One of the least successful ventures I’ve ever attempted is writing on the back of my credit cards, "Please ask for ID."
A self-admitted glutton for punishment, I continue to apply the request on any new card or at renewal—but now for an entirely different reason.
Originally, it was a sincere effort on my part to prevent identity theft in the event that my card was lost or stolen. Now, however, it is taking sheer delight in being totally ignored by clerks of every ilk as they shove the card back in my face without so much as taking a glance at the card’s butt-side.
It has been my experience that less than ten percent of the merchants honor my request and it is with sincere appreciation that I tell the few that do, "Thank you for asking. Most people don’t."
"Yeah, I know," is often the lament, "whenever I charge something it’s the same deal. Nobody bothers to ID me!"
One such person cracked me up when he shared a quick story.
"I wrote ‘CID’ on the back of mine and one time the salesperson glanced at my signature and handed it back saying, ‘Thanks, Sid!’ "
Another told me, "I have to be honest. I never used to ask customers for identification until my own billfold was stolen and a bunch of charges racked up. Man, what a major headache getting that cleared up. Now I check every one whether they have the request on their card or not. I know the misery they are going to go through if it gets ripped off."
A very interesting insight came from an entirely different perspective. When the manager of a local tire store asked me for my ID I thanked him and shared that he was in the minority who bothered to do so.
"Well," he replied, "nobody but nobody gets out of here without my employees or me asking. I found out that if someone’s card is ripped off that the credit card company makes restitution to them but the shop-owner is left out in the cold. We took the heat on a stolen ID once and it is just not going to happen again under my watch."
I had an amusing and frustrating experience of my own at the satellite post office on the street level of Capital Square in downtown Des Moines several years ago. Because I work a mile or so from that location, it is a convenient place for me to purchase stamps there. For some reason, I have never liked carrying a billfold so it has become a habit over the past fifteen years for me to lock my billfold in a desk drawer when I get to my office and grab some cash out of it before heading out to lunch.
On this particular occasion I needed some stamps so took my credit card along with me and presented it to the clerk at the post office, sans billfold. Unfortunately for me, I ran into one of the rare ‘ten-percenters’ who honor my written request.
"May I see your ID?"
"Oops," I muttered—embarrassed by my oversight. "Forgot it in my desk, but thanks for asking. I will come back this afternoon."
He somewhat reluctantly returned my card, possibly thinking that that I had stolen it and gotten caught red-handed thanks to his diligence.
Eager to prove my honesty, I quickly marched back to my locked desk and returned to the post office—driver’s license in hand—hopefully to make the purchase from the same clerk.
Luck was not with me that day. Not only did another agent wait on me, but did not ask to see my identification.
If only I had tried to make the purchase from the guy in the 90% majority the first time. It would have saved a lot of walking.
Bill Sheridan—SHERIDAN WRITES: Bio under Guest Authors
Popularity: 4% [?]