When restaurant credit card machines go down...

…what happens? I went to Denny’s for dinner today. Due to the storms their credit card system was down. I found this out when I went up to pay and noticed the manager was using one of those old-fashioned manual imprint machines. I hadn’t seen one since childhood at my grandparents’ general store. This was the first time that I’ve ever payed with one. But what do restaurants do if they don’t have an imprint maching? Sure they can put a sign up and have the waitstaff warn customers before they order, but what about people who already are already eating? Has anyone been in that situtation (as a customer or a restaurant worker)?

Your credit card numbers are written down. They get put into the system manually when the machine is up and running. I always took great pains to make sure that piece of paper was completely destroyed afterwards.

Back when I was working in restaurants we kept a couple of these on hand in case the lines were down. Otherwise, as mentioned, the numbers are simply written down and entered manually once the lines are back up.

Or we had the patrons wash dishes. Very few people opted for the dishes.

A couple of years ago, we went to a Denny’s-like restaurant, and they only informed us after the meal that their credit card machine had been down all day, and we would either have to pay cash or someone would have to make a trip to the ATM down the street. I happened to have enough cash on me, but the tip was a little skimpy that night. Advance notice would have been nice.

The very first time I used one of those, I cracked the customer’s card. They’re not actually as easy to use as they look. :smack:

There’s a phone number that merchants can call to get an authorization number for credit card charges. You’re supposed to call that and process each charge manually, not take what might be declined card numbers and let the customer leave.

Restaurant? Fergettaboutit. Piece of cake. You try running a Blockbuster Video on a Saturday afternoon with no computers, no credit card machines, and no power. No, my District Manager wouldn’t let me close the store. We had to write EVERYTHING down for each transaction: name, membership number, inventory number of each videotape (which was, IIRC, a 16 digit number (although the first 6 numbers were all the same - rental code plus store code), method of payment, credit card number and expiration date. Then figure out the total (with no calculator, because the calculators were all plug-in-the-wall kind), make change for cash sales manually (most of my employees found this the most difficult part :rolleyes: ), call in credit card sales for an authorization code (on the one phone in the store that didn’t require power) which involved entering my merchant code and the whole card number and expiration date, apologize for the delay, and kiss ass to the next customer, who’d been waiting in a line of people for at least half an hour now. And repeat.

And when the power and computers came back on, then I got to spend about 6 hours manually entering all that into the computer - no barcodes to scan, those went home with the customers, you see.

This happened at least once a week for about three months while they were switching over to a satellite computer system so you could use your membership card at any store without us making a 60 second phone call the very first time you went to a new location.

alphaboi867 writes:

> I hadn’t seen one since childhood at my grandparents’ general store.

It hasn’t been that long since the kind that operates over the phone became standard. In fact, I still occasionally see the kind that uses the old-fashioned imprint machine.

Any retailer I ever worked for had a manual card imprinter, for when the electronic machines were down. It would be foolish not to have one.

Aye, I didn’t see those machines being replaced until after I started high school, and even then I saw places that would use the manuals. It actually took me a while to make the connection between the decline of the manual machines and the sliding card keypads…

Our veterinary hospital still keeps the manual for after-hours credit card payments. It is stupid not to have one.

Oh, and I do see them when I take shuttles or taxicabs, they carry around the manuals…

I agree it’s easier on the employees if you have one, but you don’t actually *need *a manual card imprinter anymore. Some stores like to have them, as it given them additional evidence in the event of a chargeback (customer tells Visa, “I didn’t authorize that charge!” Visa tells store, “Prove that was a valid charge authorized by the cardholder.” Merchant says, “Here you go, here’s an imprint of the card, along with a signature and the total.”) or because the manager is old and thinks that’s how it has to be done. But the way credit cards work today, all you need is the number, exp. date and possibly the billing ZIP code and/or the 4 digit code on the back of the card. You can write all that down on a napkin, it just takes longer than imprinting the card onto carbon paper. Heck, you could memorize it, or enter it into the phone system while looking at the card and never have a record of the number. You don’t need a physical representation of the card to satisfy the credit card company’s criteria for proof of proper authorization. You don’t even, if you have all that stuff, need a signature. (If you don’t have ZIP and the back code and you’re entering it manually or by phone, you do need a signature, per most merchant agreements - that’s why most phone and internet orders require them, since they can’t get your signature.)

That slip you sign at stores? The credit card company never sees it unless you dispute the charge. They’re stored in the store’s recordkeeping system. Only if you dispute it with your cc company will the storeowner sent them a copy.

Once when I was working at Panera, a guy ran into a telephone pole and knocked out power to the whole street. By the time I got to work, the power was back up, but the computers were down.

The manager spent the entire night talking with tech support trying to get them back up. They’d come up, then die again. Another manager was stationed by the door to warn customers as they came in. We finally got the manager’s register working again, but all we could do was make change out of it. I happened to have a pocket calculator with me, so we used that to ring up the orders.

Only one guy was a dick about it, he ordered about 14 different pastries, 25 different bagels, etc, then when we gave him the total, he told us he wanted us to unbag and recount everything to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake. (He said, “I don’t trust you. Do it again.” I glared at him (it was a second job and I didn’t care all that much) and the other manager and I grumbled under our breath as we did as he asked.