Global acceptance doesn't mean global experience

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13 August 2015
Gareth Lodge
Zil wrote almost a year ago about his experience using a foreign card in the US. I’m just back from an extended stay in the US, and was really struck by how inconsistent the experience is for a consumer. Consider these variations I experienced, in just one day!
  • Check in at a hotel – swipe the card, pre-authorising a charge of $150 a day, no signature, no receipt
  • Pay at gas pump – different price for credit and cash, pre-authorised, required to enter zip code registered for card
  • Paying at till – card swiped, photo id, no signature, no receipt
  • Paying at till – card swiped, photo id, no signature, receipt only available by email
  • Paying at till – card swiped, no photo id, signature, standard receipt
  • Paying at table – card taken away out of sight, signature required, but no check on whether payment has been made before leaving the restaurant
And in no instance was the signature looked at, raising the question of what is the point of signing?! In one place I accidentally caught the enter button on the electronic pad before signing, and off it went, technically signed but with no signature - even that wasn't challenged. Over the course of three weeks, there were several variations even on these options. Nor did they (arguably) relate to the cost or risk of the transaction – the lowest transaction (<$10) had the most thorough checks, but the restaurants (the most expensive, and where, ahem, you’re already in receipt of goods!) the least. To add to the confusion, it was almost funny to see the consternation that we split the bill with friends – x on this card, y on that please – something that is standard at least in the UK, but at least one restaurant claimed was both technically impossible and illegal. Compare this to the UK, and most other countries I travel to - you either tap (though rarely) or enter your pin, and in either case the card never leaves your sight. So - just two experiences arguably vs the US multitude. Being a geek (and with no shame, embarrassing my friends and family!), I asked, in just about the most unscientific survey ever, how they felt about EMV. Some hadn’t heard about it. Those who had felt it was going to put people off using cards because it was more difficult. To those of us in the rest of the world, this seems bizarre, particularly those of us who have gone through the experiences in the US. Then again, it’s understandable – human nature is often worried about any change and about the unknown. In addition to the messages about security benefits, we shouldn’t forget about the change management piece of the puzzle, and certainly not about taking the opportunity to see how the change could lead to improvements, particularly in customer experience.


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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America