It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Get some Turkish lira and avoid the crappy rate the stores in the airport give you if you pay in dollars. Seemed even better since I was waiting for friends to get their boarding passes and their line was moving slowly, so some time to kill. Best of all, I could see an AKBank ATM not too far away.
When I was in Istanbul previously I had used ATM’s from AKBank without incident, so I had no reason to worry, right? In honor of Robbie Burns (who’s 250th birthday we had recently celebrated at the Dushanbe Hyatt), I think it’s fair to quote him here:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Rhyme it brother man, ’cause that’s what happened to me.
It started innocuously enough: I inserted my card, I punched in my PIN, and the language selection page popped up. That’s when things went tits up, as the Brits say. I pressed the button for “English,” natch. No reaction from the machine. Okaaaay, I hit the button again, this time a bit harder. Still nothing. Third time’s the charm? Uh, not so much.
Alright, I though, my language skills are that hot, but this was an ATM transaction not a conversation about geopolitics, so I figured I could muddle through in another language. Français? Non. Deutsche? Nein. по-русски? нет. Okay, now I was getting desperate: Türkçe? Unfortunately: Hayır.
My language gambit having failed, I resorted to pressing every button I could. Enter, cancel, numbers, nothing worked. I fell back on pounding the buttons — all of them, repeatedly — and when that too came to nought, I started kicking the machine. Unsurprisingly, that too did not work.
Although I was loath to leave the ATM with my card still in it, and with the code already entered no less, I felt I had little choice. The visa consular office-cum-counter was next to the ATM, but that best they could do was direct me to the border control agency. They didn’t seem too militaristic, so I went over to them, and they offered to call AKBank. They did, apparently, but whatever conversation they had was inconclusive (or at least, that’s what I got out of our pidgin English discussion about it).
At that point, the guy who had issued me my boarding passes noticed that I was wandering around, sweating, and looking somewhat panicked. “What are you doing all the way over here in this part of the terminal?” When I explained, he motioned for me to follow him, “I’ll help you.” And he tried, yes, he tried, but the AKBank branch office in the airport refused to answer the phone multiple times over the course of 20 minutes. When I mentioned to him that the ATM had said to call the customer service number, 444 2525 (yes, I remember it), he pointed me to the pay phone nearby as he only could call internally on his phone.
Ultimately, this call was both unsatisfactory and somewhat relieving. AKBank had an English language option and I got a rep that spoke some English, and she told me that the card was gone. Foreign bank cards taken by AKBank ATM’s are “extinguished” and I had to call my bank to “end” the card. When I asked if someone could come and open the ATM up and give me back my card, she said that “for your security, this is not possible” even though I had ID.
That was it. That was as far as I could take it. Wicked bummer.
I blame NCR for making such a shit ATM, and I blame AKBank for seeming less than enthused to help me. In fact, please feel free to give AKBank a piece of your mind on my behalf: AKBank Complaint Procedure page.
Oh well, at least I’m on vacation.