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Occam’s ATM Razor

This time last year, I was working as a manager at a call center for the credit card division at one of the largest regional banks in the United States. It was the Saturday before Christmas, and all the other departments had gone home for the day, so we got all of their calls.

Throughout the afternoon, we get more and more calls about the bank’s ATMs keeping people’s debit cards. The callers are getting furious and saying that we’re ruining their Christmases. Eventually, we decide to check with the other call center the company has, and they’re getting the same thing! Sooo many more “the ATM ate my card!” calls than a normal day!

We pass it on up the chain, and the next thing I know, I’m on a conference call with the other call center’s manager, tech teams from the bank, and even a rep from the ATM network, to figure out why our ATMs aren’t working right. Fast forward a few hours: they’ve checked the ATMs as much as they can remotely, while I’ve been listening to recorded calls for over an hour to try to find specific examples for the technicians to look into.

Finally, someone has the bright idea to look at the actual stats. They compared the number of cards retained by all the ATMs from the previous Saturday to this one, and the difference was less than 5%. There was no issue with the ATMs and people were just freaking out far more than normal because it was almost Christmas. We finally close the issue, as “no issue,” about 20 minutes before our center closed for the night.

The morals of the story: make sure there’s a real problem before you spend a few hours trying to fix a problem, and remember that people are far quicker to get worried at Christmastime!

submitted by /u/lazyrivr
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