Note counting machines – Boon or bane?

Note counting machines are relatively new to India. Large wads of currency were earlier counted by hand and verified by another bank employee before they were banded together. And finally counted once at the counter before they were handed to the customer.

Note counting machines were introduced in Indian banks to reduce the time and effort and errors involved in this exercise. More trust was reposed in the machines ability to be accurate than the humans. The initial machines were edge counters, but the newer models feed the entire note and also verifies against counterfeiting. These note counters are also found in ATMs and payment kiosks.

But the way an Indian interacts with these machines gives an insight into the uneasy relationship between man and machine.

Observe a bank teller when you are withdrawing cash. He takes a precounted wad of 100 bills and feeds it to the machine.

And more often than not it shows a few notes less or more. The teller then continues to feed it to the machine till it reads 100 and then hands it to you.

Every time this happens to me, I start wondering. What is going on in the mind of the teller?

Is he so confident that the bundle has 100 notes and the machine wrong that he recounts it till the machine agrees? If he is so confident on manual counting, why not just hand over the bundle?

If the machine is capable of making mistakes, as is evident, how can he accept the final 100 to be correct and not the initial 98?

If these machines are not trustworthy, why buy them at all and add another step in the counting process?

Are the ATMs and cash deposit machines also prone to error?

How do banks trust the ATMs and cash deposit machines to flawlessly identify the denomination and the quantity? What mental stress and agony these guys must be enduring?

This just proves that we Indians habitually distrust machines as this interaction is very new to us. The younger generation reposes more faith in machines. The conclusion would be: If you automate, do it fully. No human intervention or interaction. Use humans only to service the machines, else we will just add another cog in the process.