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September 7, 2004 12:37 AM

Broken: Washington Mutual bank sign

approxclock2Alex Benenson writes:

This is a typical bank sign that includes a time & temperature display, only this one also includes the helpful (?) disclaimer, "This is approximate time and temp."

This disclaimer would only make sense if people expected these types of signs to be very accurate, but nobody does, so the disclaimer isn't telling you anything you don't already know.

Why did they put the disclaimer there in the first place? Is it there to avoid lawsuits by people who dress too warmly and get heatstroke, or show up late for work and get fired? (And what do they consider to be "approximate" anyway?)


probably so people can't say "but your clock says its 4:48, not 5:00! Let me in you lazy bums!"

Posted by: Mink'o'War at September 7, 2004 03:47 PM

Approximate means: "As more and more lights go out on our sign and we can't be bothered to replace them, you may find interpreting what is displayed to be difficult."

Posted by: Mr. Nosuch at September 7, 2004 05:57 PM

F*cking lawyers

Posted by: Miles Archer at September 7, 2004 08:12 PM

"As more and more lights go out on our sign and we can't be bothered to replace them, you may find interpreting what is displayed to be difficult." Hahaha. :)

After I read the second part of the original post, I directly though of lawsuits. I suppose they think if they don't put up that disclaimer, someone might sue them for a stupid reason. Yes, nobody expects them to function properly anyway, but, I mean, you know coffee is hot, but just because the "warning, hot!" label is missing, you get millions. Talk about law. :)

Posted by: Selcuk at September 7, 2004 11:12 PM

I worked in a bank for a few years with an outside clock sign. You would not believe the number of people who would wait in line at customer service just to tell us the clock was off by a minute or two. There are too many people who have too much time on their hands, a desire to show everyone how f$#@ing smart they are, and don't have a damn thing of value to do. Our repsonse was always a polite "Thank you" but our thoughts were "Drop dead a-hole". We eventually got rid of the sign.

Posted by: TimB at September 8, 2004 09:58 PM

Why do banks even have these signs? As opposed to something useful like, say, whether the branch and/or drive-thru is open, or the ATM is out of cash?

This seems like one of those things that - like the clock on my microwave oven - is often wrong but serves no purpose even when its right. Who doesn't have a clock in their car these days? Or increasingly often, a thermometer? Or even cares what temperature it actually is?

The whole thing reminds me of a "bit" that a comedian did a couple of weeks ago on Last Comic Standing: "You know those big signs they put up on roadsides with the radar gun that tells you how fast you're driving? Recently I realized that I don't need them anymore because I have a very similar device *right in the middle of my dashboard*! So now I don't have to drive around looking for one of those signs to figure out how fast I'm going. I just look down, its right there...".

Posted by: Carl at September 9, 2004 12:18 PM

You are all correct... When I was in Atlanta, the news reported that someone did indeed sue and won a suit regarding the errant time on a clock displayed at a business. It had something to do with them being late and being fired. Of course, the person had been late previously and often, but even with that, the jury said that had this person had the correct, time, they wouldn't have been late that last time. Sheesh. Everyone is a victim...never responsible.

Posted by: Rich at September 9, 2004 12:53 PM

Why not just give the bank the correct time, and have them go by it? It can't be too hard to do so, and a hell of a lot of people would quit complaining...

Posted by: Ilan at September 13, 2004 09:12 PM

"Does anybody really know what time it is.....Does anybody really care ... about time....if so I can't imagine why ......"

Posted by: JGE at September 14, 2004 02:15 PM

The temp. gauges on those signs do not seem to agree in cold weather. In Utah once a bank sign from this company said it was 26 degrees. Another sign said it was around 36 degrees. One claimed it was 18 degrees.. The news said it was about 30 degrees at the time.

Posted by: hey at September 14, 2004 09:25 PM

For anyone who really wants to explore the roots of this "disclaimer" phenomenon read "Jurismania: The Madness of American Law" by Paul Campos. A great book. Fight the insanity.

Posted by: Craig at September 22, 2004 03:59 PM

Forgive me for being boring and pedantic, but as silly as I find the disclaimer, I can understand why it is there.

The clock is probably set by a janitor or something, and it isn't considered the official clock for, say, when the doors lock or when next day's business starts. The disclaimer would prevent claims that someone bounced a check even though they got the deposit in before noon, based on the clock outside. Of course, a timestamp is found on your receipt, too... and that one probably *is* the official transaction time.

Still, clocks that set themselves from the WWVB atomic clock transmitter in Colorado are quite cheap and common. I can't imagine a modern clock NOT having that as an option, at least. It would still not be /perfect/ time, but it would be better. Most radio clocks only set themselves at night (when the signals travel better), and are on their own quartz clocks during the day. Quartz clocks speed up and slow down based on temperature. Which offers a segue into the other half: the temperature display.

The temperature sensor for those displays could be vastly different because the sensor is in vastly different places. Is it temperature at the sign? Within the sign housing? On the roof? Exposed to rain and wind? Shaded? Maybe there is no temperature sensor, and it is displaying the temperature from the nearest NOAA weather station.

Still, I think that time and temperature signs shouldn't be within sight of each other, just to prevent them all from looking stupid.

Posted by: Michael Dwyer at October 19, 2004 08:01 PM

The Walgreen's down the street from my house has, for the past several months, consistently said that the temperature is 505 degrees F.

Posted by: Christopher Kautz at November 1, 2004 06:28 PM

In this case I believe it does matter as the bank is indicating that the outside clock is not going to count in determing the time a deposit is made.

Posted by: Brian at November 27, 2004 04:16 PM

I remember one year on a blistering day one of the bank clocks was saying it was 147 degrees outside.

As for the bank sign, for some reason it looks photoshopped.


Posted by: Mike at November 30, 2004 04:29 PM

The picture is not photoshopped, but it does kind of have that look now that you mention it. If you're in downtown Salem, Oregon, the sign is at the intersection of Center St. and Church St.

Posted by: Alex Benenson at December 20, 2004 04:30 PM

Who would use regular lighbulbs for a clock. All the ones ive seen use LEDs. I read an article once that some people built and atomic clock that was so percise that it lost sync whit the earth because the earth does not spin at the same speed all the time.

Posted by: unknown at March 26, 2005 04:30 PM

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