Is something fishy fouling up automatic teller machine cards?
Eelskin wallets and purses made from the hagfish, an ugly creature also unaffectionately known as the slime eel, is causing a bit of a squirm in California banking circles. It seems the eelskin could be demagnetizing the electronic codes on ATM cards, making them unusable, officials of some California savings institutions say.
The problem of fouled-up ATM cards is not major; Bank of America says only 0.1% of its 3.8 million cards get reported as damaged each year. But the problem has been frequent enough to cause at least one institution, Wells Fargo Bank, to tell customers with bad ATM cards to avoid using eelskin wallets and purses. Wells Fargo spokeswoman Kim Kellogg said the problem was noticed three years ago.
John McCosker, director of San Francisco's Steinhart Aquarium, said he suspects the trouble is caused by a metallic residue left over from the tanning process in Korea, where most of the accessories are made.