The boxy animal emitted an electronic burp and asked if the customer would like to try again.
Oh no, where’s the money? Of course the guard didn’t know, so he directed my friend to the manager, who directed her upstairs to the drone hired to tame the wild beast. The bank presumed their customer to be running a scam -- bankers are funny that way, flipping the civil norms -- so it took a few days for my friend to see the deposit reflected in her account balance. When recounting the tale, she swore that she would never again use an ATM to deposit wads of cash in her bank.
Her sad tale drew a frown of sympathy for the hapless victim, but inwardly I felt smugly superior, for that very day I had deposited a few thousand lira into several bank accounts via ATMs. In fact I had tried to make the first deposit with a teller, the bank being empty, but the man told me that the bank would charge me TL 30 for the privilege, it not being my branch, but that the electronic deposit would be free.
I asked him why the bank advertises a network of hundreds of branches, seeing as I can use only the one branch without getting robbed. He didn’t know, but he left his window to show me how to use the ATM. Of course I insisted that I knew how to use the gadget. I deposited most of the cash into a cash account, and from there transferred TL 800 toward the credit card balance. Hours later I stopped at another bank and paid TL 400 toward our credit card at that institution.
Days later I was stunned when my main credit card didn’t work. A few minutes of research on the Internet showed that I had inadvertently paid the TL 800 credit card payment into a blocked account, an ancient account from Pamukbank that had been blocked by the banking regulator when the state seized the bank in 2002. It wasn’t until earlier this year that we got that business straightened out, and a lawyer had said that he would send the necessary paperwork to free the account.
By some miracle of financial wizardry the TL 450 in that account had accrued zero interest in eight years, while our credit card debt had increased with compound interest. The lawyer sent the documentation, again, for the bank admitted that they had failed to act before. So now the account is set to be liberated one day before Republic Day.
Occasionally we would see this TL 450 on the computer screen, but we couldn’t withdraw it because the account was blocked. Plain logic might lead one to believe that a blocked account -- you cannot withdraw funds -- is indeed blocked, but apparently it was not blocked from receiving funds. What self-respecting banker would stop customers from depositing money? I would call it the ultimate savings account, except for that small detail of not earning any interest.
Back to my life in consumer land: I was buying a grilled chicken sandwich and yoghurt drink and thought I’d use that second credit card, just for the pleasure of seeing it work. A good way to fit right in with the oppressed working class is to have the bank deny you TL 9 for lunch; the guy at the diner gives you a look and a shrug.
My wife looked into this case, too. She discovered that I’d overpaid the bill by TL 300, and that, coincidence or not, the bank had doubled our credit limit. They’d always been stingy, so that didn’t mean much. I’d saved the receipts, but by now I couldn’t be bothered to reconstruct my financial behavior. However, if I had an actual surplus on my credit card, making it in effect a debit card, why didn’t it work at the diner? No one knows. What can you do?