Computer glitches stop bank robbers in their tracks


There are two incidents that occurred this month, where a bank's computer was either slow or malfunctioning, and it turned out to be a good thing. Both, naturally, involved criminals who were trying to make a rather large withdrawal.

In Clarksville, Indiana, at the Your Community Bank branch, a 40-something year-old man approached a teller and handed her a note, apparently written on the back of a bank receipt. The teller couldn't decipher most of the handwriting, but she did recognize the opening words: "I have a gun."

The teller, however, told the robber that her computer was moving slowly and asked him to wait a second. He did, but soon became impatient, grabbed his note and left.

See, I'm so glad I'm not a bank robber, because that's the type of thing I know would happen to me. For instance, earlier this week, I made a deposit at my bank, was given a receipt, went on my merry way, and discovered the next morning that the deposit hadn't been recorded. I was able to get everything straightened out in my favor, but this is the second time this has happened to me in the last six months, and do I get to hand them a bill for their mistake? No.

Anyway, I know if I were robbing banks for a living, I'd either be like that guy in Clarksville, or I'd have a situation like this one in Vernon, Connecticut.

Several weeks ago, a thief couldn't open up the bank door or possibly the safe door -- the article I found doesn't say -- but the point is, he had to race off in a car without any stolen money, which is especially heartening, since he managed to escape the police officers who were in pursuit of him.

None of this makes me glad when my own bank's computers can't get a simple deposit right, but if misery loves company, it is kind of nice to know that all bank customers -- even the ones who wear ski masks -- are having similar problems.

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).