Friday, February 11, 2005

Chip and Pin

I finally got my first UK chip and pin card this week. Thank you Citi - I know that you never sleep, but it seems to me that you've not been dealing with this one in a fully awake state. I used these cards when I lived in France and thought that they were great. No messing around with paper in restaurants - the machine comes to the table, the transaction is completed then and there, you never lose sight of your card. Of course, there is rarely any such thing as service charge in France so there's no fiddling with the maths of that. In stores, the pin device was set away from the cash desk - usually at the far end of the till, even away from the cashier - so that no-one could see you enter your pin. Everywhere I've been in London, the pin device is a tiny, portable gadget placed squarely in the middle of the till - where everyone can see whatever you type in. I don't get it. Keep your pin secure, except for the fact that even the guy 5 places behind you in the queue can see what you just typed? How does that work? And as for fast and reliable, I'm not sure it's any quicker. The gadget seems to dial in for ages before you put in your pin and then dial again afterwards. Long pauses with nothing but "Do not remove the card" to stare at as you anxiously wonder whether that cheque that you just put in really has cleared and whether you do have the money to pay for the things that are already neatly wrapped in the bag. Is this as good as it gets?

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