Sunday, July 15, 2007

People, as a General Rule, Suck

Can I just rant for a minute about something you don't care about? Something so inconsequential that even mentioning it makes me a narcissist?

Good. Debit cards.

I like my debit card. I'm well aware that the One-World Government conspiracy (OWGC) and the Guild of Identity Thieves are plotting even now how to use my PIN number to violate me in ways I can't imagine, so don't bother lecturing me. I'm talking about something much more annoying than that.

I have a debit card for convenience. You know what's not convenient? The various clerks and counter help all over central Illinois who believe fervently that if the nifty hologram wears off, the card ceases to work--unless they perform dark voodoo rituals.
I'm standing there, assuring them that I've used the thing at three stores today and it works, but they just can't believe it. "This thing's about had it, huh?" they say, grinning their slack, insincere grins.
"Guess so." I answer. What I want to say is "The crazy part is that if I bludgeoned you to death with one of these four-pound Snickers bars here, they'd put me in jail."

Have you seen the Dance of the Debit Card? The High Clerk (or Clerkess) takes your card, holds it up to the light, flicks it with his thumb a few times, and makes various concerned noises. Then he puts the card gingerly into the center of the "swipe channel" on the register. Since the card reader is designed to work when the card is swiped briskly through it, this does not work. It is followed by swiping the card through slowly, then more slowly. Then the card is placed in the reader and allowed to sit for a few moments. Then it's swiped wrong-side out (just in case.) If you (and the fine people waiting in line behind you) are very lucky, you may now be treated to the rarest spectacle I've been privileged to witness: the Shopping Bag Gambit. This is when the clerk pulls the out the big guns; he will actually pull a shopping bag out and wrap it around the card. The great thing about this is that it requires repeating the entire dance from start to finish. The only thing that is always the same regardless of which clerk is doing the Dance of the Debit Card is the finale, in which the clerk completely gives up and keys in the number by hand.

Last night a lovely young woman drove me so nuts with this routine that I actually turned around and took $20 out of the ATM with the card just to show her how easy it is. My secret is holding the card in my right hand and swiping it across the card reader. There's a picture diagram of my secret printed on most card readers.
"Magic!" I called to her, waving my debit card and my $20 bill.

For all I know, she thinks that's exactly what happened.

I have not mentioned, because I cannot fathom, the gentleman tending the counter at a Casey's station a few towns over who, while wrapping my card in a shopping bag, informed me that the cards with little ducks in the hologram actually damage their computer system.
"These birds peck us to death, man." he told me. "I don't know what it is, but you run one of these cards with the birds, the whole thing messes up. Payments don't go through, it even shuts down the pumps out there sometimes. Whole pump just dies. It's crazy!"

Yes, I think. Yes, it certainly is that.


joated said...

"Special Education Teacher," eh? Sounds like either you're not getting all the "Special Kids" in class or there need to be many, many more in your department to handle the crowd.

BTW, I blame social promotion for many of the idjets out there.

Strings said...

heh... try being a clerk that has to run cards via a cell-phone...

That's what I used to do during summers, working at the Ren Faire: I was the "card person". Master Card and Visa, no real problem (unless you have a loud-mouth in the store when you're trying to hear the approval code). Discover though, I flat refused to run: all voice actuated. Had a $30 purchase come up as $3K because of some blabbering idiot...

Tam said...

I'm beginning to think that intelligence is no longer a survival trait. It's sure being bred out of the species at an alarming rate. Just carrying a non-fiction, non-self-help book in public these days marks you as some kind of atavistic throwback...

Larry G said...

Yeah, I have got to start being more proactive about just telling them to punch in the number by hand. That whole dance takes about 3 hours of subjective time, when they could reduce it to 15 seconds by punching in the damn number.

Since I actually, you know, USE my card, it does tend to wear off the strip on the back and get spotty.

But far more often than that it's a crappy reader in some filthy store that they can't be bothereed to maintain or replace when it wears out. Esepcially when I walk right over the the ATM and it works just bloody fine there.

I'm planning to open a pub next year, and one thing I will not deal with is a card reader that just doesn't work- the frustration and negative attitude and time involved outweigh the expense, hands down. And if I catch any employees doing the plastic bag trick, I'm going to make them clean the grease traps.

I also have found that my bank doesn't charge me for a new card when I tell them the strip is worn out every 6-9 months, like they would if I had lost it.

Bonnie said...

They wrap the card in a plastic bag? What is that supposed to do?

I've never worn out a card bank usually re-designs them every couple of years, so I don't have time to. I've only had to deal with a dorktastic clerk once or twice, and both times I was able to convince them pretty easily that if they just punch the numbers in, it would all be okay, and the clowns wouldn't eat them in their sleep for not following protocol to the letter.

Falco said...

This idiocy reminded me of an incident that took place at the Calgary (YYC) airport a couple of years back. Passenger had an "old fashioned" Nikon SLR and the TSA (or whatever they're called in Canada) told passenger to "turn it on.". Passenger said camera was not digital and therefore had no monitor that could be turned on. TSA insisted, etc. Passenger missed flight.

Like you said, "People suck." We are surrounded by dumb ass shit heads without sense God gave a billy goat.

Matt G said...

I bow to the greatness of your rant, good sir.

Larry G said...

"They wrap the card in a plastic bag? What is that supposed to do?"

LOL. It's supposed to "increase the static" level of your card. Because, as we all know, that's just what electronic devices need more of...

Don said...

Really? I've never had the courage to ask.

So . . . static electrical charges . . . amplify the magnetic fields from the card?

God help me, I almost made sense of that.

Carteach said...

I'll see your idiot, and raise you a moron, although it REALLY saddens me to be able to do so.

I'm second in line to the cash register at a convenience store.
The man in front of me is attempting to buy a pack of cigarettes.

Clerkette rings up the ciggies, and tells the man $X.xx (I don't recall, but under $5.)

The man hands here a $10 dollar bill, and she taps a few buttons..... and freezes.
Staring at the screen, she just freezes.

The man asks her what the problem is, and she replies "I put in $5 as cash tendered, but you gave me a $10 bill. I'll have to get the manager..... I don't know what to do....

This young high school age girl did not know the difference between a five and a ten dollar bill.

Sadder and sadder..... I see these students every day of the school year. High school seniors who can't do simple math, use a ruler, spell *anything* correctly, or even read. Yes, I said READ.

It makes me so angry to see these kids and know the school system has failed so badly. We only get 9 months to fix 15 years of bad education.

It's a bloody long uphill battle.

Lanius said...

Although this post is not all that recent and many clerks are indeed dumber than a bag of hammered hair, there actually is some valid truth to the "ritual".

I've worked in retail for a number of years. Cards can vary. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they do indeed read with a brisk swipe.

If it doesn't work on the second try, run it the opposite direction briskly. That usually works.

If not, then it might work slightly slower.

The plastic bag trick/scotch tape over the strip thing actually does work, though it's generally only called for when the strip is very worn (noticeable patches or pitting).

I'd write up a clerk who did the whole "tap it, frown, stare at it" bit though. There's no excuse for that.