Take electronic fund transfers, for instance–a common component of modern work and life. At their best, they’re fast and efficient, benefiting everyone from a commercial real estate broker juggling a potentially volatile deal to someone trying to authorize payment of an overdue phone bill.
But sometimes, things go wrong–and payments seemingly disappear. The money is withdrawn as requested from the payer’s bank account. “It just didn’t show up on the other end,” a New York City woman complained. She discovered that when she started receiving past due notices from her phone service provider.
The bank sent the phone company proof of payment and verified the check it issued had been cashed. But the phone company insisted it didn’t have the money.
In another case, a man authorized an international wire transfer. Once again, the funds were taken out of the sender’s account. But they never appeared in the intended account, nor were they returned to the bank.
Blame both on human error: the account numbers were wrong because clerks at the banks misread or transposed a single digit. The money, as a result, was credited to the wrong accounts.
It sounds simplistic, but human error is a common complaint and one of the biggest reasons companies switch from simple Excel spreadsheets, for instance, to automated systems that minimize data entry errors.
Technology makes everything easier. But it also makes it easier to make mistakes.