<< Pandiculation | Irrational Exuberance >>
Brash Machine

My local ATM has become aggressively informal. At first it was just small things, like saying "Sure" and "No, thanks" instead of "yes" and "no" when asking if I want a receipt. But now it's completely out of control. Now it's all, "Howdie-ho, neighbor! Hot enough for ya? Well golly gee willikers, what can I do you for?"

Obviously some bank honcho thinks that patrons will respond favorably to this folksy, conversational style, but I find it repellant. I don't even like it when actual-human colleagues call me "Matt," so I don't really need a freakin' machine chumming up to me like we've just spent the evening polishing off a half-rack of Coors.

And it seems to be worse every time I go there. At this point, pretty much every question and menu option has been meticulously phrased to be as laid-back as possible, and they've even revised some of the older, breezy responses to make them more casual. God knows where it will end.

Posted on August 25, 2006 to Observations



That's some funny sh*t. I really like the "Your mama only charges fives"

Posted by: Sam on August 25, 2006 4:22 PM

So does it also come in Vietnamese, Spanish, or Tagalog? All of my bank's ATMs here do.

I wonder how you'd localize a snap into Vietnamese?

Posted by: hdc on August 25, 2006 4:33 PM

Just needs a "press 1 for english" prompt!

Posted by: Ian Clifton on August 25, 2006 5:27 PM

I thought this was funny when I first opened up my WaMu account. Also the fact that I'm encouraged to call my bank WaMu, like we're BFF or something.

Posted by: Brittanie on August 25, 2006 5:34 PM

The screen burn-in is a nice touch!

Posted by: Jeff on August 25, 2006 6:27 PM

Oh! Oh! Oh! Thank you! I work with uptight old RELIGIOUS people... for FREE because I'm the unpaid intern. And candidly, I feel like the ATM sometimes talking to them. Thanks for the laugh. ;)

Posted by: Wende on August 25, 2006 7:17 PM

I've been telling my partner for years that the ATMs at our local bank (Compass) are inappropriatly informal for such a serious matter as banking. Now I have someone to back me up.

'Sup indeed. Those meddling kids.

Posted by: Tara on August 25, 2006 9:07 PM

When i become a famous director ill pay you a million dollars to use this idea in a movie!

Posted by: debasso on August 25, 2006 9:15 PM

I think there should be an alpha keypad so we could text-message the ATM, setting the tone for the interaction much as we once did face-to-face with tellers before it cost three bucks to talk to a real person. So typing in "Good day ATM, I wish to withdraw some funds from my account" would elicit a response appropriate to the request. And typing in "sup? gimme five" would land the cash but with a similarily appropriate interface.

Posted by: Diane on August 25, 2006 10:25 PM

Brilliantly composed. And fully agreed. It used to piss me off to no end having to say "no thanks" to a freakin' machine.

Now I'm in Japan where being too casual will never be an issue.

it does take a while to get used to bowing to an ATM though.

Posted by: Brent on August 26, 2006 12:16 AM

The ATMs in Houston starting giving patrons the option of an additional language called "Hamoob". Still haven't figured that one out.

Posted by: Shannon on August 26, 2006 1:07 AM

The ATMs in Houston starting giving patrons the option of an additional language called "Hamoob". Still haven't figured that one out.

Posted by: Shannon on August 26, 2006 1:16 AM

Thanks for this. It's bothered me for years.
Since you've opend the gate:
When the Washington Mutual ATM has run out of cash it apologizes thusly:
"Sorry! It's been a crazy day!"
No joke.

Posted by: Olsen on August 26, 2006 1:35 AM

What banks are you all going to? I've never seen this phenomenon.

Posted by: Tracey on August 26, 2006 7:38 AM

Mine greets me with " Welcome to Wells Fargo, how may we charge you an extra $9.00 fee today?"

Posted by: brodie on August 26, 2006 11:24 AM

When they first did the switchover to the "sure/no thanks" form I actually had to help the old man in front of me in line to figure out which buttons to push. I just don't like that the WaMu ATMs have started asking me if I want to see my balance before I even get to the menu screen... it just seems rude.

Posted by: Colette on August 26, 2006 4:17 PM

Niiiiiice... This made my day

Posted by: Anonymous on August 26, 2006 9:10 PM

I have a similar problem. My local ATM is made by Diebold. I withdrew some money the other day and it said "Thank you for voting for George Bush".

Posted by: Nathan Zamprogno on August 26, 2006 10:34 PM


Posted by: THEQUEENOFPERSIA on August 26, 2006 11:09 PM

That's whack (sp?), Yo! So, whack (sp!)! Damn! Yo!

Posted by: J-Z on August 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Great post! Great blog!

Um, can I pretent to be you for a while? The Queen of Persia is hot.

-- Ben

Posted by: Ben on August 27, 2006 5:38 AM


that is like so wack man


Posted by: Ed on August 27, 2006 8:04 AM

haha. yeah im getting sick of all the idle conversation between me and a few machines myself. nothing this casual. this post is hilarious, reminds me of a post i wrote a while back:


your atm machine sounds worse though

Posted by: jkg on August 27, 2006 3:00 PM


I'd switch bank for this ATM.

Posted by: Spacebunny on August 27, 2006 3:20 PM

that was fantastic.

Posted by: concha on August 27, 2006 5:19 PM

This is only the tip of the iceberg! This whole idea of "customer service" has spread to the automated voice recognition systems of many US corporation's help desks.
Try calling T Mobile! You are greeted by an AI entity that becomes inreasingly beligerent as you navigate the phone menus. "She" is very dismisive of your questions--especially if you ask to speak to a representative. "She" is a cyber-bureaucrat, that basically says in a condescending manner that you will be connected to a human being. Please wait...

Posted by: GregorInNYC on August 27, 2006 6:27 PM

I read blogs because occasionally I find something so damned funny that makes it worth my time. And these days it's usually here.

I think, though, that I'll take the overfamiliar ATM over the forced small talk with the gas station screen: Credit inside? Cash inside? Credit here? Car wash? Receipt? BLAH! Hate it. All of these "conveniences" are driving me slowly insane. Thanks for giving me a "safe place" to talk about it. ; )

Posted by: laurie on August 27, 2006 8:39 PM

Yes! Thank you. I don't even like it when I pay at a cash register with my debit card and my receipt greets me by name. So, I want my name printed on my grocery receipt? Get formal idiots!

Posted by: Gillian on August 27, 2006 9:10 PM

Yours is obviously a Blue-State ATM. Could you just imagine an over-familiar Red-State ATM?:

-Well hi there! My name’s MarieLou and I'll be your ATM for today. Y’all want some cash or sum’n?

- 100 dollars! Whoah there partner, you a fixin’ to go into the red there. Remember, overdrawing makes the baby Jesus cry.

- Well, so long now. Don’t be a stranger.

Posted by: Lung the Younger on August 28, 2006 6:49 AM

I LOVE the MarieLou comment - Lung the Younger - you just forgot to add in, "But ya'll can call me Shu-gah"

Posted by: Anonymous on August 28, 2006 7:47 AM

That is a laid back ATM.

When I was in college my Jeanie card used to print out "Thanks Big Guy" after a transaction.

I'd noticed that it had been priting out a misspelled version of my name. When I told one of the clerks about it -- and how I noticed the misspelling was only on my Jeanie receipts and not elsewhere in my statements -- she told me I could have the receipts print just about anything I wanted.

Posted by: delmer on August 28, 2006 8:12 AM

Also the fact that I'm encouraged to call my bank WaMu

I think I saw Wamu perform at MarineWorld back in the '70s, before they moved it to Vallejo.

Posted by: McGehee on August 28, 2006 8:51 AM

LOL! This was hilarious. And as I smirked reading the Your mama charges just 5 I realised what a bad day i had and this was the only time I actually smiled :)

Good going !

Posted by: Kusum Rohra on August 28, 2006 9:29 AM

I received this automated email message today:

Hi. This is the qmail-send program at yahoo.com.
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

You're sorry!? You're software!

Posted by: Zeek on August 28, 2006 10:01 AM

Heh, Matthew Frederick sent me here from his LJ... my day has been absolute shit but this made me laugh.

Thumbs up, mate!

Posted by: Anye on August 28, 2006 2:01 PM


Posted by: richter on August 28, 2006 5:04 PM

Lest ye forget: some of us make our living writing said drivel. It beats making sandwiches. Although, then you would get free sandwiches.

Posted by: Max on August 28, 2006 8:47 PM

The banks can HARDLY WAIT for the day when they can replace all the humans with machines.

Seen the rotoscoping TV commercials? We're not going to be replaced by robots: it's going to be animatrons.

Second Life: it's not just for fun, after all.

Posted by: TJ on August 29, 2006 12:21 AM

hilarious. Thanks for helping to get my day going in the right direction.

Posted by: ~A on August 29, 2006 9:07 AM

Too funny! Thanks for the serious laff-up!

Posted by: CrankMama on August 29, 2006 9:10 AM

That was lol perfection.

Posted by: MotherReader on August 29, 2006 12:28 PM

My ATM converses in "pimp." I always press, "Sup playa?"

Posted by: Mona on August 29, 2006 7:33 PM

Speaking of: http://www.girlsarepretty.com/blog/your_cash_machine_is_depressed_day.html

Posted by: anonymous pimp on August 29, 2006 9:26 PM


The "Hamoob" (which was probably actually Hmoob) is the name of both a language and a race of people from southeast Asia, primarily Thailand and Vietnam. They fought on the US side during the Vietnam war and as a result found themselves the recipients of a lot of unhappy attention from Viet Cong after the war. Those who were not already in Thailand fled there to refugee camps and, if they can afford it, go from there to the US - usually Minnesota/Wisconsin or California. And that is why, if you're in MN, WI, or CA, you're likely to find an ATM offering their language.

By the way, it's pronounced (and spelled in English) "Hmong", aspirated "H" at the beginning and all. Bonus if you add the tones: medium-high for the "hm" and neutral for the "ong". They have no written language of their own, and use a Romanized phonetic system of writing which was developed by French missionaries in (I believe) the 1800's.

And now you know why your ATM offers to interact with you in Hmoob ;)

Posted by: Dan on August 29, 2006 9:38 PM

fucking genius. thank you for the laughs.

as it happens, between my current job and my previous one, i am one of the designers responsible for the atm screen design of two of the biggest ATM networks in the US. While we never stooped to the absurd level of WaMu, there is a constant and lively tension between the tradional formal copy and the more conversational approach you've lampooned here.

In fact, many hours of debate, revisions, and even user testing goes in to decisions on even what seem to be trivial text strings of two- or three words on buttons. People are often shocked - well, surprised - that ATMs require full-time staff designers. It ain't easy!

Posted by: spider on August 29, 2006 9:57 PM

Dan seems smart. I didn't know what Hamoob meant until he told me.

Also, I didn't know that Hot Dish (cassarole for non-midwesterners) on a stick with Norweigen Binding dipping sauce (Cream of Mushroom soup) is really good. I learned that at the MN State Fair today.

First time reader, thanks to worldofb.com for providing the link.

Posted by: Cool Rut on August 29, 2006 9:59 PM


Posted by: noup on August 30, 2006 6:01 AM


Posted by: divinemissk on August 30, 2006 9:10 AM

for reference...

'It's been a crazy day' message:

'I've sent for help' message:

Posted by: spider on August 30, 2006 4:21 PM

Hi Matt Baldwin:
I'm Joe G, friend of Matt O and we've met a number of times. Barb K. gave me a link to your web site.
Man, your bank machine bit was HILARIOUS. And you retroactively ripped me off, since I noticed this same thing couple weeks ago when I was at a bank machine. But for me it was just a flicker of an idea, and your EXECUTION was BRILLIANT. FABULOUS!!!

Posted by: joe on August 31, 2006 6:21 PM

Something pulled from MSNBC about ATMs in Japan

"Japanese banks have long had a reputation for poor service, but at least one is trying something new — wooing customers with an opportunity to try their hand at Lady Luck.
A roulette wheel pops onto the screen of automatic teller machines when customers of Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank finish transferring funds. A lucky spin and the customer wins 1,000 yen ($8.50)."

Posted by: paul on September 1, 2006 8:31 AM

I'm sorry I'm getting to this one a little late, but, Jesus Christ, that has to be one of the funniest posts I've ever read.

You must bank at WaMu, don't you?

Posted by: kapgar on September 5, 2006 8:35 AM