Since today is American Independence Day, I thought I’d share an American story with you as a blog post bonus.
A couple of months before I started working at the fuel center (aka gas station), the corporation that owns it decided to stop accepting a major credit card. According to a flier given to customers before the major credit card was blackballed, the company I worked for
is charged excessive bank fees when customers use [the major credit card in question] at the checkout. To help keep your grocery price low, we’ve decided not to accept [this particular major credit card].
At the time I worked there, the fuel center accepted three other major credit cards, as well as debit cards, including debit cards with the name of the credit card we didn’t accept on them. Confused? So were the customers.
The folks who lived in town and got fuel regularly where I worked were slowly growing accustomed to the change, but I worked in a tourist town, and the tourists who stopped in for fuel were in a perpetual state of WTF. Every day at least five visitors ran their card two or three times before the screen on the pump instructed the person pumping fuel to see the cashier. (Of course, when I was at work, the cashier was me.) Nine out of ten of the customers sent to see me were already pissed off. I could see it in their faces and their body language. When I told them the problem was that the store quit accepting their credit card of choice months earlier, they were usually incredulous. Some of them wanted to discuss the situation with me (What card CAN I use? or Can I use my debit card?) but some simply walked away without speaking, looks of anger and/or disgust on their faces.
You must be the only gas station in the country that doesn’t take [the credit card he wanted to use], one visitor spat at me during my last week of work.
Maybe, I said noncommittally to him. I wasn’t going to argue with him because for all I knew, he was right.
Many of the locals who knew they couldn’t use the particular credit card where I worked were not too happy about the situation. One elderly lady gave me an earful. Neither the bulletproof glass between us nor the scratchy intercom deterred her.
I know it’s not your fault, but it is ridiculous you don’t take [the credit card in question]. And it’s a shame they make you say it’s to keep prices low. Every time I go into the supermarket, everything is so expensive! My friends don’t even come here anymore.
I cut in to offer my apologies, but she didn’t want to hear them. She just wanted to rant.
I know it’s not your fault, she repeated, then started back in with her tirade.
I wanted to ask her why she was making me listen to her complaints if she knew the situation was not my fault and I could do nothing to remedy it, but instead I kept my mouth shut and tried to appear sympathetic. I didn’t understand why she continued to spend money where I worked if she thought the prices were too high and she hated the payment options.
The fellow in line behind her must have been tired of listening to her too. He was a big guy, easily over six feet tall, and he probably weighted upwards of 200 pounds. While he didn’t physically push the little old lady away, he used his size to intimidate her, so she stepped off to the side of the drawer I used to collect payment and deliver cigarettes, candy, and change. While the lady was still complaining, the large customer drowned out her voice by demanding, $25 on 6!
The elderly lady looked startled, then scurried away.
On the one hand, I thought the male customer had behaved very rudely.
What’s wrong with you? I wanted to ask him. That woman was old enough to be your mother. Would you want someone to treat your mother that way?
On the other hand, God bless him. If he hadn’t stepped up, that lady might have gone on for another five minutes.
Of course, each pump had a sticker saying we only took the debit version of the card. Of course, most customers don’t read the words on gas pumps.
One afternoon an elderly man approached the kiosk while a manager was in there with me. She happened to be closest to the intercom when the fellow walked up, so she asked how she could help him.
He said the screen on the pump had told him to see the cashier. The manager asked him if he was trying to use the credit card we didn’t accept. He confirmed that he was. The manager told him we’d stopped taking that card several months prior. He was obviously livid.
The customer stomped off, and the manager went to the back of the kiosk, out of sight. I thought she’d left.
Maybe two minutes later, I looked out of the bulletproof glass to see the already angry customer booking it back to the kiosk. When he reached the window, I switched on the intercom and asked how I could help him.
You don’t take [card we didn’t take], right? he asked me.
That’s right, I told him.
Then why does every pump have a sticker saying you take it? he wanted to know. He really thought he had me now.
Oh, sir, I said nicely, those stickers say ‘debit only.”
He spun on his heels and took off without a word.
I thought his head was going to explode, my manager said.
I thought you’d left, I said to her.
I saw him coming back, so I ducked out of sight.
I’m really glad you saw that, I told her. It happens all the time.
A few days later a youngish woman came up to the kiosk. She was holding two red two-gallon gas cans. She seemed a little frantic.
The pump told me to see the cashier, she said to me.
Are you trying to use [the credit card we didn’t take], I asked her. She was.
I’m sorry. We quit taking those in April.
Now I’ve lost my place in line, she screeched. There should be a sign! There should be a sign!
I tried to tell her about the stickers on the pumps, but she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. She was already crossing the fuel center to negotiate with the woman who had pulled her truck up to the pump the woman with the gas cans had been trying to use.
My favorite response from a frustrated credit card user came one busy afternoon. The line was about five deep when a man stepped up the window and told me the screen on the pump had instructed him to see the cashier.
I asked him if he was using the credit card we didn’t accept. He said he was. I told him we didn’t accept it.
He busted out with, Is this America?
I almost busted out laughing, but managed to keep a straight face. I don’t know if the guy was referencing the free enterprise system or the Rah! Rah! Rah! U!S!A! freedoms certain segments of the population tend to celebrate. All I knew was it didn’t matter what country we were in—I couldn’t process the card he wanted to use.
I took the photo in this post.