vicious ATM slot
This morning, on my way to work, I stopped by the bank to deposit some checks. Knowing that I was much too early for a teller to be present at the drive through window, I pulled up to the handy dandy automatic teller machine at my local branch. Some months back, the bank had upgraded its hardware to optical character recognition for depositing checks. I think this is a cool feature as it saves me from sleepily misreading or carelessly fatfingering the amounts on the checks. However, in order to use OCR, the ATM must be able to scan the front of each check, which precludes using an envelope – as is traditional for deposits in ATM machines.

Having some experience with the OCR ATM and this machine in particular, I thought nothing of my task, just a quick errand that would only momentarily delay my commute. So I drove up to the machine, dutifully endorsed my checks, and carefully aligned them for depositing according to the easy-to-read sticker below the deposit slot. After proffering my card and punching in my code, the ATM’s maw gaped and hungrily consumed my would-be dollars. However, this morning was not like other mornings and the ATM encountered an error in reading the checks, displaying a message that envelopes were no longer accepted for check deposit. It attempted to feed the lot back out of the slot, crumpling them up just inside the automatic door of the deposit slot. Knowing that the bank personnel were not available at that moment, I resolved to find a workaround.

With headlights in my rearview mirror and fearing for my fingertips, I carefully shifted the edges until I was able to extract the checks and reexamined them. The only interesting variation that I observed was that 2 of the 3 checks were large, preprinted by businesses, while 1 was small and hand-written. Although the slot sticker showed an image of varying check sizes with small checks on top, the machine’s behavior did not conform to this end-user documentation. Fortunately, I was able to manually feed in the checks one at a time, which was not quite the simplest happy path since I was adding each in turn to a single transaction. Just to confirm, I selected the receipt with check images and verified that my scenario had completed successfully, averting a lot of frustration not only for me but for the line of cars inching closer behind me. Still, I’ll think twice about using the ATM outside of normal business hours… no point in pushing my luck.

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