The first time it happened I was mildly surprised. It was a newsagency in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Not a huge transaction but enough to require a receipt.
A grumpy middle aged man at the counter greeted me with a ‘hrrrmmppff’ rather than a human greeting, which sets us off on the wrong foot right away, and after running the items through his scanner he snatched my card straight from my hand and tapped away.
The ramifications of this little theatrical performance were immediately clear and when asked if I would like a receipt, without hesitation I responded, ‘Yes, because I don’t know how much you charged me.’
He looked at me as though I had three heads, like another cantankerous customer failing to understand the stresses of standing at a counter and performing mind numbingly boring transactions all day.
I pointed out to him that any digits could have been punched into the wireless ‘tap and go’ device and that unless presented to the customer, a potential scam is afoot.
Another look of sheer disgust was flung in my direction.
I pointed out that many receipts are placed into bags rather than receiving instant perusal from customers and that a pre-printed receipt could be handy nearby, ready to be substituted for the actual docket. I added that more and more retail assistants are asking customers if they would like a receipt. Saving paper I hope!
Before labelling me a conspiracy nut, please consider the following. Recently, a tank of fuel was manually punched in as $700 rather than the actual $70 worth I had discharged.
Thankfully I paused before entering the PIN. Hopefully, I would have checked the receipt to clarify the transaction. Can I be sure I would have done so? I can’t say.
Is this a common occurrence that should send us all riffling through our credit card and bank statements? I’d like to think not.
However, the next time a customer asks to see the total prior to tapping, I hope the grumpy bugger who served me in that newsagency thinks a little more deeply about the potential ramifications of this flick and wave system of payment.
Psychologically, the ease of payment puts consumers in such a blasé state of mind that our cards are flying in all directions. Something akin to frivolously tossing money into the ring on Anzac Day or squandering cash on memorabilia and signed apparel at charity auctions.
It is a dangerous phenomenon and I for one, will be hanging onto my card for grim death, demanding to see the figure before brandishing the plastic and checking receipts before I leave the premises.
Or perhaps I could do what my mother does. Walk to an ATM, withdraw the cash and return to a financial way of life where money actually physically existed.
No, I enjoy my little bits of plastic and will keep using them. However, I will continue to be cautious of grumpy, middle aged newsagency owners with comb-overs and nasal hair. I think they are trying to rip me off.