First, I want to establish that nothing that happened was my fault. I don’t know whose fault it was, but it wasn’t mine. I was a victim of a bizarre occurrence that I am sure has only happened once in the history of the human race. I still can’t believe it happened to me.
It all started on a pleasant afternoon last May. I needed cash, so I jogged to the First Commerce Bank of New York on West 200th Street. I waited in line at the ATM behind a man who took forever to figure out how much money he wanted and from which account. When he finally finished and left, I inserted my card into the machine and asked it how much money I had left in my checking account.
Here is where it gets weird.
By my calculations, I should have had around $2,500 in my account. According to the ATM, however, my balance was $20,595.27! I was shocked. I ended the transaction, removed my card from the machine, and started over, punching the same buttons as before. Again, it gave me a balance of $20,595.27. I stood open-mouthed, wondering what I should do. The honorable thing, of course, would be to report this discrepancy to the bank and get them to rectify the balance. Alternatively, I could go into the bank, which was open, make out a deposit slip for $20,595.27, take it all in cash, and get out of town as soon as possible before anybody noticed that I had taken money that wasn’t mine.
Nobody else was approaching the ATM, so I took the opportunity to take out my iPhone and call my friend Jerry the accountant. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Jerry? It’s me, Kathy. Something funny just happened to me, and I need your input.
Jerry: Okay. Shoot.
Me: I’m at the bank right now. The ATM gave me a considerable balance, more than I should ever have in my checking account. In fact, it told me I have $18,095.27 more than I actually have. I know I should report this, but what do you think? What should I do, report it to the bank or take the money and run?
Jerry: Is this a joke?
Me: No. It’s really happening.
Jerry: Well, you could take the money and run.
Jerry: Yeah, but you’d have to move to another state fast. The bank is bound to discover the mistake, and when they do, they’ll come after you for the money, have you arrested, or both.
Me: Oh. I thought so. Well, thanks, Jerry.
Jerry: Don’t mention it.
That was it. I had to report the discrepancy to the bank, and I would do just that. In the meantime, I still needed cash, so I asked the ATM to give me $200.
To my unpleasant astonishment, it gave me $2,000!
I now had a false balance and too much cash in my hands.
I stuffed the cash into my purse, pushed open the door to the bank, and headed to where the officers were holding court. I signed my name to a list and sat in the waiting area. After about 10 minutes, one of the officers called me over to his desk, and I sat facing him. I took the $2,000 out of my purse and put it on the desk in front of him. He looked at the money, then at me.
Me: You won’t believe what just happened.
Bank Guy: Oh?
Me: Yes. Something is wrong with your ATM. It just told me I have over $20,000 in my checking account when I know I only have about $2,500. Then I took out $200, and it gave me $2,000. That’s the ill-gotten gains right there. Well, I guess it isn’t ill-gotten if I didn’t mean to take it and I’m giving it to you now.
Bank Guy: You have to be kidding me.
Me: I’m not. If you don’t believe me, look it up.
The bank guy looked me up on his computer.
Bank Guy: Are you sure you’re right? Our computer shows you had a balance of $20,595.27 before you took a withdrawal of $2,000.
Me: Then your computer is off. I don’t have $20,595.27 in my account, and I only took out $200!
Bank Guy: Are you sure you didn’t make a deposit you forgot about?
I couldn’t believe he said that.
Me: Oh yeah! I made a massive deposit, then forgot all about it. I always do that when I want to upset myself and mess things up.
Bank Guy: Our computers have never been wrong before.
Me: Well, they’re wrong now. And you’re wrong. The bank is wrong. The whole world is wrong. I’m trying to be honest and tell you I don’t have as much money as you tell me, and you’re arguing with me. And the worst part is I’d love to have that extra $20,000! I need dental work! I need a new air conditioner! I need a vacation! And here I am trying to be honest, and you won’t let me!
Bank Guy: Okay. Okay. I’ll put in an order, and we’ll investigate this.
Me: How long will that take?
Bank Guy: Maybe a couple of weeks. It depends on how busy our IT people are. In the meantime, I advise you to treat your account as if it only has $2,500 and don’t take out any more money.
Me: Your ATM just made me take out $2,000! I don’t want $2,000! I want $200 only! If I take out $2,000, that only leaves me with $500! I don’t want to be left with only $500 in my account! Please help me!
By this time, I was crying. The bank guy obviously couldn’t stand seeing a woman cry because he became very concerned and handed me a box of tissues.
Bank Guy: Please. It’s all right. I tell you what. I’ll take $1,800 from you and deposit it into your account for you. Okay? Do you feel better?
Me: I guess so.
The bank guy made the deposit for me while I sat sniffling at his desk. When he came back, I thanked him, took my deposit slip, and wiped my eyes. I left the bank and went back home.
Two weeks have passed, and the bank still hasn’t rectified my account. Every day I check my balance, and it’s still over $20,000. I am not dishonest and would never do anything illegal, but that vacation is beginning to look very good to me.