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I was getting a deposit ready for my bank and noticed the "check this box if cash is in the envelope" section. I never do because I am afraid some dishonest teller might be stealing the cash deposits. However, my bank now makes you answer yes or no to the cash question right on the screen before allowing the ATM deposit to be accepted. What's the deal? Why do they care if it is cash or a check in the envelope?

-- Suspicious in Poway

You figure if you don't tell them beforehand what's in the envelope, they won't recognize American currency once they open it? Afraid there are very, very tiny tellers inside the ATMs catching each deposit as it comes in and hiding the cash in their underwear? The elves kinda liked that last idea. They picked up some bank-job aps last week but then got diverted onto a call from the Gore campaign. He's sent them to Tallahassee to count chad. It's all pretty hush-hush. It might be a secret fall-back plan if the vote-recount thing doesn't pan out. Anyway, if we've learned nothing else, now when we play Name the State Capitals, everybody should know better than to say "Miami!"

But about this ATM stuff. At the end of the banking day, all of life is divided into two piles: cash and checks. Each is handled separately when they take the grand total of how much of our sweat-stained loot has passed through their doors. When the ATM triage team opens the deposit bin, if we've marked the outside of the envelope, they don't have to open each one to see what's inside in order to put it in the correct pile. (Some banks use envelopes with holes in them so the deposit is visible.) After you make your choice on the screen, the ATM prints your response on the outside of the envelope.

And to take a little of the edge off your paranoia, ATMs are opened by two employees, one a supervisor. If there's a pass code, each person will have only half of it, so in most cases, a teller wouldn't be able to access the unit alone. But there's always the cash-in-the-mattress option if you're convinced your bank is a carnival of thievery. Well, other than the usual government-sanctioned type, of course.

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