First things first…..
Mary Frances Stroud came into the world at 11:23pm on Saturday the 19th of April. Mom and baby are doing fine.
Is she cool, or what? My first grandchild….
Other Brasil stuff…
We are continuing the work getting Monica’s stuff ready for her interview on the 13th. She has the required medical exam on the 12th, so we’ll likely come to Rio and get a hotel room for the night before her interview at the consulate. We got a chest x-ray yesterday, she has appointments for mammography and ultrasound next week, we’ve already had vaccinations, so we’re on the way. The vaccinations were free, given at the neighborhood health center. Everything else isn’t. Monica could get some of the stuff done at the health center, but not in our less-than-a-month time frame. Everyone has free medical coverage in Brasil, but you have to wait a long time for it. As far as the paperwork goes, we have just one thing left – the paper that you can only get in downtown Rio that says that Monica isn’t a criminal. We’ll likely pick that up when we arrive for the physical next month.
Getting an education about ATMs…
Monday was a holiday in Brasil. I’ve been spending money faster than I anticipated and I needed to get some cash. I walked to the ATM at HSBC in Retiro and put my card in the machine as usual. Nothing happened. It wouldn’t give back my card – as a matter of fact, it didn’t even acknowledge that it had my card. I stood there for a minute and waited, expecting the idiot machine to regurgitate my card with some lame explanation in Portuguese about not being able to read it or something. Nothing happened. A man came up behind me and asked if he could help. I ignored him initially, but I eventually I told him that the machine ate my card (I can manage that much in Portuguese). He told me that if I punched 0800 and then my PIN, the machine would give me back the card. He hit 0800 on the keypad for me, but I didn’t enter my pin – I’m not an idiot. I stood there and waited until the guy left and waited a bit more – the man then came back and told me again about the 0800 trick and told me that I should use the phone (It was a holiday – I didn’t expect anyone to be on the ATM help phone). However, while he was at the phone, I tried the 0800 trick without success – a couple of times.
I walked over to the phone, listened to the silence of Brasilian bank workers on holiday and returned to the machine for a minute before leaving the bank. It’s a good 20 minute walk home, and I didn’t feel too good about the extremely helpful guy, so when I arrived home, I checked my account online and found that the R$800 daily limit on my account had been reached. Someone had made four withdrawals in the time that it took me to walk home. I got on the phone to PNC in the US, reported what happened, canceled my card and got a new card started on the way to my house.
Tuesday, after the withdrawals were officially posted to my account, I called PNC again and filed a dispute over the withdrawals. Since I didn’t make them, I will get that money back – likely in about two weeks. It’s a good thing that I keep a little extra money in my checking account and that I have another way to get cash here. We also went to the HSBC branch yesterday and reported the problem to the manager, where we were informed that we were the third people there that day with the same complaint. The manager suggested we file a report with the police (huh? – why us???). The ATM area has cameras, so all this stuff should be on video.
Although I tried the 0800 trick while the guy was away from me at the phone, I didn’t consider that he might have had an accomplice that was watching me enter my PIN.
The ATM was an old one – the newer ones do not hold your card – the reader is external and you never lose sight of your card – I will only use those in the future. There was one new one at this location along with three old ones – I’ll bet that the accomplice was hogging the new one, forcing us to use the others. The ones with the slot can evidently be doctored. See below.
In any event, I learned something. Although I was suspicious (I didn’t enter my PIN while that guy was there), I’m evidently not suspicious enough. Also, I’ll never lose sight of my ATM card here again. I’ll wait for the newer-style machine if necessary (most of them are like that here). Also, although I was more-or-less robbed in the lobby of this bank, it seemed to the bank to be more of my problem than theirs. The police should have been informed by the bank, not us. They have the video and at lease three reports of ATM tampering in their lobby on Monday. There’s really no harm done to me, but there’s a warning for everyone…….
There’s so much else to write about, but there’s not a lot of time right now….
I’m taking the 1:50 pm bus today to Rio, where we’ll take a cab to the airport. My flight leaves at 6:30 for Sao Paulo, then Sao Paulo to Dallas, and Dallas to PHL tomorrow morning, landing at about 1pm, almost exactly 24 hours after I left. I don’t go to work until Friday am, so I’ll have a good night of sleep before then.