Signing credit cards is impossible – discuss

Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

I’ve been a bit quiet recently due to one thing and another. My stars tell me everything will sort itself out by the end of this week, so that’s alright then (and the same for every other Scorpio on the planet, presumably).

Despite being on annual leave I seem to be busier than ever. I’m teaching a two day workshop on InDesign later this week and it’s the only program I know that I haven’t used commercially – it came out after I’d given up design for teaching – so I’m in a bit of a panic. I keep losing things that I would know like the back of my hand in QuarkXpress, like hyphenation and so on. But I think I’m just being overly worrisome – it is all coming back to me and my only worry now is making two intensive days worthwhile for people. So much to cram in, so little time…

But all that aside, my new credit card arrived a few minutes ago (so shiny, so tempting) and I just rang the card issuer to confirm receipt. Now I can sign it.

But this is something that has always annoyed me about these things. My signature is far too large to fit on the tiny strip they give me to use. And my signature when I’m sitting down at a desk is completely different to the one I write when I’m feeling hassled in a supermarket. In calm circumstances, you can make out at least the first few letters of my name. When I’m flustered, it’s just a squiggle. And worse still, it’s a different squiggle every damned time.

So different in fact that I’m surprised I’m not asked to re-sign receipts on every occasion. (I worry when I’m not – often the cashier doesn’t even look, so when I am asked to try again I thank them for being so diligent).

Fortunately, this is one of the new “chip and pin” cards that should mean I can just use my PIN number in future rather than sign. But to my knowledge only one supermarket in Brighton has the new card readers, and last time I was in there they didn’t seem to be using them (there’s no way I can see for you to differentiate between old cards and new ones so presumably cashiers aren’t offering chip and pin to people even though they can).

But the whole tiny strip thing still annoys me. And it’s too shiny – I just spent several minutes practicing my signature in best supermarket checkout mode before committing mine to the strip. The pen just sailed straight off it and I’m now stuck with something that looks like a spider’s dipped its legs in ink before doing a tango. It’s almost illegible. I considered doing it again but how suspicious would it be if I crossed out my first attempt?

My friends always have a go at me for my signature. On letters it looks okay but the J and the B are big, suggesting something I presume. And they think my card signature is entirely forgeable. I’m more worried about why I don’t seem able to write my name at checkouts – some repressed childhood memory, perhaps?

Talking of poor design and supermarkets: carrier bags. I can’t open the damned things (the same with bin liners (refuse sacks). I once spent an hour trying to get a black bin liner open, I kid you not. And in supermarkets by the time I have opened the bag, all my shopping is in a pile, the cashier wants my card and the next person is waiting impatiently. That’s probably why I sign the receipts so badly. It all makes sense now.

And while I’m at it (ooh I’ve missed this) why can’t people move away while they put their money and cards in their wallet/purse/handbag. So often the woman (and it usually is women!) in front of me waits while all her shopping goes over the barcode reader, hands over the cash or card, signs for it, puts the card/change back in her purse, and only then starts to put her shopping in a bag (which she seems to have been able to open, unlike me). It’s like people who wait until they’re on the bus before they start looking for the money they need.

Mmm… I needed that.

Back to the week/month from hell. Hope my stars are right.

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