This ‘n That… Personal Financial Hazards and Today’s Technology Flaws

             I gotta say up front that I’m not a fan of some of the new technology in stores. For instance the check payment scheme at Wally World (Wal-Mart) along with the stores, like Walgreens, that don’t require any credit card signature for less than $25 and in some cases $50.

            Even above that, it’s a joke. Not long ago, I totaled up a purchase for a couple bucks under $90. When the little electronic gizmo read “sign here,” just for the heck of it I drew a smiley face and trapped the ACCEPT button as a joke. The clerk smiled back at me, then ripped off the receipt and handed it to me with, “Have a nice day.”

            I mean c’mon! Almost a hundred bucks against a smiley face and no request for ID. I don’t even remember when the last time a checkout clerk asked me for ID anyway.

            For reasons not germane to this topic, I had to fall back on writing checks for purchases. Okay, okay, I’ll confess; I lost my wallet which resulted in cancelling all two of my credit cards and my Credit Union debit card. After writing checks here and there, three to the DMV alone, and paying with greenbacks several times, I got to thinking maybe I should quit using credit cards altogether. It wouldn’t be the first time, but that’s a subject for another blog.

            So today I went to Wally World for some Christmas Shopping. Now it turns out that just today arrived my replacement Credit Union debit card.  Hot Ziggety! No more check writing writer’s cramps.

            Wrong! As the clerk wagged my goodies through the scanner I swiped my debit card through the magic reader and dutifully enter my PIN# ****. When the final tally came up — $156.34 – the little screen blinked a couple times and flashed the message “Card Not Authorized.” Humph… Okay, swipe the card again and use my other PIN# ****. “Card Not Authorized.” Again?!? After trying the card twice more, this time being VERY careful to press the correct numbers on the keypad, I apologized to the folks in line behind me and hauled out my checkbook.

            The very helpful clerk said, “Just write in the amount, that’s all I need.”

            “I don’t have to sign it?”

            “No, just write in the amount.”

            I did, and handed over the check: no date, no words for the amount on the long line, and NO signature. The clerk pushed the check into the requisite slot on her machine and after some whirring and clicking it popped back out. She handed the check across the counter, smiled and said, “Merry Christmas!”

            In sort of a daze, I piled my bags of goodies into my cart and headed for the door.

            I’ve heard about this technology but I confess I never paid much heed to it. In fact, this was my very first experience with the system. Now, I’m somewhat alarmed by what happened. What if, instead of my wallet and credit cards, I’d lost my checkbook? Almost newly reloaded with 21 blank checks left in it?

            Within hours of losing control of my credit cards, I’d called in and suspended them. Would I, in my ignorance and naiveté, have done the same over a missing check book? When would I have even realized it was no longer in my possession?

            Without asking me for any identification and no signature on the check, the clerk hit my checking account for $156 and change. That account serves as my emergency reserve and the balance ain’t chicken feed. I dutifully balance my checking account when the statement comes in. That means once a month I go through the charges and sort of verify them. Days or weeks might have gone by without me knowing that some miscreant has been ripping me off by using my checks.

            I mean, c’mon! I can see how this particular technology is definitely a time saver for the businesses that use it. On the other hand their convenience has a HUGE  negative impact on their customers’ financial security. I don’t like it.

            I’m not a Luddite, but dang it, some technology just doesn’t seem right for us little guys.