Sunday, January 17, 2010

ATM fees

Once upon a time, ATMs were a new thing, and lots of people were resistant to them, so the banks kept trying to push people to them, with advertising campaigns and incentives. Back then, it was clear to most people that ATMs were for the benefit of the banks. ATMs were invented specifically to save the banks money on the costs of tellers, and the infrastructure supporting them, and the errors they sometimes make, and the security and safety issues associated with them. ATMs were a boon for banks more than worth the investment of developing and installing them. That they let us get to our money in evenings and weekends was a secondary benefit that the banks used as a selling point to lure us to do what was best for them (not us).

Nowadays ATMs are so ubiquitous that anyone who doesn't consider them the primary way of doing everyday transactions, and tellers as a secondary approach usually used only for unusual transactions. We're entirely used to the convenience of weekends and evenings -- imagine telling a teenager today that we used to have no way to get out cash on a Friday night and see how close it sounds to saying that you used to treat cancer with leeches.

So I almost feel like a curmudgeon to be annoyed at the idea of ATM fees. It just burns my bottom that the banks are charging us to forego tellers, which costs them more. They're counting on the fact that we've forgotten that ATMs are far more for their benefit than ours.

We were considering buying tickets for Sherlock Holmes online today but they charge an extra dollar for it. Again, for whose benefit is this? Sure, it's nice for me to have saved ten seconds -- maybe, since we can't pick up the tickets without going through at least one of the lines at the theater anyway -- and I get to know I have a seat, not that there's really much chance of a sold-out show. But the real point of it is reducing the movie theater's labor costs, and letting them have your money a little sooner. And yet they charge us for the privilege?


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