Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Let's just resort back to trading arrowheads.

If you buy something at the Bookstore, you have four ways of paying: cash, credit card, debt card or Bookstore charge account. Simple enough, right? Apparently not.

Gaffe #1: To charge or not to charge.

ATM cards are a modern convenience that has spared many trees from being made into paper checks and made it much easier to spend lots of money without really feeling the burn (until you later log on to your bank's online personal banking site). The cards can be used in ATM machines to draw money from your checking or savings accounts, but they also can be used right at the checkout register. Users have the option of using the ATM card as a credit or debit card. This is where things get, apparently, confusing.

My mom once told me that that when you choose to charge purchases, you are indeed withdrawing funds from your checking account but the withdraw is delayed, usually for about three days. This would come in handy if you wanted to buy something the day before you were getting paid and didn’t have all the money at that very moment, but would given a day or two. (photo credit)

Choosing debit would pull right out of your checking account, but it costs the account holder a fee with each transaction, somewhere in the ballpark of $1 to $2. So sure, you might know exactly how much is in your bank account at that very moment, but is it really worth a few bucks? Those dollars add up fast, and most online banking shows your credit charges in the account summary even though they haven’t been processed, so you still have any idea of how much dough you’re rolling in.

So kids, when you tell me you “don’t care whether it’s credit or debit,” I almost feel obligated to debit you.

Gaffe #2: Can I use my card? You tell me, Einstein.

Syracuse University allows parents to set up credit cards on their kids’ I.D. cards. It's a pretty good way to make sure your kids are spending your money on overpriced school supplies and junk food, which I guess is a step up just giving them cash that would most likely go towards stocking their dorm room’s secret liquor closet.

Biggest flaw? Those freshmen with SU charge accounts don't know what the hell it is or where they can use it (a: only in the bookstore, hence it's name, Bookstore charge account). (photo credit)

It acts like a credit card. Have you heard of those before? You buy something and then receive a bill later. So many kids ask how much money is left on their card. It’s not a gift certificate or allowance. You charge as much as you want, and suffer the wrath of angry parents later.

Gaffe #3: May I see you card?

I came into work this past Sunday and my manager told me that they’ve started to crack down on card use and the main branch is requiring all Bookstore cashiers to look at cards, check the name and look at their signatures.

In the six hours I have worked since they have instated the new policy I have never experienced more blank stares, bad attitudes and rolled eyes.

"Is everything okay?"

Yes, everything is fine. Nothing is wrong with your card. I promise you'll be able to make it through the 5 seconds it will take for me to look at your picture and confirm you are the cardholder. Read the piece of paper taped to the signature deck: “Please hand your student charge card or credit card to the cashier; if you are paying a credit card and it is not signed or unreadable you will have to provide the cashier with a photo id.” (photo credit)
The thing people don’t understand is that this procedure is in their best interest. I’m making sure that you are using your account, not some random person or thief. I fail to see any inconvenience about handing your card over for one second.

I’m really not in the mood to deal with people tonight. Is it that obvious?

Update: Two minutes after I finished this blog, a girl came in and said "Can I buy something with this card?" as she held up her i.d. card. I explained that she could if her parents had set up a charge account. She just looked at me. She wandered about for a minute or two. She came back to me. "So is there ANY way I can buy something with this card?" Am I speaking English? Is this a bad joke? Sadly, she was serious and I proceeded to once again explain what is a Bookstore charge. I really hope she's just visiting a friend and wasn't actually admitted/enrolled at SU.


Catherine said...

Love the title of this post. I am eagerly anticipating the return of bartering in this economically uncertain times. And isn't it agonizing when it is your job to explain the fundamentals of life to people?

ashley said...

whatever happened to the days of i'll give you this fur pelt for that frying pan? stupid gold standard lol

Yofred Moik said...

i no longer carry my wallet anymore. these days, i stuff cash and change into my jean pockets. when the cashier gives me the amount that i need to pay, i'm always reaching into my four pockets trying to find the money. 85% of the time i drop the change that im pulling out, completely embarrassing myself. this is most true when a single coin is dropped, it rolls halfway down the store, and i have to go find it only to realize that it was a penny.

design opportunity: an embedded wallet inside a back pocket with an easy transferring of money to a different pair of pants. and coins can be accessed easily.