Atm Deals Random Ramblings

Open Letter to Senator Harkin (Iowa)

**As some of you may have read on a previous comment from Tim, Senator Harkin is behind an amendment that would cap ATM surcharge fees at 50 cents! He and others, feel that the cost to ATM operators to provide their service is around 36 cents per transaction so with that in mind, we should only charge a 50 cent surcharge. He states that people “shouldn’t have to pay to use their own money.” I called his office today to speak to him or a person in his office named Zach. Neither were available, so I sent them a letter. Here is my letter:

Dear Senator Harkin (and I’m including Zach as well because I know he’s been fielding some calls about this issue:)

I’ve recently been made aware of you’re adding an amendment that would cap atm surcharges at 50 cents.

While at first, one may think that is an admirable thing that you are doing and while I’m sure you think that as well I just want to inform you of exactly what will happen to small businesses like myself if you do that.

I’d also like to share with you how the atm process works, because when I heard you say in your video and read in an article that “people shouldn’t have to pay for their own money” that really struck a chord with me.

First things first, if you’re trying to go after the big banks and regulate them, I understand that and I agree that there are some things that need regulation (i.e. like not giving mortgages to unemployed folks who have bad credit 🙂

But trying to go after the ATM operator is not a great plan. 60% of ATM’s throughout the United States are independently owned and operated. That means people like little ole me in Amish Land in beautiful Southern Chester County, PA. own and operate ATM’s more often than the big banks that you are trying to regulate.

My partner and I just got into the ATM business in July of 2009 and who are we? Well, I’m a 36 year old woman and she is a 40 yr. old divorced mother of 2. We are a far cry from a big corporate banking giant. We are a small business.

This amendment would DESTROY us and probably every other small business out there that is an ATM operator. I know President Obama claims to be all about helping the small business and I’m quite sure you are too Senator Harkin, but this is a great way to destroy thousands and thousands of small businesses in a matter of nano seconds!

We would go so far under it’s not even funny. We have the cost of the ATM’s themselves, the cost of the modem’s, the insurance costs, all of the mileage, gas and time, all of the paper used for contracts, all of the atm stickers bought, all of the signage bought for store locations….NONE of it could be recouped at 50 cents a pop Mr. Harkin. Perhaps, about 100 years down the line we’d finally see a profit….of course, we wouldn’t be around to see that profit.

Mr. Harkin, I don’t know who told you what the cost of a typical ATM transaction is, but I can assure you that they aren’t the 20 to 30 cent price tag you put on it. I know first hand how much my machines cost, how much my modems cost, how much my monthly modem fee is, how much my stickers are, my signage, my insurance and I could go on and on. It’s far from 20 to 30 cents.

But sir, might I also add that the cost of a typical ATM transaction for the ATM operator is irrelevant. We are in business to make a profit, anyone that goes into business is there to make a profit. That’s nothing new. But our consumers, the ATM users, dictate what fees they will and won’t pay…how? By using or not using machines with particular fees.

It’s just like in real estate where a seller can ask for whatever price they want for a house, but the TRUE price of the house and what the house is worth is what a willing buyer is willing to pay and what the seller is willing to accept.

The whole entire ATM business is based on convenience. Convenience of MY money that is available for someone to use that forgot to go to their bank and withdraw funds or that forgot to use the ATM with no surcharge at their bank or WAWA (we have them here, I don’t know if they are where you are,) etc.

Senator Harkin, if you were to go to one of my ATM machines and take out $200, I can promise you that is NOT your money. It’s MY money that you just took out. And here is probably what happened that day just before you got there to use the ATM:

* I went on the ATM website and saw which machines were low on funds.

* I then went to MY bank and withdrew MY money from it.

* I then drove to all ATM’s that needed funds added to them.

* I then filled those ATM’s with MY money that I just withdrew from MY bank.

* I then drove home.

* All the while, always hoping that no one ever tries to rob me or steal my atm and the money inside on a daily basis. To make me feel better in that regard, I buy insurance for our small ATM business.

Sooo now, you come along Senator Harkin and want to take out $200 from MY ATM. Why? I guess you forgot to tap mac or stop at your bank to get your own money, so now, I just charge you a mere $2 for the convenience of YOU being able to take out MY money, until your money is taken from your bank account and transferred to my bank account. Why, Senator Harkin, was your $200 transferred from YOUR bank account to MY bank account? Because sir, you didn’t take YOUR money out of my ATM, you took MY money out. And for that convenience you are charged a convenience fee.

But please remember, you don’t have to pay my surcharge. You always, always, always have the ability to say NO, I will not pay $2 to take her money out of her machine and use it until my money gets sent back to her. Instead, you can go to several ATM’s that charge no surcharge fee, or you can go to your banks ATM where you won’t get charge a surcharge fee or better yet, you can go to your bank and withdraw your $200 from YOUR account. 🙂 You have options, Senator Harkin.

We all have options. But we all pay for convenience. Do you drink coffee in the morning, sir? It’s pretty cheap, is it not? When you stay home and make it yourself, or your wife makes it? But what if you were running late or you decided you didn’t want to make it tomorrow morning and instead you decided to head to the nearest Starbucks to have the convenience of someone else making it for you. Are you still paying the same price for that coffee since someone else is making it for you, instead of you making it in your own home? Of course, we all know that you are not, you are paying Starbucks for your convenience.

Are you planning on putting a cap on how much Starbucks can charge for a cup of coffee? What about a cap on how much convenience stores like 7-11, Wawa, Minit Marks, Quick Trips, etc. charge for just about EVERYTHING in their store? (Ever buy a gallon of milk from the grocery store? Then see how much it is at the CONVENIENCE store?)

Sir, what you want to do is called Price Fixing and that Senator Harkin, is illegal. If it was legal, I don’t think we’d be the great country that we are today. We’d have no small businesses and honestly, I’d really hate to see what our world would come to if we lived in a world where businesses were not allowed to make a profit. It seems kind of crazy when you think about it, doesn’t it?

I mean, seriously, do you propose to call up Nike and tell them how much then can charge for sneakers? Tell them that they are only entitled to make x amount of profit?

I sincerely ask you to not go forward with this bill, please. My livelihood and the livelihood of thousands of other small businesses depend on this amendment NOT going through.

Again, we, in no shape or form, force anyone to use our ATM’s, everyone always has the right to walk away and say that they will not pay our surcharge. People have options, which is what you would expect in America.

By the way, the surcharge amount is prominently displayed on the ATM itself and it’s also displayed on the screen itself prior to someone taking out money. It says “You will be charged $2.00 (or whatever amount) for this transaction. Do you want to proceed? Yes or No. Again, Senator Harkin, the ATM itself asks folks “DO YOU WANT TO PROCEED? YES OR NO?” We do not force anyone to use the machine, they have the ability to walk away and plan their finances better next time.

Please reconsider this amendment and if you have any questions for me or my business partner, you can call me at 610-999-xxxx or email me at (btw, CBKD, are the initials of the 2 individuals that own the ATM business: CB and KD….we’re not a giant banking conglomerate!)

Thank you for your time.


Carey Buck

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