Debit SchmebitPosted: December 2, 2011
What is it with older folks and debit cards. It doesn’t matter if they’re using an ATM or paying in a checkout line or buying gas or a Red Box movie. They just don’t get it! It seems like a simple thing: slide the card, enter the 4-digit secret PIN, touch OK, grab your stuff and go home. Nope, that’s not how it works here in Sun City.
Most of the time they swipe the card with the magnetic strip facing the wrong way. Okay, I’ll give them that because most of us have done the same thing. But what makes it different here is that they just keep on swiping – once, twice, eleven, fifteen, all the while muttering, “just give it a minute, it’s bound to take one of these times.” This usually continues until the weary cashier rips the card from their amazingly strong arthritic grip and swipes it the right way.
Next comes the PIN. In many cases it’s written on the card, usually on the back where the signature is suppose to go. If it’s not there, it’s on a slip of paper in their wallet or handbag. If this is the case it can take from a few seconds to several minutes to retrieve the number, by which time the PIN pad has timed out and the whole process starts over. At this point they either start swiping aimlessly again or whip out a checkbook.
However, after a successful swipe has been performed, and a PIN number has been correctly entered, the quiz begins. The questions are multiple choice and the contestant usually has a 50-50 chance of getting it right. The first question requires a YES or NO to approve or disapprove the purchase. Those of us in line with slowly melting Klondike bars and rapidly thawing Marie Calendar pies usually hold our breath because a NO means starting over again, which happens more often than not.
But let’s say they push the correct answer, which is YES. The next question is even trickier because a YES means actual decisions must be made. Do You Want Cash Back? At this point, I put my hands together in silent prayer and start mumbling “just say no, just say no,” because YES means they have to actually interact with the machine. And this is where the elderly amateurs are culled from the savvy seniors. The amateurs don’t have any idea what they’ve just done. They simply stare at the little screen that’s asking them to enter an amount like they’ve been asked to solve the Hodge conjecture using the PIN pad. This always requires an intervention by the cashier, who will cancel the request and magically produce a sales receipt.
My mother has a debit card that she’s never used. She believes that if she does, the government can steal all of her money whenever they want, without her permission because they’re tracking everyone’s bank records on gigantic computers somewhere in the basement of the White House. She’s probably right. But what she doesn’t understand is they can do that anyway, with or without her card and PIN number or her permission. It’s called the IRS. But, for her peace of mind, we keep it locked away, out of sight from the sly, prying eyes of those greedy, dishonest politicians. After all, we wouldn’t want them taking money from poor, helpless, old retirees against their will now, would we.