The Old Coot charges on

Paying with plastic used to be convenient! You didn’t have to carry cash; you didn’t have to fumble through your wallet for bills or your pockets for change; you simply handed your card to the clerk and they did the work. That’s how it started anyway. Now, “For your convenience,” you have to swipe the card yourself. It sounded good, at first; I bought into it. I should have known better. Whenever a corporation claims they are changing things for YOUR CONVENIENCE; it’s usually not the case. It’s for THEIR convenience. Card readers were installed across the land and the process was turned over to us, the customer. No longer could you hand your Visa card to a clerk and let them do the work. 

It wasn’t too bad, initially; you simply swiped your card and signed the receipt. But, then came the CHIP, “For our security.” Some of the units had an insert slot for chip cards, others didn’t. It caused a lot of confusion. Now, most all the card readers have the slot. I know, because most of the time I stick it in the wrong way. The clerk gives me a dirty look, rips the card out and sticks it in the proper way. Mumbling, “Stupid old foggy,” under her breathe. 

More steps have been added to the process. A questionnaire, so to speak. “Is the amount OK,” is the one I love the best. You are expected to tap “Yes” or “No.” Unless you’re an old coot, then you use the prompt to try for a better deal. The prompt shows $18.56, so I ask if they’ll take $15. That really gets the clerk mumbling to herself. She then gives me one of those “Sir” responses, as in, “Sir! You need to tap yes, to complete the transaction.” I don’t let it go that easy; I smile and say, “Then why was I asked if the amount was okay?” She tells me it’s a courtesy, so customers will know what will be charged to their account. I always give the dumb same response, “Oh, I didn’t know.”

It’s even worse at a pharmacy. You have to respond to a slew of questions when paying for a prescription. The clerk used to handle this, now you do the work, using the “smart” card reader. It’s yet another step in the process that’s getting us trained to do business with a robot. Some charities have jumped on the bandwagon and inserted their fund raising efforts into the checkout process. The clerk is required to ask, “Would you like to add a dollar to your purchase and donate that amount to the “Save the Sand Fleas Foundation”? If you don’t, you get a dirty look, and if you listen carefully you might hear the clerk say, “Cheapskate,” under her breath. If you do add a dollar, you don’t get credit for your generosity.

Neither does the clerk. A fat cat corporate CEO takes credit for his company’s fund raising effort, not mentioning that a card reader did all the work. It’s gotten so bad, this constant tapping at a check out counter, that I’ve had to make an appointment with a rheumatologist for the arthritis that’s invading my index finger. I’ll probably have to cough up a co-pay via yet another card reader. FOR MY CONVENIENCE! 

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