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When Technology Fails

This past weekend Meijer locations throughout the Midwest were hit with a technology glitch. Their credit card readers stopped functioning for periods of time on Friday and Saturday.

MeijerI happened to be shopping at a Meijers when the glitch occurred on Saturday. Maybe just 5 minutes prior, I would have been out the door successfully, because the announcements didn’t start happening until I’d been all rung up and was swiping my credit card. Gee, what timing.

I’d been shopping for about an hour, picking up things I needed for a family gathering set to start 3 hours later. At first I thought that there was a problem with my card, but the cashier kept trying the transaction and eventually said that the system was down. What? The system is down? That seemed to me to be an odd phrase coming from a retailer of this size.

Then came those eventful words. “Sorry ma’am our system is down, you’ll have to pay with either cash or a check.”

I think I looked at her like a deer in the headlights. “Cash or Check?”
I’m such a techie. Do people still write checks for groceries?
I can’t tell you when I last wrote a check.
And while I carry some cash, it’s rarely above $20. Not nearly enough to cover my basket full of items.

I thought, there has to be a solution. It’s the 11th hour for me, I’m not putting all the bagged items back, I’m not leaving them behind, I don’t have time to go shopping elsewhere.

I momentarily thought about those old card swiping machines, but looked at my young cashier and doubted if she’d even know what one of those were. And certainly, that is probably an older “technology” that no store really wants to go back to, even as a backup plan. But I read later that some stores did have this device at hand and used it.

So, I asked the location of the stores ATM and off I went. Of course that was working. (And I was happy for it.) That line got long very fast. The store seemed to be handling the situation well, even if some of the customers weren’t. Store personnel were announcing to incoming customers about the problem, repeating announcing the issue over the intercom and walking through the store notifying customers. And, the store manager was thoughtful enough to reimburse ATM fees by offering coupon credits to our bills.

Certainly a major inconvenience considering how consumers are now used to doing business. There were customers that left their items and left the store.

Even before I left the store, I thought about what would be a reasonable backup plan for me as a consumer if this situation were to happened again. I’m still thinking…

What’s your backup plan?



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One Response to A Different Kind of Backup Plan

  1. veryshery says:

    I recommend carrying a single check or traveler’s checks for emergencies. Most banks will get them for you, free of charge, if you have a bank account. If you are a member of AAA, they also give traveler’s checks free of charge.