Day 9: The basics of paying with cards

Welcome to 12 Days of Retail. My last day (for real this time) at Old Navy is quickly approaching and this series serves as a sort of wrap-up to my time there. I've rounded up the worst customer offenses into 12 general categories. Some are truly terrible and some are relatively minor, but together they cover almost everything that is terrible about working retail, in my ten years of experience.

Most people pay with credit or debit cards these days. They've been using credit and debit cards their whole lives, and yet they are somehow incapable of doing it right. Here are some of the ways people misuse credit cards and somehow find a way to blame me for it.

Chip cards

Even though they are relatively new (compared to my 10 years at Old Navy) chip cards have been around for at least a year or so now, and people still have so much trouble with them. I understand that different stores are still treating them a bit differently. Old Navy for some reason is still having people swipe debit cards, and so I try to over-communicate that as we go.

I explained this in great detail in a post in 2016, which mentions that a lot of people try to swipe their cards when they should be using the chip, but the problem now is the opposite—everyone wants to use the chip all the time, even when they're using a debit card, and they can't seem to hear me when I tell them to swipe it. I have variations of this conversation about twice per shift, but it's happened at least once verbatim:

Customer: Should I use the chip?
Me: Is it credit or debit?
Customer: Oh it's a chip card. Should I use the chip?
Me: That depends on whether it's a credit or debit card.
Customer: Oh, debit.
Me: Then no, you can swipe it.
Customer: *inserts chip anyway*
Me: Since it's a debit card, you can swipe it.
Customer: It's not working.
Me: Yes, you can just swipe it since it's a debit card. 

Using other people's cards

This is changing somewhat now that chip cards are becoming the norm, but for most of my tenure at Old Navy, we had to be incredibly vigilant about credit cards. Anytime someone used a credit card, we had to check their card and ID. And the name on the card, obviously, had to match the name on the ID, which also had to match the person who was in front of us.

This is incredibly difficult for some people.

"But it's my husband's!"
"But it's my mom's!"
"But it's my aunt's!"
"But I don't have my ID on me! No, not even a Costco card!"

Guys, be an adult in the world. You need to have a way to pay that is not dependent on someone else. If that means carrying backup cash, that works. If it means having an extra card, that is also good.

Also, pretty much every card in the world has an option of adding an authorized user. So if your husband / mom / sister / whoever wants you to be able to use their card with them not there, have them get you a card. Otherwise, you need to have them with you.

Also also, just never go anywhere without an ID. There are many many circumstances when you will need it, and they are not all retail-store-transaction-based.

Expecting me to have the answer when your card is declined.

People's cards get declined for a variety of reasons. You may not have enough money in there. Your bank may have noticed suspicious activity but not called you yet. Maybe you forgot to tell your bank you were traveling. Maybe you deposited a check but it hasn't cleared yet. Maybe you were late on a payment.

I am not a bank teller. I'm just here to sell you clothes. The computer systems at retail stores rarely, if ever, falsely decline someone. Getting declined doesn't necessarily mean you're at your spending limit or you don't have enough money in the bank, so you don't have to feel bad about it. But you also definitely shouldn't be yelling at me about it.

I had a customer a few weeks ago who was so confused about why she was getting declined, and she pulled up her bank's app on her phone and showed me her balance. Like ... okay, you can try swiping your card again, but I'm not the one choosing whether or not to approve the transaction.

Today's pro-tip: Always have multiple methods of payment available to you! If you're going shopping, assume one of your cards will fail. Bring two cards, or keep some spare cash just in case.

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