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Engineering Fails: No, No I'm Pretty Sure That Won't Work

Shoe Store Hell: Chip Cards Are Evil Technology!


Shoe hell 3From lifeofthe6TalesFromRetail

A little more than a year ago the shoe store I used to work at made the switch over to chip and PIN readers. As more and more people updated their credit and debit cards to ones with chips, we had more and more of the following transactions.

Customer: Does this read chips?

Me (or anyone on register) : Yes, go ahead and insert in the glowing slot, please.

Many people would get it right but some would insert the card the wrong way or swipe it anyway even though I just told them if their card has a chip it must be inserted.

As it should, the machine then asks for the PIN regardless of if it's a credit or debit card. The customer then says some variation of,

Customer: What do I push for credit?/I don't know my PIN/I don't want to put in my PIN

Me: Sorry, but if it's asking for your PIN, with the chip readers you have to put it in. That's how it verifies the card.

Customer: Reeeeee But I don't want to, I could lose my information!/But they didn't give me one so I don't know it!/*attempts to swipe card*

It even got to a point where I actually researched exactly how the chip and PIN system worked so I could explain to people that their money and info were safe to attempt to put them at ease. This worked for some, but for others they either switched to cash, a card that didn't have a chip so the machine could prompt for a signature instead or demanded a manager who told them the same thing I or one of my coworkers already did.

In the beginning, after the change, we actually lost a few sales because people were unobservant or paranoid about the new technology. Eventually the readers were altered so that unless specified otherwise by that particular customer's bank or credit union, the chip would prompt for a signature or they could bypass the PIN by pressing Enter on the pad.

Some people still had cards that needed a PIN even for credit but they didn't know the PIN or refused to put it in, but luckily for them I learned that if you force the machine to "fail" by removing the card before the chip reads 3 times it allows the card to be slid normally where it prompts for a signature or allows you to bypass the PIN.

It was all very exhausting.




Whether or not a chip card requires a PIN is up to the bank that issues the card. And in the US, the overwhelming majority of them do not. If your system was set up to require a PIN on all chip cards, it was set up wrong, and couldn't process cards without a PIN attached (which, again, is most). If it tries to process it with a PIN anyway, the transaction will fail.


While making the transaction fail by fucking up the chip read three times will work, it causes the merchant to pay a higher fee on the transactions because it's less secure, and if it's done a lot, may prompt a fraud investigation.

Mastercard is mainly the one that requires a pin, visa went for chip and signature for their verification, but it is indeed up to the bank specifically.


Australia phased out signing three years ago, so the only time I ever see a prompt to sign these days is on the occasional return or someone with an overseas card.

I also find it amusing when someone with a chipped card goes to swipe, then ends up accidentally tripping the contactless payment as the chip passes by close enough for the screen to register it.


Two factor authentication (chip and signature/pin) is supposedly more secure, but undeniably more annoying. People can't remember pins, and I can't do my signature twice the same myself. The problem is that when you did something first, the newcomers take your innovations and build on them, so when it's time to upgrade, "we've always done it that way" and there's a lot of resistance and annoyance on all sides. (This is the same reason the US has 120v 60hz electricity, when most of the rest of the world has 230v+. It's more efficient to send higher voltage over the lines, but this wasn't well known until it was too late in the US. Too many cables, too many appliances already out there, and it'd be a nightmare to make everyone replace them now.)

Personally, 'stick card in, wait until it howls at you, take card out' is a lot easier.. but 'swiping a card was good enough for my grandpappy and it's good enough for me!' Not to mention people are (still, somehow, in the 21st century) afraid that computers will steal their identity or souls or some nonsense.

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