Could I Get Your Autograph?

The occasions where you are asked to sign your name for anything are quickly disappearing. You used to sign at stores for your purchases but as of May, 2018, it’s not required any longer, it’s up to the merchant. Almost no one uses checks at stores these days to pay for items and most bill paying is done online. Again, no need to sign your name.

In fact, it turns out that few merchants over the past decade have taken signatures on seriously. People scribble something, squiggle a line with their finger or a doodle and it’s accepted whether it is a bona fide signature or not. Most sales clerks don’t even check to see if it’s legit or ask for other dentification to compare your name or your signature.

American Express, Visa, Discover Mastercard, and retailers like Walmart and Target have already abandoned getting signatures as a way of authenticating transactions in some countries and for some circumstances. So, your signature is soon to be valuable only on reams of paper when buying a house or other big money purchase.

However, some merchants, namely restaurants, want to keep the signature requirement alive. If the customer doesn’t have to sign the bill for drinks or a meal, where is the new opportunity to leave the server a nice tip? Other business owners mention that signatures can be handy when fighting fraud claims. One owner had a signature on a receipt where a customer was challenging a hefty bill. She ultimately got her payment.

Smaller retailers want to retain the requirement for signatures and it’s their right to do so. However, getting a signature takes a few extra seconds, even if it’s a scribbled smiley face, and those seconds count during busy periods.

It seems that it makes credit card transactions just a tad less personal. Before, you had to at least put something on paper. Now you hand someone your card and get a receipt back. If you’re rushing or engrossed in conversation, you may not even look up from your phone. How is a motivated server or sales clerk to compete with that? A touchpoint between customer and server/retailer is vanishing, making our interactions with others more impersonal every day. And don’t get me started with self-serve checkout lanes where you are both customer and clerk to save the retailer money.

To fight this faceless trend, be present and aware when you are finishing a transaction. Pay attention to how much you’re being charged and to the person on the other side of the counter or table. Put your phone down, pause your conversation and smile. It will do both of you good.



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