Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Machine vs Janet

 11.45am  will be imprinted on my mind for a long time.

Image of bank teller windows from the free clip art site called ClipArt ETC here.
Full website:

Have you ever got to the cashpoint machine, put your card in, pressed the amount of money you wanted, then heard a repeated whirring sound, then a receipt comes out saying "You have withdrawn 150 euros", but at the same time, NO money comes out???

It's a Saturday, the bank is closed so you are powerless to do anything at that very moment, apart from stare blankly at the receipt and the cash machine?

You wait until Monday morning, you go to the bank, and you are politely told that nothing can be done until the person responsible for the ATM machine comes in on Thursday?  Oh, I see. Va bene. Ok!!

Thursday arrives,  a phone call  from the bank informs me:

 "Good afternoon, Signora. Unfortunately for you, our ATM  machine showed NO irregularity. No excess 150 euros was found.  The computer says NO (cough!). We are very sorry, but there is nothing we can do.  I DO suggest that you ring your bank to sort it out? It's now between you and your bank."

 So I ring my bank who very politely tell me "Sorry, Signora, there is nothing we can do, It is now between you and the machine, and the bank!!"

 "What???  I can't believe this!!  The ATM machine did not give me the money but the bank has debited my account!!  Please advise me what to do??

"Ok, Signora I suggest you write an Express signed-on-delivery letter (Raccommandata) to the bank saying you would like a refund of 150 euros, due to the malfunction of the machine".

"Ok, thank you very much for this advice, but it does NOT help me regain my money immediately".

I now feel as if I am well and truly in a Kafkaesque situation.  A vicious circle. A whole week has passed. One tiny provincial  bank vs another multi-national, conglomerate bank.  Neither of them can help me.  Both banks have asked me to go to the other bank to "sort it out".

It is my WORD against the Machine, which printed out a statement saying it had given me 150 euros. 

At this point, my dear reader, you have most likely already formed a logical opinion of what happened, but I am the only person in the whole world who knows what happened in the space of a few minutes...

A Hypothetical Question
What would you do if you were me?  Would you give up at this stage and say "How on earth can I prove what happened?"  It is a no-win situation?


 Would you take on the power of the machine, and somehow prove it got into a technical glitch at precisely 11.45am on Saturday January 12th 2013? Prove that this ATM unfortunately issued an untruth by printing out a piece of paper, which has no substance?

A Past Hypothetical Question
What would you have done if you had come to the ATM machine last Saturday and you had found 150 euros waiting in the tray?

A) Would you have rushed to catch up with me and say "Signora, I have just found this money which the machine  has only just dispensed after you left?  It''s not mine, so it must be yours? You were the last person at the ATM before me??

B) Would you have thought  "Well this is a nice unexpected present.  I could use this 150 euros to:

  • buy a lovely bookcase from IKEA (approx 129 euros)
  • buy some heating for the house (Gas bombolas cost 26 euros for medium, 36 euros for big)
  • buy damp-proofing to fix a leaking roof (approx 500 euros)
  • get 2 kittens spayed (approx 200 euros)
  • buy a headlight for the Capo (approx 90 euros on EBay)
  • treat my hubby and myself to a nice birthday celebration meal (approx 50 euros)


C) Would you have gone into the bank on Monday morning and said. "I found this money in the machine.  It is not mine, so could you PLEASE check your ATM records at approximately 11.45am to see which card owner tried to withdraw 150 euros, and then could you contact the rightful owner and hand it over?

Would you have done A, B or C??

So there are 3 possible scenarios for the mystery of the ATM machine.
a) It encountered a technical /  mechanical issue / glitch and it counted the money internally, but for some inexplicable reason, the money did not come out, but it still issued a receipt!!
b) The money came out, but the person did not withdraw it before 30 seconds, so the transaction was null and voided, but the bank still deducted the money!!
c) The money did actually come out at a delayed time, and wait for it........somebody else took it???

 Image source of A stack of money:

So I have 2 options.  I am going in on Monday to have a meeting with the bank manager.  I will politely and calmly ask to see
a) the ATM till roll to see all the transactions from 11.40 -11.53
b} the CCTV video footage.  This will clearly show me looking quite perplexed and will irrefutably show that I did NOT take any money.  All that will be visible is me waving a till receipt around and staring at the cash machine willing the money to come out...which of course it didn't in my presence.

Lesson Ideas
Exploit 2nd conditional hypothetical grammar by using this example as an introduction to a lesson on Hypothesis.
Expand into a review of 3rd conditional sentences.
Create a Wordle of part of the text above and ask students to guess what the story is about as follows:

Communicative interaction:
Role play the meeting between the bank manager and Janet with a bad outcome.
Role play the meeting with the bank manager and Janet with a very positive outcome.

Use the "Currency Exchange" image below as a prompt to write a dialogue.
Image found on  ClipArt ETC

Formal Letter writing
Write a letter to the bank manager outlining your situation and asking for a refund.

Create a comic with Pixton

Create a comic with MakeBeliefsComix

Create a comic in seconds with MakeBeliefsComix and leave the last panel with an open question.  Please click on the image below for a bigger picture.

 Discussion topic: the history of the ATM. 

Present perfect vs Simple past exploitation, eg

Have you ever been in a similar situation?  When? Where? What happened? How did you resolve the issue?

Future Outcome??
So I have got this off my chest and I feel a bit better.  I am not looking forward to being fobbed off on Monday morning.

Will I get a very pleasasant surprise and the till roll will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the machine suffered a technical problem at precisely 11.45am?

Will the CCTV footage show exactly what happened?  Or will I not be allowed to view the video footage unless I make a formal complaint?

Will I have to resign myself that I can not win a fight against a machine??

 Wish me luck...

Addendum: 21st January 2013
I have just come back from the bank.  Due to restucturing of this bank, it does NOT have a manager in the branch.  The very polite bank clerk who attended to me looked a bit embarrassed when he said he could do nothing to help me.

"Can I speak to someone in the office in private, please?"

"No, Signora, they are bank clerks like me, and they will say the same thing."

"I see.  Ok.  What do I do then? "

"If you wish, you can apply to the Court in Pescara and ask a Magistrate to review the CCTV footage and the electronic till roll, which by the way, shows no irregularity"
"I see. How long will this take?"

Long pause.

 "Some time........It will have to go through a process which needs to be approved by a magistrate of the court and it will have to go before a judge."


Long pause.

"To whom can I address this Raccommandata letter, which outlines my situation?"

"You can send it to the regional manager.  Here is his address."

"Thank you for your help.  I am very disappointed.  Buon giorno!"

End of meeting.

End of discussion.

End of my hopes.

The machine has won.

One word was repeated throughout our discussion.  The word "IGNOTI".  I didn't understand what this meant. I asked if the bank clerk could explain, but I am afraid I was a bit too distracted by the way things were turning out, and so I didn't quite understand what he said.

 I have looked it up now and it makes sense..

Ignoto =  unknown
Ignota = unknown person
"sporgere denuncia contro ignoti" = to take action against person(s) unknown

This means I have to lodge a complaint file to the court saying that "someone unknown" has taken my money.  I do not wish to do this, as NO money came out of the machine in my presence. I do not believe anybody else took the 150 euros, as it was not dispensed from the machine.

The faulty ATM machine in question was struggling, chuntering, making a whirring sound as if it was trying to dispense the money, but something was preventing it from doing so. IF it dispensed the money after I had left the area to fetch K, then it will all be visible in the video footage, which I am not allowed to see...

What have I learned from this incident?
Never withdraw money from a cashpoint when the bank is closed
Always have someone with me by my side as a witness (eg K)
A few lesson ideas for 2nd and 3rd conditional activities
I have learned a new Italian word - "Ignoto".

That's how I feel at this precise moment.


Janet vs The Machine - Episode II
Wednesday January 30th 2013

18 days have passed.  No news.  I sent an express letter to the area Manager 12 days ago.  No news.

Just now I rang the local bank again (!!) and spoke to someone, who was covering for a sick colleague.  He was most sympathetic and asked me a few questions regarding the situation.  He actually told me that sometimes the machine doesn't dispense the money for 2-3 minutes.  This is an extremely interesting fact for me.  I can't remember if I stayed in front of the ATM machine for the full 3 minutes, waiting for the money to come out.  I know I did wait for probably up to 3 minutes.  In any case, the machine would still be at fault if it dispensed the money AFTER the 3 minutes, and I had gone back to the car to fetch K...

I told him I had sent an Express signed-on-delivery letter to the area manager 12 days ago and I still hadn't heard from him.  The bank clerk admitted that was strange.  Penne is only 20 kilometres away.  I could have easily walked to Penne and saved myself 4,30 Euros!!  He kindly gave me the area manager's phone number.

The Area Manager
I have just rung the regional manager and he seemed very nice and again, sympathetic.  This case is "being investigated at the moment", and I will hear from him in the next few days regarding the outcome. Hence the reason I haven't received confirmation that my Express letter had been received.

What continues to be very odd about this case is that there is no irregularity with the ATM machine, ie no excess 150 Euros was found at the end of the day, but my bank account has been debited.  It is a big mystery.

I feel a bit better today after speaking to 2 people in the banking chain of command. Also a phone call to Adrian, a friend in the local area, helped me a lot, as he advised me to actually ring the area manager and speak to him personally. This is what I did as soon as I had put the phone down.

As you can see from the heading at the top of this new updated post, it is now called Janet vs the Machine.

Well, this heading puts ME in control of the situation.  It is therefore psychologically uplifting for me to know that my name comes before the machine. It means if I persevere, I may have a chance of solving this case.  However, I have to say, the odds seem to be stacked against me. But, I will NOT give up!!!

A very special thanks to family members and friends who have kindly given me advice about this, and willed me to pursue matters. 

I know it is not the end of the world, and far greater and worse things happen to people every day, so I have to put this into perspective.

I will know when the time is right to give up or not.

I'll update this post as soon as I know.

Janet vs The Machine Episode III
Tuesday February 5th 2013

The money has been reimbursed into my account today.  I rest my case.  The matter is now closed.

I would like to personally thank the area manager for being "on the case". I have phoned twice this morning, but he was busy.  I definitely want to say 'thank you' to him, so I won't give up until I have done so.

I think never doubting what actually happened at 11.45am on that particular morning 24 days ago has been my motivating force to not give up.

I am absolutely over the moon!!!  Ikea here I come!!

The Final Episode
Wednesday February 6th 2013
The area manager rang me today, and I was able to ask him how the matter had been resolved.  He told me  the following:

"I have taken your word, Signora, that what you say happened, did happen."

I was very touched indeed by this, and I truly thanked him for believing me.

The End.


su said...

A brillient post!!!!

Janet Bianchini said...

Thanks so much, Su! Adrian's excellent suggestion was just the thing to get me to take action. Still no news yet, but I'm hopeful.......