The papers have been full over the past few days of stories of “chaos” in shops as retailers introduce new “chip and PIN” debit and credit cards. To use them, we have to remember a four-digit PIN and then — my brain is exhausted at the mental gymnastics even thinking about it — tap the number into a keypad. Oh, the stress! Oh, the anguish! Oh, the sheer difficulty of it all!Whereas Gavin is more sympathetic with the numerically challenged:
How many PIN numbers do you have to remember and can’t? I think I have four PINS plus a BBC staff number which I can never remember, plus a National Insurance number which I keep having to look up.I applied for my first card way back in the 'seventies and can recall taking a young lady out for dinner who was most impressed when I paid with my Barclaycard because she'd never seen such a thing before. Later I was sent an Access Card by the Clydesdale Bank with whom I have my current account. Does my Barclaycard (now VISA) have a PIN number? I haven't a clue. Maybe they sent me one years ago but I've never had cause to use it.
The Access Card (now MasterCard) does have a PIN number that I have to remember on the odd occasion when I need to get cash from a machine abroad. It has caused Euros to spew forth from a device in Bordeaux, produced Kronen in Bergen, not to mention Dollars in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. And why was I in Chippewa Falls you may ask. For the Leinies of course. (Incidentally, next time you're sitting in the bar at the southern corner of Minneapolis St Paul Airport waiting for the Icelandair flight to Glasgow you can demonstrate your knowledge of Leinies to transiting Texans and get yourself a free bevvy!)
The point of all this is that it's unreasonable for the banks to introduce a PIN based system - especially at this time of the year - without making sure that customers are told what's going on. I don't think that Stephen's idea of using your birthday for your PIN number is all that sound. These days we are surely more aware of the need for security and in this household we shred everything except our copy of the Scotsman and the menu from the local Indian takeaway. Private companies are far more customer-friendly than state organisations, but they still need to pay more attention to the realities of the marketplace. Next time there's a big change like this, make sure that everyone knows in plenty of time.