Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chip and PIN

If you live in the UK you can't help but have noticed how we have now pretty much shifted from signing our names on till receipts to tapping in a four digit number on a keypad connected to the cash register (as if anyone were actually using cash anymore). This is, we are told, going to revolutionise card security and reduce credit card fraud. This is a good thing. What is not a good thing is that we have had yet another layer of social interaction removed from our lives. I bought a new pair of trainers today and besides handing the box to the sales assistant I did not interact with her in any way. You put your card in the machine, you watch the display till it tells you to confirm the price, then tap in your PIN. You then watch until it tells you that you may remove your card. By this point the sales assistant has put the receipt and the shoes in a bag and then moves onto the next customer. It's so utterly impersonal you could get a robot and you'd never notice the difference. Perhaps sales assistants like it? I'd imagine that it must become wearing dealing with hoi polloi like me all day long but it must surely be getting a little lonely and soul destroying these days? I'm sure the technology improves people's lives by lowering the risk and inconvenience of having your card details pinched but I can't help but feel that at the same time we've lost something too.

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