Wednesday, February 3, 2010
What’s Up with Charge Cards at Lowe’s?
Every time I use my Lowe’s card, I swipe it through their little card scanner, and then I have to hand it to the clerk, who hand-enters the last four digits of the card into the system.
No other store I frequent seems to do this. Some request my ID when I use a credit or debit card, but tha’s not what’s going on here. Damned if I can figure out what is going on, though.
Sometimes they ask for my zip code, although that’s seemingly not related to the card usage but rather to track buying patterns and the like. I’ll sometimes make up a zip code on the spot (like “49322”, which I see is in Mississippi), just to fuck with their data rather than feed them valid info. (With something like 30,000 people in my zip code, that’s about the least interesting piece of “personal information” that they could ask for, so I give them fake ones just because I can, not to hide from them.)
I asked the clerk the last time I was there and he made some noise about the process being to verify that it was the right card. Which would lead to the conclusion that the Lowe’s card scanning system so easy to spoof or so insecure that the store doesn’t trust it.
Another possibility is that the store serves a generally lower income (and more heavily black, although I don’t think racism is really a factor here) set of neighborhoods. Some of the gas pumps in the area require entering the card holder’s zip code, presumably as a form of protection against stolen cards (if you don’t know the billing zip, it’s probably not your card), while the same company in more affluent or less urban areas (ones with perceived less incidence of crime) don’t require that. So maybe this is a version of the same thing: they are checking that the card is actually intact, and maybe the clerk is even reading the name on the card while entering the digits, to do some base verification of card holder gender (when you can tell that from the name, of course). Because any other fragment of needed info should be pulled off via the scanner.