Parks and Credit Cards

Monday, September 8, 2008 4:08 PM

Regarding the argument that cards are faster than cash: this might be generally true, but not always, especially at smaller merchants. Consider the last time I tried to pay for a haircut with plastic:

1. Finish the cut, walk to the register. Hand clerk Visa card.

2. Clerk swipes card, punches in some numbers, hands card back.

3. Clerk asks for card back since first swipe apparently didn't "take". Card re-swiped.

4. Clerk stares at machine for ~20 seconds... nothing happens. Clerk pushes a few buttons, still nada.

5. Clerk asks for card back to "try again". "Will this double charge me?" I ask? Answer: probably not. Lovely.

6. Clerk swipes card, pushes buttons again. Line forming behind me.

7. Another ~20 seconds of waiting (and clerk mumbling expletives under her breath).

8. Lightbulb goes off above clerk head, she turns and yells to someone in back room to get off the %@$#ing phone so the credit card machine can use the line.

9. Third swipe's the charm: after another 15 second wait, the printer spits out a receipt and life is good.Total time: a shade over 2 minutes.

The previous time there I had paid with cash and was out the door in 10 seconds, including time to hand back a tip. When I saw that one Visa commercial referenced here earlier, this mess was all I could think of :)

Last edited by metallik, Monday, September 8, 2008 4:11 PM
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Monday, September 8, 2008 5:01 PM

It all depends on the setup, as well. Yes, it takes longer for a small business because they typically have an external credit card machine where they have to enter the amount and usually the last four digits of the card. However, there are also huge corporations like Chick-fil-a (I'd consider Six Flags and Disney huge) where all it takes is literally one slide of the card and the transaction is done. No telling the unit that payment will be via credit card, no buttons to press, no numbers to enter, nothing. Card swipe and the receipt prints automatically (and typically in ~2 seconds). The only way you can beat that in terms of speed is if your total comes out to be some exact amount (like $10 on the dot) because even counting bills or coins would take longer.

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Monday, September 8, 2008 5:52 PM

Yep, I agree in most cases the cards are faster... the dividing point seems to be whether the merchant has a dedicated line for CC processing. Waiting for the terminal to dial out takes too much time, even if no one is on the other line :)

There is another thing to keep in mind regarding cards, in that they raise the price of everything, for everyone, by way of merchant fees. Any business that accepts credit cards pretty much has to add another 2% to all their prices, especially with so many people using plastic these days. Merchant agreements usually forbid charging separate prices for cash and credit (I think some gas stations found a loophole, but they're one of the few exceptions). See http://www.unfaircreditcardfees.com/ for some anti-fee information/propaganda, and additional information on legislation merchants are promoting to help reign in these fees.

Last edited by metallik, Monday, September 8, 2008 5:53 PM
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