and in no mood to be messed with.

I explained the situation to one of the only two tellers at that branch and, after ascertaining that I was indeed who I said I was, he said “No problem, Sir”, and gave me my card back.

That’s it? It was that easy?

Yup. He was very helpful and very courteous. A credit to the Bank of Cyprus.

The thought crossed my mind that maybe they’ve read previous Letters of mine and there’s been a shake-up at the Bank.

Nah! Ludicrous.

So that was it really. Just need to stick the card in the machine, type in the new PIN, and we’re in business again.

Hello!”, said the machine enthusiastically, as if greeting an old friend. “Good to see you again. What’s for breakfast?

But I’d got him this time. Plenty of money in the account. New card. New PIN. What could possibly go wrong? I inserted the card, punched in the new PIN, and asked for £50.

Ha -ha! That’s a good one! You’ve only got £8.92. You’ll have to get up earlier than this to put one past me. Anything else while you’re here?

Yes! Yes there was. I had him! I’d prepared for this. I inserted the other card which I’d transferred £50 into an hour or so ago and demanded that he release it.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! £0.00 in that one. Not your day is it? Now stroll off and stop wasting my time!

I strolled back inside the bank and showed the teller the two erroneous print-out statements. He looked at my balances on his computer, apologised profusely for the ATM’s quirky sense of humour, and said, “No problem, Sir. How would you like the money?

So, 24 hours later and finally I was clutching the £50 that I’d tried to withdraw the previous morning. I’d like to be able to blame the Bank, but to be honest none of it was really their fault, apart from those wrong balances. But that’s a recurring problem that I’ve already learnt to live with.

And instead of closing my accounts, I find myself thinking that I’d recommend The Bank of Cyprus to anyone. A lovely bunch of very kind, very helpful peeps, innit.

Ruined this Letter though…!


©MPB 04/December/2007


2 Responses to Cashpoint Flashpoint II

  1. Rajaram S says:

    You ought to be a short-story writer 🙂

  2. Priapus says:

    😆 You’re right! I did go a bit over the top with padding out this one. But if I’d just written – ‘tried to get some cash from an ATM but my card didn’t work so I couldn’t get any until the following day’ – it might not have been very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: