How far would NCR travel to take care of customers? To the end of the earth? Well, yes – it’s no exaggeration.
Only two ATMs are in Antarctica, and both are NCR machines. The machines, owned by Wells Fargo, are the world’s southernmost ATMs yet they are serviced by NCR customer engineers. They are nestled inside the largest science research center on Antarctica, McMurdo Station, which is encamped among polar landscapes and a sea of ice that runs for miles. McMurdo Station is the logistical hub of the U.S. Antarctic Program.
It is in this remote frozen community about 839 miles from the South Pole that NCR Sr. Customer Engineer Brian Sonnleitner recently traveled with extreme weather gear and ATM tool bag in hand. Even though it was summer, the average daily temperature during Brian’s November visit was minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.
“They absolutely appreciate having those ATMs,” said Brian, who has made the journey twice for NCR. “Not only do the people in the McMurdo finance office appreciate it, but the workers can come and get cash day and night. And, these machines run great.”
As many as 1,300 workers and scientists spend isolated months working at the research center. They receive paychecks by direct deposit. There is no bank, so the only way to get cash is through the ATM. They also depend on the NCR ATMs for cash to spend in the station's store, barber shop, bars and eateries where just about everything is a cash transaction.
The McMurdo Station finance office takes care of the ATMs until NCR arrives. McMurdo employees can clear jams, load paper and perform basic maintenance. Due to the frigid arctic weather, it's impossible for service providers and cash vendors to fly cash in regularly. So, all cash is recycled by the McMurdo Station finance office.
NCR sends the engineers from the United States because the customer, Wells Fargo, is a U.S. client. No ATM fees are charged. NCR provides a complete maintenance check once every two years, while the finance office does basic maintenance between service visits.
“I spent a full day on each machine,” Brian said of his service regimen. “I go over every nut, bolt and sensor. I test everything to make sure I’m leaving it in tip-top shape for the next two years.”
NCR first installed the ATMs at McMurdo Station in late 1997, and NCR has been servicing them ever since. By the time Brian arrived in 2011, it was time to install the new 6625 models. Brian remembers how exciting it was for him to make the trip.
“I was the talk of the station” he said. “Everybody was so excited, saying, ‘we’re getting the new ATMs.’"
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Reported by Johnetta Dillard
Johnetta Dillard is a member of the NCR Digital Marketing team. Johnetta has a web project management, technology training and multi-media background, and she has worked with some of the world’s largest media companies, including CNN, Time Warner, Apple, AT&T and HBO. Johnetta’s hobbies include writing and real estae.