ADVENTURES IN UPGRADES, PART WHATEVER
Garry wrote how the patrons of our local grocery store went into shock when the debit and credit card readers stopped working. The lost, hopeless, dead eyes. Cash? Checks? What? I don’t understand?
Read it here: THE DAY THE MACHINES WENT DOWN.
Yesterday was even more special because I personally took the machines down. With a lot of help from Bank of America. Our bank. Probably the biggest bank in the country, whose local Uxbridge branch is where we conduct business. It’s across the parking lot from our favorite grocery store.
Hannaford is not the biggest local supermarket. Its selection tends to be a bit whimsical. Just because you could find the Asian Sesame dressing last week does not mean you will ever see it on the shelves again. We have adjusted. I think of it the way I used to think of seasonal vegetables when I lived in Israel. You could get anything — in season. Otherwise, you ate something else. Adjusting ones life and eating habits to the rhythm of the earth and its crops. Or, in this case, to whoever stocks the grocery shelves.
I awoke yesterday to the realization we were out of food and this is Labor Day weekend. If we didn’t shop today, the shelves would be empty. On Monday, the store would be closed.
So, after the clock’s hand had slid past three o’clock when road construction in town ends, we took to the road. It’s just about 3 miles to town. Two lanes. No wider than it has to be.
I have to backtrack briefly. BOA has been “upgrading” debit cards to include a security chip. They notify you they are going to replace your card. When you receive it in the mail, you must activate it, sign it, and cut up the old one because it will no longer work.
I’m as geeky as the next techno-junkie yet I am highly dubious about “security enhancements” by banks. I have seen how very wrong they can go. Regardless, I had no choice. My card arrived a week. I followed instructions.
Garry has been spared this “upgrade.” Overlooked? Whatever the reason, he is happy to do what he has always done. It works, no problems. Bank of America has had its servers hacked several times (it was on the news, everywhere). The bank is more of a security risk than we are. But I digress (again).
Going into town took a long time. Although the road repair guys had gone home, the people building the new fire station had not stopped work. And the school buses are back, too.
Worst of all, a cop was directing traffic. Apparently in cop school, they teach them to let every single car going one way through the construction zone until finally, when not a single car can be seen, they let the other lane start moving. By this time, there’s a mile of backed up cars to clear. When there’s no cop, drivers work it out for themselves and while it may slow down, there is no massive traffic jam.
We finally got to the store. Parked. Went in. Fresh, local corn has arrived. Oh yum. I bought some. Bought stuff for dinner. Got some fresh veggies. Got some swordfish. Frozen shrimp. Did not buy lobster, even though they were on sale. Picked up everything on the list except frozen pizza. And headed for the checkout.
Not bad for a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. And then, it was time to pay. I took out my brand, new chip-enabled secure debit card and pushed it into the reader … which immediately cancelled the transaction and told me I had removed my card too quickly. My card was still IN the machine.
The young woman at the register took a deep breath, reinstated the transaction, and in went my new, secure debit card. Again. This time, it cancelled the transaction, said there’d been an error and I had removed my card (still in the machine) too fast. The register froze. The folks behind me in line were pretty nice about it. No one pulled a gun.
They got other registers working and everyone migrated to other aisles. Except us. Because we were already in this register and they had to reboot it to get it unfrozen.
“It’s not my fault,” I whimpered. “They said I had to get this new card with the chip.” Which was true, so I don’t know why everyone was mad at me.
“Feel free to get mad at Bank of America. They’re just over there,” I said, pointing to the other side of the parking lot. “Tell them!”
When the machines came back up, Garry used his card, the one without the chip.
Finally, we went home. I called the bank and was put on hold. I put the phone on speaker and left it to its own devices expecting I’d eventually hear a “How can we help you.” An hour later, it was still playing drippy muzak.
I tried a different number. Same message, but different muzak. I tried the local bank site. All the chat people were engaged. They suggested I try later. Their email was also down. By now, I was getting a feeling there was more going wrong at Bank of America than a bad chip in my debit card.
Finally … almost three hours after I first called, I got a “live chat” person on line. Bianca. Hello Bianca. My new debit card with the fancy chip technology isn’t working.
“We have a note that you entered an incorrect PIN earlier today.”
“I was never asked for my PIN. It cancelled my transaction and told me my card had been removed too fast, but the card was still in the machine.”
“I can send you a PIN reminder.”
“I know my PIN. It’s the card. It also froze the store register. Everyone on line had to go somewhere else to check out. Take responsibility. This is a bank problem.”
“Chip technology is going to be everywhere. We are no longer issuing debit cards without chips.”
“Then send me a card with a chip that works. Like test it before sending it to me?”
We went back and forth for a while. They are sending me a new card. With a new chip. Which, presumably, will work. Given that not only did the chip fail, but BOA was unavailable for hours, I bet BOA had a system failure. Since they’ll never tell you what’s really going on, all of this was a smokescreen to avoid having to say “the bank is experiencing server problems.”
Their server problems turned this into the day I took down the machines at Hannaford. Just because I live in a small town, doesn’t mean we don’t have adventures.
I’m probably going to become a local legend.
POSTSCRIPT: Bank Of America’s servers were in fact down pretty much all day yesterday. Not the first time, by any means and very likely, not the last time, either. Why do they persist in lying about it? It doesn’t make the problem go away. Would it really make the situation worse to admit the bank’s servers are being “upgraded” (or whatever they are doing) and tell us our cards aren’t working because they are effectively offline?