Slaves to Technology?

Over the past few years I have slowly moved from carrying cash to using my debit card for purchases. It’s pretty convenient for me, and reduces, somewhat, any loss I suffer from a lost wallet or something similar. I’m sure I’m not the only one doing this. However, this means I rely on technology a bit more. And when that technology fails, life becomes difficult. This bit me again this week.

I received a new debit card a few months ago and found that after just a few months, the magnetic strip on the back of the card started to rub off. I guess they’re using something different to fabricate these newer cards as my previous card lasted several years, and was still good, when it expired and I needed a new one. So, I went about ordering a new one and life went on.

Now, a mere month or so later, the strip has yet again rubbed off. Again, I’ve ordered one and I’m expecting it any day now. In the meantime, I had to run to the market the other day. I run around, gather the stuff I need, and proceed to checkout. I normally use the self-checkout, if only to avoid the usually long lines elsewhere. I go through the ritual of scanning everything, placing them into bags, etc. When I ran my card through, it failed, pretty much as I expected. I tried running it through a few times, and even tried the “bag” trick which also failed.

So what do you do in this situation? I thought there was a pretty simple solution to this, so I asked the girl at the counter to run it through by hand. This, apparently, was a big mistake. What resulted was a 20 minute ordeal as they ran to get a manual card machine, screwed it up three times and had to keep running to get new carbon sheets. Once they finally figured out how to use the manual machine, they had to enter the data into the computer. Of course, they screwed this up innumerable times. All said and done, they were finally able to get the transaction to go through.

Seriously? Come on… I do this on the Internet all the time! Enter the card number, name, expiration, and CVV. Done! I even mentioned this and was told that it was “far more complicated than that.” …. Ummm…. ok … ?

So in the end, they have a physical copy of the card (albeit a fairly crappy one… they had to hold on to my card to read the numbers because it didn’t copy well), and they have the computer transaction receipt as well. The computer receipt has the exact same information on it that a normal transaction has… So what was the problem again?

And it’s not just this particular store, I’ve had problems elsewhere. Burger King has no alternate plan if their credit card processing fails. At most, I was offered the option of running to get cash to pay with or wait for their computer to reboot… In hindsight, I should have gone to get cash.. Apparently they’re running the slowest computers on earth.

Lowes? The girl at the counter got frantic when the card wouldn’t read. She called for help, and the help got frantic too. Luckily it scanned after the umpteenth time, otherwise I may have been witness to a nervous breakdown.

Dunkin Donuts! Well, apparently they’re fairly competent there. My card failed to scan so the girl at the counter asked for it back, typed in the numbers, and ran it through manually. Took an extra few seconds. Done.

So let this be a lesson. Technology is great when it works, but you may be in trouble when it fails… At the very least, it can be incredibly inconvenient. And to think… Only a few years ago, credit cards had to be manually handled, with the carbon paper and all. And it only took a few minutes back then… How times change…

 

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