If it is correct, and it is hard to contest, one of the greatest 20th century invention is the little plastic rectangle in your wallet. Credit cards or automated teller machine (ATM) cards are the new-age currency.
So, imagine, if an ATM machine fails to deliver… what will happen to you, your eid, your retailing pleasures?
Unavailability of cash at ATMs during eid holidays is usual. Consumers are often seen leaving cash machines empty-handed, rebuking the bank administration for not supplying cash to the machines.
Last week, Lahoris faced trouble in operating ATMs because of the fire in the main PTCL telephone exchange on Egerton Road. Resultantly, it led to suspension of online banking at most banks. Roughly, three out of five cash machines displayed a message of link down and the machines, which were delivering cash, had three to five people lined up outside the little air-conditioned rooms that contain the cash machines.
“I don’t believe the PTCL fire alone is reason good enough for non-delivery of cash. On special occasions, or ahead of eid, it is usual that these machines stop delivering cash,” says Iftikhar, a schoolteacher.
Tahir Ayub, who works for Bata, says: “I cannot forget a bitter experience I had two years ago on Chand Raat. I went to a nearby ATM, and found it to be out of order. I went to a machine that always delivers cash. But as I approached it, I found six or eight people standing in a queue, waiting for their turn to draw cash. But shortly after, someone called out that the machine is not delivering cash because the link is down.”
Ayub recalls wasting 30 minutes just waiting for a turn that never came.
Ultimately, “I had to borrow money for eid shopping,” he adds.
Mian Nisar, a property dealer, does not use ATMs after a bitter experience. “On a family vacation in Murree, after booking a room in a hotel, I went to draw money from a nearby cash machine. To my horror, the machine captured my card. I waited for half an hour, but the machine did not return my card. It was about 10pm. The bank was closed,” he says.
Nisar managed to get his card back the next morning when the banks opened for business. “So, I advise ATM card users not to solely rely on cash machines, especially during eid holidays,” he adds.
But, Nisar has experienced inconvenience in the first five days of a month as well – “In the beginning of a month, I rarely manage to get money from a cash machine in the first attempt. I have to try more than one machine. During the early days of a month, the link down problem with cash machines is common,” he says.
Hanif, who works for LDA, says, “Once, the moment I inserted my ATM card in the machine, the electricity went off. I was stuck there; with my card in the machine. I got my card back when power was restored after an hour.”
A bank employee says that they have strict instructions from the State Bank of Pakistan for keeping cash machines in service all the time. “A bank cannot afford to trouble its customers because it damages the bank credibility. Every bank has a setup at its main branch to monitor cash machines. The situation of every cash machine is displayed on a computer screen at the head office. If there is a problem with a cash machine or there is no cash in it, the green logo of the machine on the computer screen turns red, alerting the computer operator to inform the bank manager about the machine situation. If there is cash unavailability, the manager ensures availability of cash and if there is a software or hardware problem, IT technicians are called to fix the fault,” he says, adding, “Rs2,400,000 is supplied to a cash machine in to caskets”.