January 10 was typically cold in McCall, Idaho, a small resort town with nary 3,000 residents. With temperatures lingering just below freezing, Nathan Davenport decided to hit the ATM.
Literally. With his truck.
Sometime around 9 o’clock, Davenport pulled up to the ATM outside Idaho First Bank. Wearing dark clothes and a mask, he proceeded to cut the bolts off the ATM’s door, then attached a chain to it and ripped the door free with his truck (a stolen truck, of course). Apparently this wasn’t Davenport’s first time hijacking an ATM. The caper took less than seven minutes, and Davenport split with cash totaling $26,120.
Across the street, Alex Hamilton and his girlfriend, Sara Chu, were leaving the grocery store across the way when they spotted Davenport yanking the door off the ATM. They called police, who caught up with Davenport minutes later not far from the scene of the crime.
The chase didn’t last long. During the getaway, Davenport stopped his truck, got out and fired at officers, disabling the two squad cars in pursuit.
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No one was hurt in the incident, and police eventually caught up with Davenport a couple days later. Turns out Davenport has knocked off at least 20 ATMs in similar heists over the last 16 months according to police, snatching over a half million dollars along the way.
The week following Davenport’s arrest, Idaho First Bank took out the following advertisement in their local paper, the McCall Star-News:
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The “Public Notice” is addressed “To the person who make the recent unauthorized withdrawal from Idaho First Bank…”
“You obviously forgot your ATM card, but the chain wasn’t necessary. You see, we try to help as many people as possible with their many financial needs,” Idaho First wrote in its ad, wryly mocking the robber. “If you had just stopped by to visit one of our friendly loan officers, we probably would have worked something out.”
Ha! That’s a good one.
“We were greatly flattered at your choice of banks,” continued the bank, dripping with sarcasm. “However, we must strongly discourage any further anonymous borrowing. It was not the money, but the principle of the whole thing.”
“We are McCall’s friendly hometown bank, from the free cookies, licorice and coffee, to our sincere community involvement, to the genuine interest of our staff in our customers’ needs. But even we have to draw the line somewhere.”
Food for Thought: This tiny bank with one branch and $90 million in assets managed to turn a rather serious robbery into a branding coup. Normally financial institutions try to keep robberies under wraps, preferring to make as little noise about them as possible. But Idaho First did something that 20 other institutions before them could have… but didn’t. They capitalized on a typically unsavory situation in a such a way that they got their story in front of everyone in McCall, their hometown (and quite a few people beyond there).
Being bold and brave. Taking chances. Being creative with opportunities. Turning negatives into positives. Differentiating by doing what the competition can’t or won’t. That’s branding at its best.
Hat Tip: To reader Gina L. for sending the story our way.