Chip and Pin is a relatively new concept for the UK having only been introduced, nationwide, some 7 years ago. Most people have come to terms with paying by plastic and not having to sign a piece of paper. Instead of the signature, they just have to remember four digits and enter them in the right order.
What could be easier? Apart from not having to enter any digits!
I guess what could make the process of paying slightly more easy would be to standardise the card machines. Some
machines expect the card inserted in the top; some in the base; some even have the card swiped. Some cashiers will take the card off you and insert it themselves; others expect the payee to do all the work.
Sometimes, as the payee, you are handed the machine once your card has been inserted; other times you have to move down the counter to a fixed machine. And today I had to use one such fixed machine. The problem with it was that it has a very nice hood which conceals the key pad so that no one can see what digits you are pressing. I say nice, I mean large! And it conceals the key pad so well, that the person trying to enter the numbers has to be double jointed just to get their fingers under it.
Coupled with that is the height at which it has been fixed to the counter. For me, it is level with my hips, which makes it extra tricky to get my large fingers (not abnormally large; average for a man of my height) under the hood without having to drop to my knees!
Resisting the temptation to get down on my knees as if praying to the mighty cash God, I inserted my card and bent and twisted myself into position ready to enter my PIN. Of course, having struggled to enter my four digits, contorting myself like some performer with Cirque Du Soleil, the cashier promptly informed me that the machine is detachable from the stand. And with that she demonstrated its removal!
Why couldn’t she have stopped me before I pulled a muscle I didn’t know I had and saved me some embarrassment?
I wasn’t the only one who was embarrassed. The person in front of me was being very diligent as they entered their PIN. They cupped their hand over the already exaggerated pad guard and leaned back to get a better view of the keys. No one was going to be able to see this person’s PIN. They could hardly see it themselves!
As it happens, no one else needed to see the numbers being entered because each and every key press was accompanied by the user calling out the digits as if playing bingo! So focused were they on hiding what keys they were pressing, they forgot that concentration of that magnitude sometimes brings with it involuntary actions – some people stick their tongues out – and alerted the entire store (slight exaggeration) to their PIN.
Makes my contortions seem considerably less embarrassing! 😉