For most of us, the biggest ATM frustration is either the machine being out of cash or deciding to eat your card. In South Africa, you could end up with a face full of pepper-spray. Driven to extreme measures by the rising attacks on cash machines by South African armed robbers, some banks are fitting pepper sprays that are triggered if a camera spots you tampering with the card slots. Unfortunately for one ATM technician last week, that trigger isn't foolproof.
The Absa bank told reporters that "during a routine maintenance check at an Absa ATM in Fish Hoek, the pepper spray device was accidentally activated. At the time there were no customers using the ATM. However, the spray spread into the shopping center where the ATMs are situated." One of the three engineers working on the machine inhaled the spray, and required treatment from paramedics.
Right now there are only eleven sites fitted with pepper-spray, but if these high-risk areas prove safer with the non-lethal weapon then the system is likely to spread. Given the number of times I accidentally mash in the wrong PIN, I'm hoping it doesn't make it out of South Africa.