Monday, May 08, 2006

In Which I Channel Andy Rooney

…and I wonder how many people still know who that guy is.

I use my credit card a lot. Much more often than five years ago, and an insanely lot more than ten. And really, since you get the 1% (or 3%, or 4 2/3% or whatever it is) cash back and you were going to spend the money anyway, why not? Even for amounts I wouldn't have considered using a card for back when. Not quite "stick of gum" levels, but sub $10 ones, anyway.

This has caused me to notice odd quirks in how businesses deal with cards. In Ye Oldene Dayes (as late as 1992 or thereabouts) using your card would cause people to pull out this heavy mechanical thing with a lever or a runner and some special carbon paper. Then they would take your card, go klerchunk-unk, make a totally illegible copy of your numbers and you would then sign it. I forget now if you got to keep the good copy or the unreadable one. Then they got the electronic things where the clerks would enter your number and it would print a (usually) very readable receipt for you to sign. The next steps were the gadgets that read the magnetic strip on the back of the card.

There things stopped for a while, and all was good. But gradually new wrinkles have been added.

I first noticed it with gas stations, the whole "pay at the pump" thing. You just swiped your card. And you did it yourself. No clerk action required. Pretty much everyone seems to do it that way now.

Back to the gas stations. Used to be you always had to sign the reciept. No more. No matter how much you buy, you swipe and you're done. Actually, I suppose there must be some limit where they make you go into the store and show ID or something, but for your average gas purchase, that's it. More and more stores are doing this. A drugstore and a bagel place near my home don't require signatures for purchases under a certain amount. A different amount at each place, I might add. This messes me up, because I can never recall if its purchases under $20 or $25 and I never know if I need to reach for a pen or not.

All the grocery stores I trade at still require a signature, even if you're only buying that stick of gum. Some places have you do an actual signature with a pen and ink. Others use those electronic writing pad things. I'm not wild about those. They start out dutifully creating a decent copy of your signature but after only a few months devolve into reproducing a bizarre squiggle that might be a two-year-old's attempt to draw a cat or a reproduction of one of Picasso's doodles as rendered by an epileptic forger. I've pretty much ceased to care what shows up on the screen and just hit "okay" as long as something is there.

Probably the weirdest store policy for credit cards is the one used by Lowes, the giant hardware retailer. You swipe your own card, but then you have to tell the checker the last four digits on it. This makes no sense to me whatsoever. It can't be to stop fraud, you're standing there holding the credit card. Who couldn't just look down and read the four digits? How many people have those numbers memorized anyway? People who shop at Lowes a lot? It’s an utterly pointless extra step, and I'm certain the checkers hate it. Some day I need to ask if they have ever been told the rationale for this.


Hogan Hilling said...


I didn't know how else to contact you. So I'm doing it via this blog.

My name is Hogan Hilling, husband to wife, Tina, and father to three boys, Grant (18), Wesley (16) and Matthew (12). And 15 year at-home dad veteran.

I’m co-writing a book with a mom, Jesse Rutherford. The tentative title is “What Dads Want Moms To Know.”

Jesse and I have already received some great input from many fathers and are looking for other fathers who would like to contribute their experiences and/or opinions on fatherhood. And more importantly share comments on what they would like moms to know. My email address is - Subject: Proud Dads.

Here is your chance to voice your opinions and thoughts. Anonymously if you like.

Feel free to forward this message to other fathers in your social circle.

We have several publishers reviewing our proposal. One has already made us an offer. We hope to have this book available in the bookstores by summer of 2007.

I posted a brief bio at the end of this post.


Hogan Hilling

Hogan Hilling, is a 1995 California Courage to Care Award recipient; author of The Man Who Would Be Dad, Capital Books, 2002 and Motivational Speaker.

For 15 years Hilling has served as an instructor for expectant father classes at various hospitals in southern California; as a facilitator of open discussion groups with fathers; and conducted workshops for mothers on fathering issues throughout the United States.

Hilling has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s The Other Half and Unsung Heroes, and in an ABC “Fathers and Sons” Documentary. His writing has been featured in newspapers such as the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Portland Oregonian, and Christian Science Monitor. Hilling has also worked as a guest columnist on fathering issues for the Orange County Register.

Hilling has also been a featured speaker at the Lamaze International Conference,
Northwest Area Childbirth Educators Forum, Conferences for Parents of Children With Special Needs and other Parenting Events.

Robert said...

"Back to the gas stations. Used to be you always had to sign the reciept. No more. No matter how much you buy, you swipe and you're done. Actually, I suppose there must be some limit where they make you go into the store and show ID or something, but for your average gas purchase, that's it."

Actually, I don't think that there is (at least not aorund here - Massachusetts). I recently saw a sign at a gas-station telling me that if my purchase was for more than $50 with a debit card or $75 with a credit card, then I'd have to swipe the card twice. Still no signing involved. (Can't imagine what good that does them).
I think this says more about rising gas prices than anything else!.
Growing Up Daddy