When EMV POS Machines Fail

When EMV POS Machines Fail

In being part of the payments industry, I find myself always noticing the payment issues come up in my own life. Just the other day, I was waiting in the checkout of a large department store when I was held up by the woman in front of me who was unable to use her credit card.

The woman had a chip card and was using it correctly, but the POS machine was unable to read it. On the cashier’s suggestion, she tried swiping the card instead, but the machine wouldn’t allow it. Fortunately, the customer had her checkbook and was able to complete her purchase.

EMV POS Machines Still Working Out Glitches

When I paid for my items (with a swipe card), the cashier commented that the machine had been acting up recently. It was fortunate that the other customer had brought a checkbook, because customers who only had chip cards were being sent to other registers.

This isn’t a unique problem. Retailers across the country have complained about malfunctioning EMV POS machines and frustrated customers. At their core, POS machines are computers, and occasionally computers break down. In the rush to switch to the chip card system, merchants and credit card providers alike may have forgotten this simple fact.

According to a recent article in The Consumerist, only 20% of consumers carry a checkbook when they’re out shopping, and people are often advised to leave the checkbook at home to reduce their risk of identity theft. Relying on customers carrying cash isn’t much better, as 80% of Americans carry less than $50 in cash while 9% don’t carry cash at all. Credit cards are, to most consumers, the most common way to pay.

EMV POS Machine Alternatives

So, what should merchants do when POS machines fail? The answer is simple:

  • Offer payment options: Take a cue from the large department store and offer a variety of payment options, such as cash or checks. The ability to accept cash or check is invaluable.
  • Purchase a second POS machine as a backup: Understandably, this may be difficult for some small business merchants, who have been slow to migrate to EMV credit card transactions.
  • Customer communication: Inform customers in advance that they will not be able to use their EMV POS cards. A simple sign placed near the register can help, as well as cashiers informing customers as they enter the establishment. Clear communication with customers can build trust for future visits.
  • Offer to log the credit card number: Some small establishments request the customer hand over a credit card anyways, and the number can be written down to process later. If this is the route you choose, be very careful about how it is handled! Secure all credit card information in a safe place and only let employees you trust handle collecting the information. Be prepared that some customers may not trust this method. Don’t harass them into paying with a method they find sketchy.

Malfunctions happen. You can do your best to prepare for them, but they will happen nonetheless. Prepare your employees and warn your customers, so that when you face a problem, you’re prepared to get through it seamlessly.

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