Thursday, 3 December 2009

The system is down

I was at Warehouse Stationery this afternoon looking to buy a diary for 2010. A few people were already waiting at the counter so I browsed for a while before hearing those dreaded words: "your card has been declined". An embarrassed customer asked to try again with another card and promptly received the same response from the machine. Another customer tried to use their card - same thing. The queues lengthened, then the ubiquitous verdict was declared by two counter staff: "The system is down".

The tension started to rise. One customer left her purchases behind, another decided to wait for a while and try again. It didn't help things that a staff member at another counter declared loudly that her EFTPOS terminal was working just fine and perhaps they had just done something wrong when processing the sale, or should have hit F7, or something. She was promptly hushed when her system also started declining transactions.

Having only intended to buy a diary with a 25% discount, I offered to pay cash. I was immediately ushered to the front of the queue and my $4.50 transaction was processed by a relieved cashier: a successful sale! But almost everyone else was cashless. I walked out, diary in hand, and pondered the growing mayhem inside.

A couple of weeks ago, a similar thing happened at my local doctor's surgery when I went to pick up a prescription. The queue at reception grew. When asked by a receptionist, "who's waiting?", about four people replied, "we all are!". Oh no: the system was down! Invoices were promised and manual transactions attempted. I offered to pay cash and was told by the now-flustered receptionist, "no, sorry, you can't: our system is down". It took her a moment to relax a bit after I laughingly pointed out that things must be really bad if she couldn't accept a $10 note. There were giggles all round as I left everyone to sort out their payments.

As we increasingly move towards becoming a cashless society, I can't help but wonder what is Plan B for when the system is down and people no longer carry even small amounts of cash?


anothercookiecrumbles said...

What's even more worrying is....

A friend was traveling from New York to London, and his flight was delayed. They had some problems with the system and "rebooting the system" didn't work.

Kellee said...

I'm always one of the people waiting for the system to get back up, I rarely ever carry more than $20 at a time.

Anonymous said...

Just started reading your blog, love it!

When I was living back in NZ I hardly ever had cash, relied on the old EFTPOS card and even once bought a stamp using my card.

Now living in France you can never rely on just your card. Most cafés wont accept your card unless your purchase is over 15€, same with bars and many stores. They'll happily accept a cheque tho!