I tried to help you, I really did.

Perhaps this isn’t rant-y enough to merit a Pit post. Add some explitives to it if you’d like, but I take no responsibility for the vile words you’d have me spew in your own imaginations.

Scene: The gas station. I pull in, happy that I have a full weekend ahead of me with a minimum of homework, and confident that I got a great grade on the Programming Languages quiz not half an hour past. Go to pay island, insert card, the general rigamarole. Enter the coot that Time forgot.

At the pump across from mine, an old car sits. (sounds like the openling line of a bad poem, but there it is.) I drive something not-too-new myself, but this clanking monstrosity must have been terrorizing the Clan of the Cave Bear at night as it befouled the air with waves of choking smog, leaving only twin tire ruts in the oil-spattered mud to mark its existence as it vanished into the forest at sunrise. Poking from the open driver’s side door is an old man with the thickest wallet I’d seen outside of Seinfeld.

“'Scuse me, young fella” he calls (that’s right, “young fella.” I’m waiting for “whippersnapper.”). “I’m having some problems with the machine here.”

“Sure, what’s wrong?” I ask. I’ve got some spare time, and still have my good turn of the day to fulfill. Helping this guy fill the land yacht isn’t going to ruin me, and the good karma oughta accumulate, maybe snowball its way into getting me a cushy job this summer.

“The machine, it isn’t taking my card,” he explains. It’s done that to me before, but I’d just finished using it not thirty seconds before and it was fine.

“The reader worked for me, is it your card?”

“No, my card’s okay. The machine, that’s the problem.” Hmm. The machine, that obviously isn’t the problem, because it worked perfectly. He’s probably putting his card in upside down or something and is oblivious to the little picture of a card’s orientation right next to the slot. “It keeps asking for a number, a pee-eye-enn.”

“The PIN number? Just give it your PIN number and hit Enter.” Hoo boy, this is different.

“I don’t have a PIN number, just what’s on the card.” What the hell are you talking about? How did you ever use a credit card without knowing the PIN?

“You have to have a PIN. You can’t use any credit card without one. That’s how they work.” Maybe he’s used to using check cards, and put in a credit card by mistake?

“No, I use this card all the time. It’s the machine.” Now you’re making stuff up. “Can I use yours, and write you a check?”

Now I’m not going to take him up on that offer in any case - but I’ve got an out. I use prepaid cards at the station, and the one I’m using has just enough left for one last half tank plus a little topping off. The concept seems to elude TCTTF as I try to explain it to him. He accuses me of lying to him.

“Nope.” I show him the card. It’ll be out of money when I finish pumping anyway.

“Yours has the pee-eye-enn on it. Why doesn’t mine?” Again, I point out that prepaid cards from the gasoline company are different from credit cards - mine has the PIN because it’s the same as cash.

“Where can I get a pin?” What? Did your card fall out of the sky and land in your hands without you knowing about it? At least I’ve gotten him out of spelling it every time.

“You have a PIN. It’s part of the process of getting a credit card. You have to set the PIN before you can use it.”

He becomes defiant. “I have never had a pin number to use a credit card.” Liar.

At this point in my life I still have enough respect for the elderly not to flat-out accuse him of it, because I don’t want to be the stereotypical “young-punk-harassing-the-old-guy-who-just-wants-to-use-the-gas-station.” I just want out of this situation. So I take back my card and proceed to fill up my car, and suggest that he ask the attendant inside about the process, because, after all, he’s a professional salesperson and is used to settling troubles with credit cards.

Off he storms. I feel bad for inflicting a conversation with TCTTF on the poor shmoe working the register in there right now.

I’m feeling somewhat guilty about fleeing the scene of this abortive gesture of goodwill. What the hell could I do? He had a problem that I couldn’t help him with, and he denied the possibility that I couldn’t help him.

Um, here in Oz you don’t necessarily need to use a PIN to purchase goods with a credit card. You certainly do with EFTPOS (debit) cards, but not with your average Visa/Mastercard/Amex etc. Credit cards more often rely upon sigs than pins.

So the old coot might have been right!

Ummm,… whatever his other failings the coot was right and you were wrong. In most of the US you typically never have to use a PIN # unless you are using your credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM or similar. If using it as a credit card to buy gas or other items no PIN number is needed. If you have a VISA or Mastercard debit card that can also be used for transactions as a “credit card” (although there is no credit extended and cash is withdrawn immediately from your bank account) you will need to use the PIN number if using it as a debit card but not as credit card.

Some true credit cards (including a few of mine) do not assign a PIN number to the card unless you request one

What the old guy did was probably choose the debit card option instead of the credit card option on the pump and the demand for a PIN number confused him. Your incorrect insistence that a PIN number had to exist for his credit card just confused him more.

Where have you ever entered a PIN for a credit card? I get periodic offers to have a PIN generated that I routinely turn down so that I am not tempted to get cash advances. I have no idea what the PIN would be for any of my credit cards.

Now, for my VISA-backed ATM/debit card, I have a PIN. (Otherwise I get no cash from the ATMs.) At several stores, I get to choose whether the sale is rung as a debit transaction or as a VISA point-of-sale transaction. If I choose debit, I need the PIN; if I choose credit with the same card, I do not get asked for a PIN, but I must sign the store copy of the receipt. I have noticed that a couple of locations (notably K-Mart) I do not get to choose debit or credit: it reads my card, identifies a potential debit customer, and demands a PIN without asking how I want to have the sale rung up. At most gas stations, however, the card reader at the pump assumes credit and I do not need to key my PIN.

I can think of two or three scenarios where he might have been encountering his first request for a PIN–starting with the easy one that he accidentally hit a DEBIT button instead of a CREDIT button.

I’m not sure what kind of credit card you are used to that requires a PIN.

(That does not make him less cranky or your offer to help less kind, but I could easily see legitimate confusion rather than sheer stupidity behind your confrontation.)

I’ve never had to have a PIN to use my credit card unless I was taking a cash advance at an ATM. As a matter of fact, I’ve had my Mastercard for eight years now and didn’t even have a PIN until about four months ago, when I called and requested one so I could take money out of an ATM with it. My Visa still doesn’t have a PIN assigned, as I’ve never used it to get cash advances.


Same here. I don’t think my Capital One Visas have PINs or my GetSmart Visa… if they do I sure don’t know what it is. I have a PIN for my debit card, but if I use it as a credit card I don’t need to use the PIN.

I think tom is right… the guy chose debit instead of credit and you confoosed him.

Hmm. The debit/credit angle hadn’t occurred to me. I never had a look at his card, so I didn’t know which he was using, and had assumed that he was pressing the right buttons on the machine - heck, it says “credit” right there. In retrospect, I could have handled the situation better. Thanks, folks.

I’ve got a low-limit card which I use primarily for advances, and a debit card. I guess I got used to the “enter pin” situation for whichever type of card I use.

Consider me rebuked.

<chalking this one up in the “posts that you made as a newbie and are embarassed of now” column>

Don’t sweat it. BTW, I love your user name!

  • tsarina, who’s now waiting for “GalileoIllegitimateChild” to join the SDMB.

I think you should look at this as a learning experience; trying to help the old guy, and having a misunderstanding and getting nowhere will be valuable experience for you when you enter the workforce after graduation. Unfortunately.

(You may have also learned that Dopers can be gentle with people making honest mistakes that they fess up to. Even in the Pit.)