Tuesday 4 January 2005


Normally I would agree with Stephen Pollard rather than Gavin Esler, but on this I'm with Gavin.

Stephen writes:

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.


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

Paul Lewis
Verity: "Oh, god, how provincial!" 
Nothing wrong with provinciality. Your remark reminds me of the time I was trying to let a room in my flat in the Wandsworth road. A guy phoned up to ask where in SL the flat was, it turns out that he was calling from N15 and thought that Wandsworth Rd was 'far too provincial', Guess he wanted somewhere in France. 
Verity: "The French have been using this system for five or six years..." 
Should this fact make an impression? 
Verity: "..because it's a good system."  
That might, and we are about to find out anyway. By the way, what is the level of card fraud in France. One might expect it to be much much lower than the UK?

12 January 2005, 15:58:56 GMT
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Sandy P
Can't you guys change your pin #? 
Only have 1-2.

11 January 2005, 18:44:31 GMT
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Oh, god, how provincial! The French have been using this system for five or six years because it's a good system. There are little shields on either sides of the screen so no one, including the waiter, as if he gives a stuff, can see the number you have keyed in. The transaction goes through and you are given your card back. People in supermarket queues can't see it. The checkout girl can't see it. You just key in your number and the till opens. End of story.  
Anyone standing behind you and leaning so closely over your shoulder you could feel him breathing into your ears would look - uh - suspicious. Added to which, given he remembered your four digits, he would then have to follow you out into the parking lot and mug you, with everyone else looking on and remembering his details or actively demanding he desist. 
I cannot believe this has only just come to Britain and you're all jumping up and down and clucking about it!

11 January 2005, 03:59:47 GMT
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Andrew Duffin
"knows that she needs to use her mobile to call her daughter whenever she's asked for her PIN." 
Meaning, I take it, that she can't remember her PIN and her daughter tells her it over the mobile? 
Does she not know that all her calls are recorded and kept indefinitely?

5 January 2005, 12:18:55 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Squander Two
I'm with Paul. The banks have spent a fortune on saturation advertising for chip & PIN. And they didn't introduce it at this time of the year: it's been rolling out since about last January, I think, if not even earlier, after a few months of advance warning. So, in summary: banks start to tell their customers about new system around Summer/Autumn '03 and continue to tell them approximately every month after that and have a national advertising campaign, including prime-time TV slots, to help drive the message home; idiot customers complain about how new system was introduced in a rush just prior to Christmas '05 with no advance warning. 
And no, you don't need to remember four different PINs, because they can be changed at cash machines, so you can have the same PIN for all your cards if you like. Again, every bit of information I've received from my various banks about chip & PIN has told me this. 
My mother-in-law received countless missives from her bank about chip & PIN and threw them all away without reading them, including the one with her PIN number on it, because she assumed that she never need read anything that came with her credit card statement. Then she went into a shop and found herself unable to pay. This is not the banks' fault. 
She has now adjusted to the new system, and knows that she needs to use her mobile to call her daughter whenever she's asked for her PIN.

5 January 2005, 10:26:12 GMT
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Sandy P
OT: But it seems a Scottish comic may hit the big time in the US, Via Croooowblog: 
Ferguson exhibits a host of possibilities 
New gig could make the Scottish actor and comedian a 'Late Late' bloomer 
...Ferguson, best known for playing the often-heartless boss Nigel Wick for seven seasons on ''The Drew Carey Show," beat out three other finalists: Michael Ian Black of ''Ed," comedian D.L. Hughley, and MTV VJ and Massachusetts native Damien Fahey. Ferguson makes his debut as ''The Late Late Show" host tomorrow night on Channel 4. ....

5 January 2005, 06:00:02 GMT
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Paul Lewis
David Farrer: "The point of all this is that it's unreasonable for the banks .... without making sure that customers are told what's going on." 
No, sorry. I have been inundated with flyers with each statement for the last three months about 'chip & pin', I can't agree that this is sudden or unreasonable. 
I do think the banks are being a disingenuous when they say C&P is for the security of the card holder. 
I really don't like the idea of typing the pin into one of those hand held machines with any number of strangers looking over my shoulder. Also, I don't agree the system is any more secure - except from the banks point of view.

4 January 2005, 16:45:27 GMT