Stores have been confusing me a lot lately. Despite many being concerned about ID theft, a lot of store have stopped having us sign for credit card purchases if it’s under a certain amount. In Starbucks you don’t have to sign if the purchase is less than $15. In Borders, less than $20. (These numbers may not be 100% accurate but they’re close. I’m working from memory here.) Since there’s nothing to sign, many of these merchants are asking to see your ID to prove you’re you in lieu of comparing your signature. (Yes, many others are making you sign, and asking to see ID. This annoys me even more.)
The other piece of background information involves these two stories (1 & 2) from Consumerist.com. It seems that according to the Visa merchant agreement, "merchants cannot refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID." Doing so may lead to said merchant loosing the ability to accept Visa cards. (Writing SEE ID on the back of your card, unless that is your signature, is not valid however, no matter what you think.) You can probably see where I’m going with this.
On Sunday I was in Borders and ordered a beverage and cookie in their coffee shop. I handed over my Visa card and the clerk asked to see my ID. (Before even starting to process the transaction to see if my purchase was approved.) Since I’d been wondering what would happen, and since this was the third Borders I’d been into that day (but that’s another story) I thought quickly enough to provide the following response: "No."
The clerk gave me a puzzled look. Obviously this wasn’t the response she was expecting. "Excuse me?" she responded. I repeated my answer and said that it was against the company’s agreement with Visa to require me to show ID as a requirement to complete my transaction. She wiggled her head a little and asked me to repeat myself. I politely explained again that they could not require me to show ID to complete my transaction according to their merchant agreement with Visa and added that "I would be happy to sign a slip so that she could compare my signature to the one on the back of the card." (Not remembering at the time that since my purchase was small that there would be no slip to sign.)
She flipped my card over and looked at my signature. I will admit that the card has seen better days and that the signature is a tad worn, but it is readable enough to compare to anything else I may sign. She then proceeded to show me the back of the card as if my worn signature was a problem. I stared back and continued to refuse to show my ID.
A pause, a sigh and a "whatever" later she ran my card through and completed my purchase. See, that wasn’t so hard, wasn’t it?
I got my coffee and my cookie ate them, then headed off to the front registers to pick up and pay for the book I had on hold. (My source of frustration and travel to three stores in one day.) In this case, the purchase was above the threshold for signing and I signed the slip presented to me. I was not asked for ID. Ironically, the signature on my card wasn’t compared to the one I’d just scribbled either.