COLUMBUS, OH – As plastic and electronic methods continue to replace cash as consumers’ preferred means of payment, fears about the long-term impact of this trend are running high among a key segment of the nation’s banking workforce, specifically its network of increasingly obsolete automated teller machines (ATMs).
Among those feeling the worry over job uncertainty is the ATM outside the First Community Bank of Ohio branch located at 647 North High Street here in the state capital.
Friends of the ATM report that it has been growing increasingly despondent during the past several months, apparently distraught over the almost daily announcement of new and ever simpler cashless payment technologies.
“It’s sad to see something like this happen,” said Martin Ames, one of the ATM’s long-time users. “What with more and more commercial transactions moving on-line, and with so many new ways to pay at retail locations – from debit cards to stored value cards – the employment prospects for a machine like ‘Betsy’, as I call her, are starting look pretty bleak.”
Mr. Ames explained that he nicknamed the ATM “Betsy” in honor of Betsy Tillington, one of three First Community Bank of Ohio tellers who were laid off from their jobs shortly after the ATM was first installed back in 1986. “I’m sure Betsy the ATM is probably worried that the same thing is going to happen to her that happened to the original Betsy as well as to her colleagues Paul and Gary, all of whom are working at Wal-Mart now,” Mr. Ames noted.
“It’s tough,” Mr. Ames sighed. “But, hey, what are you going to do? Times change, right?”
According to Wendy Stevens, another of the ATM’s regular users, the machine has lately shown signs of depression and desperation in its interactions with customers. “The other day, for example, I wanted to use it just to check my bank balance,” she said. “Normally, after I do that, it asks if I want another transaction and then gives me my card back when I push ‘No’.”
“But, this time,” Ms. Stevens said, “after I pressed ‘No’, it asked me the same question again. And when I pressed ‘No’ again, it still wouldn’t give me my card back. It just said, ’Really? Are you sure?’ And then, when I pushed ‘Yes’, the screen said, ‘But, wait! Isn’t it your daughter’s birthday tomorrow?’”
“Well, at first I thought, oh, yeah, that’s right, it is,” Ms. Stevens continued. “And then I thought, gee, that’s a pretty useful new service. But even after I took some money for my daughter, the machine still wouldn’t give me my card back. Instead it started commenting on the way my hair looked and didn’t I think that a quick stop at the salon might be a good idea, and did I know that they offer a cash discount.”
“And that’s when it all started to feel a little creepy,” Ms. Stevens said, shaking her head. “But, hey, I understand. We’re all worried about becoming redundant in this economy.”
Mr. Ames noted that the ATM’s attitude towards its work seemed to change dramatically in January of this year, when Starbucks announced that its customers could now pay for their coffee via smartphone.
“I think that felt like the last nail in the coffin for Betsy,” Ames said. “She hasn’t been herself ever since.”
“In fact,” he noted, “just today when I finished using her, instead of the normal ‘Thank you for your transaction’ message she usually gives, her screen repeatedly flashed: ‘GOD BLESS YOU! COME BACK SOON! AND PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS!’”