Card doesn't work when "swiped" through the machine unless one covers it
with plastic....one cashier suggested putting plastic grocery sack
around the card and then swipe it, and it worked. Any idea why this
works? (We've requested a replacement card).
It's a fairly common thing clerks learn pretty quickly.
I've not researched it but my supposition is that there's noise in the
signal owing to the deteriorated portions and the plastic reduces these
lower-level confusing inputs to the point the reader can then reproduce
the real data. IOW, it (the plastic) improves S:N ratio more than it
Over the years I've had several that get to where it's needed before
they reach the point of automagic renewal. It's also clear some readers
are better than others--either they also age or they're just higher
quality, I know not which.
That sounded very logical, so I decided to Google it....I had been
thinking it might be a local practice, but apparently not...here is a link:
I had a card that wouldn't work at two gas station of different
labels, but worked every else for years. The gas station guy said
if my card was from one of two or three banks, it was likely not to
work or maybe it definitely wouldn't work. I probably paid cash.
Our id badges at work are also smart cards. We can "charge" meals on
them in the cafeteria in which case the card gets swiped, and they also
are used for access to various areas of the hospital with some sort of
The swipey part of mine started deteriorating a while ago. It would work
in some registers, but not others, and it wasn't always consistent as to
which ones it preferred. I had no problem with the access readers.
The cashiers in the cafeterias would routinely try to use the plastic
bag trick with varying results. I would have requested a new card except
that our security office's policy was that they would charge me $10 to
replace it, the same as if I'd lost my badge. However they don't charge
for broken/damaged cards. Needless to say, eventually my card had an
unfortunate encounter with a pair of scissors and "broke".
BTW, my sympathies for having the card break at this time of year. I had
a credit card do that shortly before Christmas many years ago, and it
was a major hassle. Even though, according to the cc company, the
cashiers could type the number in, they all acted like that was an alien
There's a good reason why cashiers act this way. When the first
ship with aliens arrived, they had been provisioned with a charge and
debit cards with a variety of trademarks, Visa, Mastercard, American
Express, but the magnetic strips had been improperly forged, and they
didn't work. So all around New Mexico, cashiers were typing in card
numbers, and not only was that a nuisance, a few days later they
learned the transactions had been researched by the companies and
bounced, even though they didn't at the time. Hardest hit were
clothing stores, as the aliens bought Earth-like clothing. Also
pharmacies, where they bought dyes, to color their hair and skin, to
make them seem Earth-like. And magaizines for hints on how to pass.
Anyhow, once burned, twice shy, and indeed it was an alien concept.
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