It's so bizarre that I should have thought to myself last Thursday, "oh, it's been a long time since we had to retain somebody's credit card". I wish my mind had kept it's dirty little thoughts to itself because, sure enough, the very thing happened today.
Carla's chip-and-pin machine had instructed her to swipe a customer's card, the old fashioned way, rather than processing it the now-normal way. When she did this, a message came up on her till: "RETAIN DEBIT CARD". Thankfully, she had the brains not to tell the customer this, and rang for me.
God, did the customer take the news badly. I can understand it in a way. It can't be nice to be told, by some checkout supervisor, that your card is going to be taken away from you and destroyed.
"WHY? What's the matter with it? WHY, WHY, WHY?!"
Again, understandable. I think I would be agitated under such circumstances.
I tried to keep the whole thing discreet. I didn't want all the customers rubber-necking and eavesdropping for a bit of scandal. "I'm afraid they don't tell us why they've done this, so I can't say for certain, but they normally ask us to withhold a card if they've noticed suspicious activity in your account. That's not to say they suspect you of anything, they've most probably done it as a precaution for you."
"What? You mean some hacker's got into my account and spent my money!? Oh my God. Sweet mother of God, no, not this..."
"No, no, I'm not saying that's what has happened, I was just giving an example as to why they might have asked us to keep your card. You'd have to get in touch with them as soon as possible."
"Well it's a brand new card!"
"I see. Have you used the old one today at all?"
"Yes, this morning."
"Well that could be why they're asking us to retain the new one. On their system, it will appear to them that you're still using your old card, yet there's been an attempt to use the new one - they might suspect it was intercepted in the post."
She took this explanation readily enough and paid with her credit card. I followed the normal procedure and cut the corner of the card off in her presence before filling out a form and placing it in an envelope ready to send back.
It wasn't long before she returned and asked for the manager. Oh God, here we go.
She ranted to Terry: "These fools in here have cut up my new debit card and sent it away, and I've just been on the phone to my bank who've told me there was no reason they should have done this!"
It took a long time for Terry to explain to her that we can only handle cards as the tills instruct us to. If it asks for us to seek telephone authorisation, we have to do that and if it instructs us to keep the card we have to do that. He eventually won her over by reminding her that she wouldn't thank a shop for ignoring such a message if her card had been stolen.
Honestly. But there you go. That's banks for you. If ever there's a problem they always shift the blame onto the shop. Nothing's ever their fault.
Operation Checkout is Coming
Today was absolute hell on earth. Easter isn't normally especially busy for us and we certainly didn't bargain for what we got today. We're putting it down to it being the first Easter since the local Kwik Save store closed down, but God Almighty, surely all those customers didn't just come from that! At one point this afternoon we had all the tills operating and the queues were stretching back to the middle of the aisles.
Strange that people still glare at me as if to say "I'm waiting here! Do something about it!" when there aren't any more checkouts left to open. What am I supposed to do? Wheel out the six spare tills we keep locked in a cupboard? Yeah.
But thankfully our saviour may be on the way. Following on from the huge refit Food Place underwent after Christmas, the hitherto unchanged checkout area is in line for a revamp. Operation Checkout they're calling it. It's a rolling program moving across all Food Places that will see new checkouts installed and layout improvements. Or so they say.
So they're finally ripping out our existing checkout bases, which are pitted with dried up debris that's gathered over the past 10 years, and replacing them with shiny new ones. We're going to have 10 mainbank 'fish-tail' checkouts (ones with conveyor belts and packing wells for those unfamiliar with techno-shop-talk) versus the 8 we currently have. And we're getting express checkouts back - the old ones were removed to make way for self-scan tills which, themselves, were pulled out months later because of shocking levels of customer abuse.
However, by far the most interesting change will be the removal of our Customer Service Desk. The tobacco kiosk, which it's currently joined on to, is being moved to make room for the additional checkouts, and the desk isn't surviving the changes. In once sense I won't be sorry to see the back of it. It'll mean I never have to cover another lunch break on there. Which means less exposure to the morons who shop with us. Or does it? With no desk to complain at, they're going to attack anywhere and everywhere. I can see it coming. Nobody will be safe.
Least of all me and Wendy. To compensate for the loss of workspace when the Service Desk goes, we're getting a small 'podium' behind the new kiosk which will act as our new base camp. Customers are going to see that as a 'Please Complain Here' location. I see teardrops ahead.
It's a shame these changes aren't going to bring the cash office back down to the front line. It was so much easier to manage in the past, when the cash office was behind the kiosk. We could do the cash office jobs and supervise the tills at the same time - we even had a little window to keep an eye on what was going on outside. Nowadays, if you're upstairs in the cash office, there's no question of trying to be anywhere else at the same time.