Wells Fargo ATMs at McMurdo Station, Antarctica

The Wells Fargo ATMs at McMurdo Station in Antarctica

DP: You know, the other thing too that you may find interesting--I don't know how much you know about folks that need to go down to Antarctica--it's a huge process to do it. So when we're preparing for the vendor visit, it's like a ten-month process.

W: Wow.

DP: The reason being is, they obviously go in the off-season when it's obviously warmer because no planes fly onto the ice in their winter months. And so anybody that goes to Antarctica has to be cleared with a physical, a dental, and a psychological evaluation, because if for some reason the plane can't get out, you're trapped down there until the next season.

W: Right. So if you send a vendor down there to work on ATMs and there's only two to work on, he'd probably better take some knitting with him or something.

DP: (laughs) Right...correct.

W: That's wild.

DP: And a lot of times, I think they go down first to Auckland, New Zealand and they're put on hold until their priority comes up to get on the plane to Antarctica. And the priorities are different, as you can imagine. I think one of the first priorities is the trash...so getting the trash out of McMurdo takes precedence over some of the other stuff. The flights in and out are all prioritized.

W: Right, of course. So trash, medical...but then if for some reason both ATMS were down, that would probably bump up his priority since otherwise they'd be writing IOUs on scraps of paper or something.

DP: Yeah, I'm sure that they would.

W: That's interesting. So is there a particular one vendor guy who is the "Antarctica Guy" that you use who is like the veteran of going to Antarctica to work on this thing, or does it rotate out or something?

DP: It rotates out, and I think it's the manufacturer's vendor that we send down...in other words, the folks that we bought the physical ATM box from...that actually go down and do the preventative maintenance, and I think probably the last couple trips it's been the same, but I know there's been other folks involved before.

W: I can just see if they give the assignments out like as they come in...you know, you're in the wrong place at the wrong time and suddenly your next ten months are spoken for, I guess.

DP: (laughs) Fortunately, nobody has ever missed it where they weren't able to get back out and had to stay until the next season. So you know, they go down, they do whatever they need to do, and they may be there for three or four days, or maybe a week, and they're able to get out.

W: Mmmm...okay. I just mean the ten-month process of being set up to get down there, like you were talking about.

DP: Right. One other thing I wanted to correct something I said earlier, when you asked the question--you didn't have a Wells Fargo account and how much would it cost you...and actually, there is no surcharge at those ATMs. Raytheon who owns the stuff going on down there at McMurdo Station didn't want to charge their employees for that, and so we took that into consideration when we do our analysis as far as financials, so they're actually making up that difference for them.

W: Oh, well, so one gets a better deal on using the ATM at the end of the world than down the street.

DP: Yeah, because anybody who's using it there are employees.

W: Yes, of course, it makes sense. Now, David, let me ask you this--because every once in a while, ATMs get upgraded. Are those the same machines that were installed back in '98...are they still there? Or at what point do you say "We need to bring in the 2000 model" or something?

DP: That's a good question, and no...they are not the same ATMs. We actually swapped them out. They became part of our normal hardware refresh project and actually swapped them out during one of those vendor visits. And I think we probably did that maybe...four years ago or so.

W: Okay, so that's four years ago...so that would be about an eight-year life. So that's not too bad.

DP: And you know, it's like a car. If you drive it a lot of miles, the life is shorter...the same with an ATM. And obviously you can imagine that the transactions at this location are not what they would be on Main Street, USA. So the life would probably be a little bit longer.

W: Hmmm. That makes sense. Well, David, I think that's all the questions that I had. I think that's quite fascinating and I'm sure our readers will think so as well. I appreciate you talking to us about it.

DP: You're very welcome.

Many thanks to David for taking the time to talk to us and thanks as well to Richele at Wells Fargo for giving us the opportunity to chat.

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