My favorite chant was, “Charge It!” But the words lost their appeal when financial institutions introduced options allowing me to direct automatic deductions, send zip checks and schedule payments from my bank account with a flick of my magic twanger.
Financial technology took a giant step into my home through the computer. Dressed for work in pajamas, I stare at the LED and view billing statements. With early grunge hairdos, I arrange payment transfers on-line at 2:00 am whenever hot flashes drive me from the marital bed.
Being a sci-fi enthusiast, I know this “current” coin-less credit scenario works. I’ve seen it a million times in futuristic societies.
Hold that warp-drive! Who actually oversees my credit and debit settlement? I hope it’s not that teller in the bank whose answer, “We don’t have foreign coins,” was given to my question, “Do you have any Sacagawea gold dollars?” Or, hopefully, it’s not that pre-recorded voice that routes company telephone calls, claiming to understand my response, or the robotronic human substitute that works for 411 information – Whatever happened to the Bells at Southern-Tel?
I don’t want to make an error with sleepy fingertips on the keyboard and accidentally transfer $1,000.00 from my checking account when I really only wanted to move $10.00 but pushed the wrong buttons and can’t figure how to back out of the problem. And, customer Service isn’t immediate, but “just an e-mail message away,” with a big promise to get back to me within 24 hours.
“Oh,” the institutes said way back when cash-less innovations began and I looked on with apprehension over loosing hands-on control of my hard-earned money, “Problems can’t happen. We have ways to fail-safe them.”
On a recent Saturday morning, I paid an on-line visit to my brokerage house to check my meager stock portfolio. I have a “Watch List,” an alphabetical listing of personal investments. The difference between my initial investment and the current price is listed in percentages for each holding, printed in red for loss, green for gain and totaled at the bottom of the page.
Bam! My eyes widened and my heart rate soared. I saw an entire page of green. Breathless, I wondered, What’s the buzz? What happened late Friday to my stock? My first symbol had a 138% profit. I better sell this one fast and stuff my pockets. I scrolled down the screen. Wow! Nokia 300%. Hold on, Jim Kramer, EMC up a whopping 4,000%. My gains skyrocketed me into multimillionaire clubs at the world’s finest resorts and offered me private airport lounges. The lifestyle of the rich and famous, mine.
But, this is Saturday. The market is closed. How can I cash this in? I knew nothing about after-hours trading. It’ll be gone by Monday’s opening.
Okay. My thoughts didn’t go quite that far. The bizarre figures sparked me to realize the convenient, cash-less, do-it-yourself, on-line banking brokerage house’s machinery had goofed.
My quick phone call confirmed there had been a problem with a router service and the percentages were not correct.
Problems? “We have ways to fail-safe them,” resounded as my financial bubble exploded. I had been a paper millionaire for an hour.
How did my financial institution respond when I asked, “What if I made a trade thinking the posted percentages were correct?”
Answer: “No problem. You signed an agreement saying you wouldn’t hold us responsible for any errors.” I guess the word “problem” had never been qualified. They were right: no problem for them. It’s like purchasing an extended warrantee for a product to insure me against the poor workmanship of the manufacturer. What?
Dazed and sleepy, my imagination pole-vaulted to futuristic societies. I envisioned the same scenario of citizens in cash-less societies going nuts trying to converse with Miss Drone in Customer Service whose canned speech keeps repeating the same phrases. If any writers are looking for a new slant on a sci-fi tale, how about stressed callers opening windows and throwing out communication devises while screaming something about paper, pencils and Sacagawea dollars.