Wants more than his money back

The SE Texas Record Feb. 28, 2012, 4:28am

Getting your money back used to be a whole lot easier.

In the not too distant past, if you lost a coin or two in a vending machine, or a juke box, all you had to do was tell the proprietor of the establishment in which the machine was located and you usually got a refund.

It's a little more complicated nowadays, what with credit cards and debit cards displacing coins and cash. Then, there's the added problem of machines that may, or may not, charge a processing fee: ATMs.

Larry Harvey claims to have "lost" $1.75 in the automatic teller machine at the Beer Barn on Hundley Drive in Lake Dallas last November. That was the amount of the fee he was charged for withdrawing cash.

Insisting that there was no fee notice posted on the machine, as required by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, Harvey has filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, in hopes of leading a class action against the Beer Barn on behalf of all customers charged fees for ATM withdrawals there in the last year.

Harvey and his attorney, Eric Calhoun of Travis & Calhoun in Dallas, aren't just asking for a $1.75 refund. They want statutory damages on top of that, plus court costs, attorney's fees, etc. They're also asking for a jury trial, no doubt on the reasonable assumption that an emotional jury might be more likely than a judge to right a penny-ante injustice with high-roller retribution.

We can appreciate Harvey's annoyance at being charged a hidden fee for a cash withdrawal, if indeed he was, but should he have assumed that he could use a generic ATM machine free of charge? Hardly a safe assumption.

It's one thing to ask for your money back when a coin- or cash-operated machine malfunctions. Asking for more than your money back is something else entirely.

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