It's checkout time for credit card swipers

October 30, 2006|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

It's a busy Friday evening and I'm in the checkout line at the supermarket doing what I normally do: Stressing about using the credit card swiper.

The 22-year-old cashier with the spiky blond hair has just rung up my groceries.

She tells me my total.

I pull out my Visa card.

I move to the credit card swiper.

It's show time.

Right away, my mind starts racing.

Which way do you swipe on this thing? Is it left to right? Magnetic strip up or down?

Every one of these stupid card swipers is different. Why don't they make them all the same? How hard could that be?

A uniform system of credit card swipers - that's what we need.

That way, you could be in Mars, Target, Home Depot, wherever, and know exactly which way to ... OK, no time for that now.

Gotta concentrate.

I swipe the card and stare at the little screen.

Nothing seems to be happening.

"Nothing's happening," I say to the cashier.

The cashier isn't listening. She's talking to her cashier buddy in the other lane.

"My boyfriend is such a loser," she tells her bud.

I turn the card over and swipe it again.

This time, something flashes on the screen. Little boxes with numbers. A couple of words with circles.

Now what? What does it want me to do?

I keep staring at the screen.

"Credit or debit?" the cashier says.

Who cares? I want to shout. Whatever's fastest.

OK, steady now. Deep breath. Don't take it out on her. She's just a kid.

"Credit," I blurt finally.

The cashier leans over and hits a button. She says to the other cashier: "I gotta tell you what Loser Boy said last night."

Now something else flashes on the screen.

Another question. Boy, these card swipers, they never stop with the questions. And every one of them asks you something different.

This time it's: "This amount correct (Y/N)?"

Sure. Fine. Whatever.

Except ... where's the Yes button? Don't they want me to hit the Yes button?

I see the Enter button.

I see the OK button.

But I don't see a @#$%&* Yes button.

I keep staring at the screen.

Where's the Yes button? Where's the Yes button?

Now I can feel the cashier staring at me.

I look up. What's that expression on her face? Is it pity? Poor old guy, can't even figure out a card swiper ...

Is it irritation? C'mon, c'mon ... I've been here since 7 this morning!

A combination of the two?

At least this one doesn't roll her eyes or let out a slow, deep breath, like some of them do.

"Press Enter," she says.

Enter, Enter ... where the hell is Enter now? It was here a minute ago ...

I glance at the people behind me in line. They don't seem real happy. Everyone seems to be staring this way.

How long has this transaction been going on, anyway? It feels like it started a week ago.

Oh, they must really hate me, these other people in line.

They're tired from a long day at work, just stopped at the supermarket for a couple of things on the way home, thought they'd be in and out. All they want to do is go home, put their feet up, turn on the TV and veg.

I turn back to the screen. Still can't find Enter.

Finally, the cashier reaches over and hits Enter for me.

"There," she says with a smile. "That wasn't so bad, right?"

She hands me my receipt. I pick up my grocery bags.

She tells me to have a nice evening.

Sure.

Just tell me how after something like that?

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

To hear podcasts featuring Kevin Cowherd, go to baltimoresun.com/cowherd.

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