Just for the record, I have had credit cards go through on a third try

Cidu Bill on Oct 1st 2017


I’m sure some of you have noticed this, but Grumbels employees’ contempt for their customers really annoys me sometimes.

Missy, you’re not doing the customer a favor by “letting” her run the card through a third time.

And actually, the “doing it wrong” line is a mystery to me, unless it’s just a set-up for the employee to think “The only thing I did wrong was…”

Filed in Bill Bickel, Retail, comic strips, comics, humor | 44 responses so far

44 Responses to “Just for the record, I have had credit cards go through on a third try”

  1. John Small Berries Oct 1st 2017 at 02:55 pm 1

    There’s a difference between a card read error (which trying multiple times can often overcome) and the transaction actually being declined by the bank.

    And “you must be doing it wrong” is no mystery to anyone who’s worked retail and dealt with customers who cannot admit fault for anything.

  2. ja Oct 1st 2017 at 03:33 pm 2

    +1 on what John Small Berries said.

  3. mitch4 Oct 1st 2017 at 03:42 pm 3

    Absolutely, “declined” is a different kettle of fish from just not working in the reader.

    Today I noticed for the first time a card I have with a chip but no mag stripe. This was after it wasn’t being read correctly in the chip slot, so I thought I would just swipe it down the side — but no stripe! (I reseated it in the chip slot and finally it was fine.) Glad I didn’t discover this at the supermarket where they still don’t have chip readers.

  4. PeterW Oct 1st 2017 at 04:12 pm 4

    If your card is declined by the issuer and you don’t think it should have been, running it again won’t help, you have to call them and ask them what’s going on. Usually it’s a fraud false positive and they just want to hear the cardholder say “yes, that charge was me”.

    All cards currently being issued should have both chip and stripe because the transition is still in progress. My Target card doesn’t have a magnet stripe, but Target can do that because that card only works at Target, and they were among the first to get their chip readers online.

    If you’ve got a chip card and swipe it in a terminal with an enabled chip reader, the terminal will usually tell you “no, you need to insert it”.

  5. Singapore Bill Oct 1st 2017 at 05:46 pm 5

    Happened to me yesterday at the supermarket. In Canada we have chip and pin cards that also have RFID so for smaller purchases you can tap it on the card reader.

    Well, the cashier said the tap function was not working on this terminal, so I put my card in. It said their was a problem with the chip, so I had to take it out and put it in again. Then I bungled the pin (oops) and it had to be tried again. Again it said the chip was no good and it had to be removed and reinserted. Entered correct pin. Waited a really long time. Then it said the transaction was declined. Then again and on first insertion it again refused to read the chip and had to be removed and reseated. Then I input the pin again and, after a really long time, it finally went through. So, yeah, the vendor was doing something wrong; they were using a defective machine and not pulling it out of service even though it was very temperamental.

    I have used the card several times in other locations with no issues.

  6. Cidu Bill Oct 1st 2017 at 06:38 pm 6

    “Declined” can definitely come up as a default “the card isn’t going through” message. This happened to me quite recently (and, contrary to what Einstein didn’t actually say, it did work after a few tries).

  7. Greybeard Oct 1st 2017 at 06:50 pm 7

    What Cidu Bill said. We do security for these things and he’s 100% right. “Declined” is a generic “This didn’t work for some reason” for some terminals. Dumb, but there you go. The terminal manufacturers don’t seem to do a lot of user testing–for example, the terminals at Trader Joe’s put up “Do not remove your card” but then MOVE that message around the screen. Since the expected action from the terminal is “Remove card”, people often reflexively remove their cards when the message changes, forcing the transaction to be restarted. Just dumb.

    Here’s a tip if you’re having trouble with a terminal–for example, one that thinks it wants a PIN even though you’re doing a chip&sig transaction: pull the card, then put it back in *the wrong way*. Repeat 2 or 3 times; the terminal will give up and let you swipe.

  8. Regulator Machine Oct 1st 2017 at 07:34 pm 8

    Often, instead of declined, the machine will just start laughing at me (what? you thought you had money, HA!)

  9. mitch4 Oct 1st 2017 at 07:49 pm 9

    PeterW, yes my no-stripe card also is Target; I see your point on why they can do it that way.

  10. Daniel T Oct 1st 2017 at 08:15 pm 10

    No. Despite what Greybeard said, in 20+ years of working retail I have NEVER seen a card go through the second (or third) time after it was declined. So she was definitely doing the customer a favor.

    Your patronage at an establishment does not give you the right to walk all over the employees. You seem like someone who tips at restaurants based on the pretax price.

  11. Cidu Bill Oct 1st 2017 at 09:33 pm 11

    Daniel T, first of all I have seen it happen because it’s happened to me. That trumps “never.”

    And retrying your card is hardly “walking all over employees.” I worked retail for 11 or 12 years, and I know from customers trying to walk all over employees. This isn’t it.

    And what does any of this have to do with tipping based on the pretax price?

  12. larK Oct 1st 2017 at 10:50 pm 12

    The customer is the lifeblood of a retail establishment. It behooves you as the retailer to give that lifeblood the benefit of the doubt, or even just to treat them nicely and play along. You want them to be able to pay you, they want to be able to pay you. Both sides can nicely save face by blaming the credit card processor as the bad guy — that’s what they’re there for, that’s what you the retailer are paying for, that’s what you the customer get for using a credit card — an intermediary that takes the pressure off of the immediate situation and allows for saving of face while ensuring that there is no fiscal loss, by either party.
    As a customer, of course you have impeccable credit and have always paid your credit card bills on time — there is obviously something wrong with the machine or the card when your card is declined. It’s embarrassing and it’s not your fault! If the merchant tries to shame you, are you going to come back to this merchant?
    As the retailer, either this customer can’t control their finances and deservingly has had their card declined, or there has been a mistake. You claim you can tell which is which, but can you really? Cops and prosecutors think they know who is guilty, too, yet look at the number of exonerated prisoners from the work of organizations lie the Innocence Project. And here’s the kicker: does it matter to you the retailer which it is? The credit card processor has your back! In the case of the spendthrift, you don’t have to worry about whether they can pay or not, the credit card company has that. You can afford to side with the customer, even if it’s really his fault, because you won’t lose anything by doing so, and you gain goodwill. And if it isn’t the customer’s fault, you especially gain that goodwill.
    So I really don’t understand this sentiment that you’re doing the customer a “favor” by being sympathetic and engaging in a possibly or even probably futile act — you’re doing yourself a favor by being sympathetic to your customer. You want him to spend money with you. The credit card being declined really should align you with him — he wanted to pay you, you wanted him to pay you, the pesky credit card processor has gotten in the way of that — whether rightly or wrongly, what do you care? — something the two of you wanted has been thwarted, why aren’t you aligned with him?

  13. larK Oct 1st 2017 at 10:54 pm 13

    And only one missed close italics at the end…
    (Oh, and “like” instead of “lie” in the bit about the Innocence Project, which really should have been in parenthesis, or even excised entirely as off point…)

  14. Mark in Boston Oct 1st 2017 at 11:01 pm 14

    If you tip at the post-tax price, do they have to give 15% of the tip to the tax collector?

  15. Arthur Oct 1st 2017 at 11:48 pm 15

    larK @ 12: Well said.

  16. Arthur Oct 2nd 2017 at 12:01 am 16

    Emily Post says to tip pre-tax:

    “Wait service (sit down): 15-20%, pre-tax
    Wait service (buffet): 10%, pre-tax”


  17. fleabane Oct 2nd 2017 at 12:39 am 17

    pre-tip post tip is just a different tip rate. Tipping 20% at pretax is the same as tipping 18% post tax in California. If someone has a generous tipping rate it doesn’t matter if you tip pre or post tax. Thing that gets me is all my friends in states with little to no restaurant tax brag how the pay just over 20% and I’m such a chintz because I pay just under 20%. If you adjust for 5% tax rate vs. 10.5% and then just under 22% pre-tax is more than just over 21% pre-tax.

  18. James Pollock Oct 2nd 2017 at 12:55 am 18

    “So I really don’t understand this sentiment that you’re doing the customer a “favor” by being sympathetic and engaging in a possibly or even probably futile act”

    That’s because your analysis is incomplete. The employee standing at the register is paid for their time. You’d like to keep the amount of that time to a minimum, particularly if there are other people waiting… humoring one customer while several others fume at you wasting their time may not be the wisest course.

    Customer presented a card, retailer submitted the card to the payment processor. It did not work. Retailer tried the card again and it did not work. Once is a fluke, twice is a pattern. How long is it reasonable to keep trying a card that does not work?
    Now, there are obviously a lot of variables at work: Has the payment-processing been unreliable recently? Is this a well-known, repeat customer or a first-timer trying to use a card that’s coming back with “seize card” request? Is this a purchase of a substantial amount, or trivial? Is the customer already so angry or embarrassed that salvaging the business relationship is impossible?

    I watched a tense little drama play out just last night. I walked into a Pizza Hut to order a pizza. The manager was trying to keep the kitchen running and get delivery drivers displatched, while also handling a rude and angry customer at the front counter. It seems that this customer came in, put her phone down on the counter to pick up her order, and left, leaving the phone behind. Said phone was now no longer present. Angry customer was accusing the store and/or individual employees of stealing her phone. She wanted the manager to stop all activity and let this woman search the entire store for her missing phone, the manager was saying that they’d already searched and they didn’t find her device. Angry customer was screaming accusations, threatening to call police and corporate headquarters to get everyone fired. Manager finally called police himself to have this person removed. When I left, the woman had left the store to rant outside, but wandered off to parts unknown before my pizza was ready. The disruption caused at least one pizza delivery to go awry (driver left with the address for one order but the actual items for another order.)

    I reject the “retail is a privilege” mindset. If you are a full-margin retailer, you can afford to put up with difficult customers. If you are a thin-margin retailer, you just can’t. You have to cut loose the customers you can’t or won’t make any money off of.

  19. Cidu Bill Oct 2nd 2017 at 01:00 am 19

    It’s my impression that the amount of an acceptable tip has crept up over the years (which is an okay thing). When, I was growing up, ages and ages ago, there was an 8 1/4% sales tax whete we lived, and the rule of thumb was to tip double what the tax was (which had the added benefit of being really easy to figure out), so 16 1/2% of the pre-tax total.

    Now, 20% seems to be the baseline, and you round it up from there and add more if the server makes any sort of effort.

  20. Winter Wallaby Oct 2nd 2017 at 01:07 am 20

    OK, I understand that a lot of people here have a reflective dislike of the Retail comic, but if we’re treating this as a real-world interaction, it seems bizarre to look at this and side with the customer. Yeah, I agree that it’s not a “favor” to let the customer try a third time. Let’s take that as a given and look at what the actual interaction is here. The customer’s card isn’t going through, and she keeps insisting in a hostile manner, that it’s not possible, and finally insists that the employee must be doing something wrong because her card is declined. That seems to pretty clearly put the customer on the unreasonable side, and it seems quite understandable that the cashier would find that frustrating. And, since it’s customer service, the cashier doesn’t actually express that frustration.

    So what’s the complaint here? That the cashier should not even internally express frustration about being criticized for something that’s clearly not her fault? Or that that internal frustration is not expressed precisely correctly.

  21. Cidu Bill Oct 2nd 2017 at 01:46 am 21

    My problem here is with the pattern of contempt these people seem to feel toward their customers. What’s the punchline here other than that the customer should have just been kicked to the curb?

    I’ve spent enough time in retail to know what an objectionable customer is like.

  22. James Pollock Oct 2nd 2017 at 02:04 am 22

    “My problem here is with the pattern of contempt these people seem to feel toward their customers.”

    You’re seeing selection bias. Retail workers encounter hundreds and thousands of people, nearly all of whom are simple and direct in expressing their wants and needs. These are not memorable; they come, they go.
    What we remember, however, are the outliers… the ones who are wildly unreasonable. THOSE are the “stories” that Retail is telling. The strip is hostile to THOSE customers, specifically, not all the customers, generally. It’s just that there’s nothing funny about customers who are reasonable and act the way ordinary people act.

    So, for example, the clerk who has somebody come up and wants to count out $37.43 in random change to pay for their purchases. Coins are legal U.S. currency; the clerk is expected to stand there and count them out, and not complain to the customer about paying for $37.43 in purchases with dimes and pennies.
    But… take the point of view of not the customer, not the clerk, but the person waiting in line to pay for their $15.11 purchase with a twenty. Is THIS person allowed to be annoyed?

  23. Kilby Oct 2nd 2017 at 02:05 am 23

    At the risk of being categorized as a pedantic grammar nerd, I think WW may have meant “reflexive” @20, but upon reflection, I decided that he was probably a victim of autocorrect. On the other hand, he happens to be absolutely correct exactly as typed: my dislike of “Retail” is very reflective, and not reflexive at all.

  24. Kilby Oct 2nd 2017 at 02:33 am 24

    Typical tipping levels are much lower in Germany than in America. The old tradition here was just to round up to the next convenient amount, not necessarily a round number, so the tip would often end up being just one or two Marks (now Euros). Part of the reason is that German restaurants are not allowed to pay their staff the same starvation wages as in the US, so waiters are not nearly as dependent on tips.

    Things have been changing somewhat, and it depends on the restaurant, but generally, 5% would usually be an “acceptable” tip, and 10% is fairly generous. Leaving 20% may even provoke a careful inquiry as to whether the amount was actually intended (I’ve seen this happen, even with tips half that much).

    P.S. I once had a problem with the bass-ackwards numbers used in German: when rounding up, I mistakenly said “three and fourty” (43) instead of the intended “four and thirty” (34). The waitress didn’t feel comfortable accepting the additional 9 marks, and countered with “33″, which made me realize my error. We agreed on “34″, and I muttered “What a strange language” as I handed over the money. The waitress (who wasn’t German) replied, “I think so too.”

  25. Mona Oct 2nd 2017 at 03:11 am 25

    At some stores (I’m thinking Staples in particular) the cashier must key in the 3 digit security code on the customer’s card as added security and verification. If the cashier keys in the wrong code, the card will be declined. Nothing wrong with the card and the customer has done nothing wrong. So, yes, please try again.

  26. qurlyjoe Oct 2nd 2017 at 09:25 am 26

    I suggest notalwaysright . com for hilarious and depressing tales of customer service. Hilarious because the anecdotes are funny and depressing that people who are allowed out on their own can be so stupid.

  27. MaKo Oct 2nd 2017 at 01:19 pm 27

    Yeah, I’m not seeing anything wrong on behalf of the cashier. She seems to be doing the best to assist the customer without any sort of judgment or complaint, up until the last panel when the customer starts blaming her for what is, almost assuredly, the customer’s own fault. At which point the cashier is internally upset about the unfair blame and having to put up with the difficult customer.

    I mean, it doesn’t read as particularly funny, sure. But I get the basic concept, and don’t really see any reading where the cashier comes off badly.

  28. Cidu Bill Oct 2nd 2017 at 03:14 pm 28

    Earlier this year I got a “declined” message when trying to buy (online) tickets for a London musical. It was, of course, an issue that had nothing to do with me.

    The box office manager I ended up having to call was a charming and friendly woman who, however, was unable to grasp the concept that the call was costing me £1.10/minute

  29. Greybeard Oct 2nd 2017 at 03:29 pm 29

    Mona (25): Actually, the Staples I’ve been to all want the last four *of the card number*, which is truly dumb. The idea is to prevent use of a forged physical card, but none of the clerks I’ve ever seen knew that, so I would just tell them the last four. Which misses the point, of course!

    But yes, a good point — if the clerk is coding anything in, then it could be their error. OTOH, the clerk should not be entering a CVV if the card was swiped or inserted, because the other CVV on the strip/chip should be used for the transaction (yes, the two are different–printed and machine-readable).

  30. Mark in Boston Oct 2nd 2017 at 08:02 pm 30


    Three-and-forty, four-and-thirty …

    English used to have that two, with four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.

  31. Kilby Oct 3rd 2017 at 12:36 am 31

    @ MiB (30) - As far as I know, German is the only(*) modern (European) language that (still) uses inverted digit pairing (for all numbers from 21 to 99). The worst part is that the traditional way to communicate German telephone numbers is in pairs of digits, so the number “12 34-56 78″ would be spoken as “twelve, four and thirty, six and fifty, eight and seventy“. I can’t deal with that, I always say telephone numbers with single digits.

    P.S. (*) Norway switched from “reversed” to “normal” numbers in 1951, proving that it can be done.

    P.P.S. If Keera is still with us, I’d be interested to hear how completely that transformation has been achieved.

  32. Meryl A Oct 3rd 2017 at 02:02 am 32

    Time magazine (at least I think that is where I saw this- no place else makes sense) had a map with the tip rate across the country. The NYC area is actually still at 15%, Bill, as an average. I forget which areas where higher and which were - yes, lower. I think the range was 8% or so to 20%.

    We tend to tip 15%, even at buffets, as the wait staff at the buffet can be doing more work than same in a regular restaurant.

    One buffet we go to in Lancaster adds an 8.5% tip automatically. One in Commack, NY adds 12% automatically.

    Sales tax should be charged on a “service charge” as that goes to the business who then pays the employee, but (even if charged on a charge card) it should not be charged on a “tip” as that it is money that is considered as going directly to the employee - at least in NYS.

    As to whether it is done correctly or not … After all if you use a coupon issued by the business you are not suppose to pay sales tax on that amount - but lots of restaurants subtract the coupon after the sales tax is calculated, not as they are suppose to - which is after the coupon has been subtracted. (Coupons issued by third parties, such as coupon from kleenex redeemed at a store, do have the sales tax charged on the total amount before the coupon. - Isn’t NYS tax law fun?)

  33. DemetriosX Oct 3rd 2017 at 05:16 am 33

    I’ve lived in Germany for 18 years and I still get tripped up by the backwards numbers occasionally. To be fair, English does essentially still do it backwards for 13-18. It’s just that the “and” has been elided and the vowel in “teen” shifted differently than it did in “ten”. But yeah, if I’m adding in my head I have to do it in English, because it’s a lot harder in German. My kids have had a couple of math teachers who would love to see it changed.

    Kilby’s right about the phone numbers, too. It’s horrible if you’re trying to write the number down while someone is telling it to you. To make things even weirder, when phone number are printed, it’s almost always in groups of three: 123 456 789.

    But as annoying as it is, I’ll still take it over French numbers. Four twenties and sixteen? Sixty and eleven? No thanks.

  34. Kilby Oct 3rd 2017 at 07:00 am 34

    @ DemetriosX (33) - Where have you seen telephone numbers as multiple triplets? I’ve seen them, but generally only as the first three digits of numbers with an odd number of digits (123 45 67 89).

    The “Telekom’s books” are fairly consistent: they always show “local” (city) number in pairs, and they also split area codes (for cities) as a separate entity. It gets weirder with extensions, because then the final part (after the hyphen) is treated separately.

    The problem is that even though the “official” system does have its logic, the result looks extremely untidy and random. Most people don’t bother with the rules, which is why companies often make up their own orthographic standards (for websites and business cards). For instance: except for the Telekom, I think almost everyone else leaves area codes unsplit.

  35. DemetriosX Oct 3rd 2017 at 09:13 am 35

    @Kilby (34): I see a lot of corporate letterheads and promotional materials with various contact info. Triplets (after the area code) seem to be pretty popular. Of course, turning the phone number into something that’s internationally acceptable means having to put the 0 of the area code into parentheses, because whether or not it should be dialed seems to depend on what country you’re calling from.

  36. Olivier Oct 3rd 2017 at 11:30 am 36

    “But as annoying as it is, I’ll still take it over French numbers. Four twenties and sixteen? Sixty and eleven?”
    Indeed, this leads to confusion : so in these cases, I switch to single digits (77= seven seven, not sixty and eleven, which people would write down as 60 11).
    By the way, it’s four twenty sixteen (twenty stays singular when it’s followed with another number : 80= four twenties, 81= four twenty one, 82=four twenty two, etc. Hence 96=four twenty sixteen (no “and” either)).
    Easy ;)

  37. James Pollock Oct 3rd 2017 at 03:26 pm 37

    “Easy ;)”

    And these are the people who brought us the metric system.

  38. Kilby Oct 4th 2017 at 03:55 am 38

    We’re just lucky that the metric system wasn’t invented by the English, or they would have introduced the icosameter, dodecameter, and pence-ameter.

  39. Olivier Oct 4th 2017 at 06:25 am 39

    A few weeks earlier in England, I asked people if because of Brexit, they’d go back to shillings, crowns, etc. The universal answer was :”God forbid”!

  40. Kilby Oct 4th 2017 at 06:55 am 40

    @ Olivier (39) - During a vacation in the Channel Islands, I remember seeing references to fees in “Guineas” (which used to mean “1 Pound + 1 Shilling”, thus “21 Shillings”), despite the fact that the pound has long since been decimalized. The tradition has outlived the changeover, but the new definition (1 Guinea = GBP £1.05) doesn’t look nearly as artistic.

  41. Mark in Boston Oct 4th 2017 at 08:20 pm 41

    Kilby, is it still a tradition that luxury goods are priced in Guineas?

  42. Myth Oct 7th 2017 at 06:04 pm 42

    Thank You, James Polluck and Winter Wallaby

    Also this is a comic strip designed to be funny to retail workers. Making a comment negatively about the worker is like making a comic strip about a miner having a problem with dirt being everywhere and then commenting how he shouldn’t complain that is part of his job. It is a strip for mine workers about there job, they will get it, they will find it funny!

    The other thing is that credit card companies do charge per transaction. Something like EBT or food stamp credit card machines do charge the store per transaction even if it fails. So I have worked in stores when there was an actual policy on how many times you can let a customer try their card.


  43. Meryl A Oct 11th 2017 at 02:45 am 43

    Myth - For reference my clients are charged 25 cents per transaction (which is actually called a slide fee). I would imagine companies with more transactions/dollar amount sales would pay a less per transaction amount. For example, the client I have now makes perhaps 20 sales on credit cards a year - not that she gets a lot of cash - she just makes very few sales.

    I know we pay basically around the same 25 cents base price for sales made through Paypal or though EtsyPay even though there is no physical card used.

  44. Meryl A Oct 17th 2017 at 03:25 am 44

    Okay, in the past week Robert had to remove and reinsert his credit card twice - in two different states, in two unrelated stores - when never before have we had a problem. Maybe he is wearing it out? :-)

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply