Unfortunately, it seems that not all merchants have gotten the memo. In an unscientific survey that I conducted recently, almost all of the center city merchants I visited — from the Rittenhouse-area bakery to the neighborhood grocery store — still required me to sign for my purchases as part of the payment process. It’s annoying, and it prolongs the transaction. Why are these merchants still making me and others do this? There are two explanations.
The first is that some merchants — particularly restaurants — want us to keep signing for our purchases. Unlike most restaurants in Europe, when you eat out in Philly you’re not given a point of sale device at the table where you can insert your card, enter a tip and approve the transaction. You’re still left with a paper receipt where you’re expected to manually add a tip and sign-off. That’s the process and it’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Other shops — like a pharmacy, hotel, jewelry store or rental car agency — may have your signature built into the overall approval process for the products or services you’re buying.
But that still doesn’t explain the grocery store or the bakery. Which brings me to reason number two: most merchants, particularly small business owners like them, are just being cheap … and a little lazy. All they would need to do to eliminate the annoying signature process would be to change their point of sale systems. But they don’t because it would potentially require software upgrades, potential hardware replacements, disruptions and other possible headaches.
Many of my clients think — incorrectly in most cases — that there would be additional costs involved and have therefore chosen to ignore the new signature rule. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Even Kirpatrick admits that it’s going to take some time for the ten million merchants in this country to come around.
So here’s my advice. If you’re a merchant just know that you don’t have to be requiring a signature and you may be irritating your customers by doing so. If you’re a consumer it doesn’t make a difference whether you sign that receipt or not — there’s no added fraud protection other than what your credit card company already provides. You can raise a fuss or just politely mention it to the store manager. Or better yet just move on and add it to that list of little annoyances that will eventually go away over time.