“I swear to you, it must have been a computer error! The money is in my account.”…

How many times do you get to hear that old line in a year? If you are a landlord, collections agent, or bill collector, chances are you hear it nearly as often as a school teacher hears, “I swear the dog ate it…”

Starting last week and continuing into this week, customers of the Royal Bank of Canada have lived through a financial nightmare when a cascading computer error made mincemeat of transactions and deposits from one end of the country to the other. Every direct payroll deposit was lost. Many withdrawals from automated tellers were noted twice. Money transfers were lost and entire accounts were mis-balanced. The situation started during a routine systems upgrade in Toronto and quickly spread across the bank’s massive network causing absolute chaos when cheques and deposits bounced from Halifax to Victoria and back again. Royal Bank IT departments across the country worked 24/7 trying to restore the system and, in most cases they have been successful. Accounts are back online and transactions are being properly recorded again.

For a week nearly 1/6 of Canadian bank account holders were held in limbo due to a computer error. Imagine if it happened around Christmas.