Re: Going Green

1

I noticed this last time I was in Philadelphia. It made me realize just how much I've come to rely on my debit card.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 10:38 PM
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The US is crazy backwards with that sort of thing. I have never really understood why. Australia is a little similar.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:05 PM
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The US is crazy backwards with that sort of thing. I have never really understood why.

Because a tiny percentage of our merchants try to resist the fees that have to be paid to credit-card companies?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:08 PM
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Credit card interchange fees might be slightly higher in the US, but I bet a lot of it is driven by tax evasion on tip income or just in general. Convention out here seems to be a $1 tip on a $4-7 drink, which adds up in a hurry. Add in ATM income and decreased transaction times, and you've got yourself a winner.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:14 PM
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For all its cosmopolitan reputation, in some respects New York is oddly provincial (e.g., the subway signage, with its "Uptown" and "Downtown" and etc: not tourist- and visitor-friendly, you sort of already have to be oriented or risk getting on the wrong train...).

I realize the fees are exorbitant for small business owners and so on. But it does irk me when a restaurant won't accept credit cards. I mean, c'mon, just charge me 50 cents more for my entree and then let me pay with plastic, you know?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:17 PM
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New York is provincial in many ways.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:20 PM
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I'm not sure the cash-only thing has anything in particular to do with provincialism, though. I think in many cases tax evasion is a likely factor, and a sort of stubborn traditionalism may play a role as well.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:22 PM
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One thing to note is that this is decidedly an urban phenomenon. It's hardly a surprise that card-acceptance is ubiquitous in the suburbs, I suppose, but even in small towns I've never encountered anything like the cash-only attitudes I've seen in cities. And I've been to some very small towns.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:28 PM
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HOW SMALL WERE THEY, TEO?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:30 PM
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The "AmEx or cash" is a thing, too. What's AmEx doing differently, anyway?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:31 PM
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you sort of already have to be oriented or risk getting on the wrong train

Hell, I've noticed plenty of locals confused with service disruptions due to construction or line maintenance. I will say that most people seem to be most helpful. You can't say "Uh, is this the side for the [X] train today?" without a few people chiming in: "Where are you trying to go?"

Very helpful people, these NYC weirdos.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:37 PM
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What's AmEx doing differently, anyway?

They charge a lot more in fees than Visa or MasterCard, I know, which is why so many places only accept the latter two.

HOW SMALL WERE THEY, TEO?

Small enough.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:40 PM
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Because a tiny percentage of our merchants try to resist the fees that have to be paid to credit-card companiesThere's no reason the credit-card companies should have to be involved. Not accepting credit cards is one thing, sometimes justified, but cash only is absurd. If it really does have to go through the credit-card companies (why?), we've come around to "backwards" again.

I haven't used cash at any point so far this year. Probably all of last year as well, but my memories aren't so clear back that far. Almost the same was true in Europe, though as a transient visitor I was using the credit card and carried cash - I wouldn't have needed to if I were there permanently.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:52 PM
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I mean, c'mon, just charge me 50 cents more for my entree and then let me pay with plastic, you know?

They're not allowed to. The credit card merchant agreement almost always prevents them from charging extra for CC transactions.

Tax evasion could be a part of it, I suppose, but I think it's mostly just that the 2% cut the CC companies take eats up a lot of their income. Profit margins at an independent coffee shop or what have you aren't exactly huge.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:56 PM
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5: Credit card companies don't allow merchants to charge cash customers less than credit card customers.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 07-27-09 11:57 PM
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Not accepting credit cards is one thing, sometimes justified, but cash only is absurd.

What's the alternative? Paper checks? Debit cards (by which I guess I mean check cards, the ones that have the Visa logo in the corner) still get charged the interchange fee.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:01 AM
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There's no reason the credit-card companies should have to be involved. Not accepting credit cards is one thing, sometimes justified, but cash only is absurd. If it really does have to go through the credit-card companies (why?), we've come around to "backwards" again.

There's no reason credit card companies should be involved in credit card payments?

They're not allowed to. The credit card merchant agreement almost always prevents them from charging extra for CC transactions.

The Seven-Eleven near here charges more for CC transactions under $5.00. I thought merchants generally don't do it just because they don't want to drive customers to other, marginally more convenient stores. In my experience the only cash-only places are places that are local institutions with great word of mouth.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:07 AM
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The Seven-Eleven near here charges more for CC transactions under $5.00.

Then they're almost certainly violating their agreement with the credit card company. Minimum purchase requirements for credit card transactions are also disallowed, though this seems to be a more frequently flouted rule.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:13 AM
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In my experience the only cash-only places are places that are local institutions with great word of mouth.

I.e., places that have a constant stream of business that makes the hassle of handling credit cards not worth the extra business it would bring. In a big enough city, this is probably not restricted to local institutions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:15 AM
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I've seen gas stations that charge different amounts for cash and credit transactions. Maybe they had different agreements with the credit card companies.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:18 AM
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It's possible. Each merchant negotiates their own agreement with the CC companies, and certain large, low-margin businesses (McDonald's and Costco are two examples that spring to mind) can get exceptions to the standard provisions. Smaller independent shops probably don't have the leverage to do this, though.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:23 AM
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15

Credit card companies don't allow merchants to charge cash customers less than credit card customers.

This is not quite correct. The general rule is you can't charge a surcharge for using a credit card but you can give a discount for using cash.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:46 AM
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16: What's the alternative? Paper checks? Debit cards
I suppose the latter, yes, but I can't think of a single reason for them to have to be affiliated with the credit-card companies. Mine comes from my bank, alone. The processing is through one of a variety of eftpos processing companies, none of which are owned by Visa or Mastercard. There are fees associated with that, but they're not exorbitant (and they cut both ways).

17: There's no reason credit card companies should be involved in credit card payments?
I didn't mention credit-card payments. If that's the only kind of non-cash transaction conceivable, that's a sign of the puzzling backwardsness I was talking about. It makes no sense to me that the United States isn't at the forefront rather than the rearguard on this.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:47 AM
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The United States isn't at the forefront of anything. Everything our government does is geared toward monopolistic corporations.

There are both credit cards and debit cards (from bank accounts), yes.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:49 AM
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What about this free market I keep hearing about? I don't think the government has to do anything. Ours sure as hell didn't, but nevertheless every merchant accepts eftpos and you could easily go years without touching cash.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:56 AM
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The United States isn't at the forefront of anything.

To be fair, our military-industrial complex is a world leader.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:24 AM
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Why the hate on cash for small transactions? It's quicker than card, among other things. You wouldn't want to buy a car with it, but $25 worth of groceries? Cash every time.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:17 AM
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the fees that have to be paid to credit-card companies?

But cash is far from free for the merchant either: it's subject to mistakes and petty theft, auditing the till takes a lot of time at the end of each day or cashier shift, cash has to be transported securely to the bank, which charges for depositing it.

One of the reasons that supermarkets started to offer "cash back" to debit/credit card purchasers is that by offloading some of their cash to their customers, they can reduce their cash-handling costs.

Here's a study by the Bank of Canada [not necessarily a neutral source] that finds that the cheapest payment option depends on the size of the merchant and typical transaction size: cash is cheaper for smaller sales volumes and low-price transactions, and debit cards are cheaper for higher sales volumes and higher-price transactions.


Posted by: Gdr | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:28 AM
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Why the hate on cash for small transactions?
Because I'd have to carry it, and I don't. I have bought a single postage stamp electronically before. I don't want to lug it about all the time, and I can't think of anybody who habitually does.

There is also a local contactless small-value payments system that is if anything faster than paying cash, which I use sometimes. A couple of seconds longer (maybe; that depends on counting time, etc) is still well worthwhile.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:10 AM
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"Minimum purchase requirements for credit card transactions are also disallowed, though this seems to be a more frequently flouted rule."

Really? In the UK it's pretty much universal. I'm always surprised when I buy something for less than a tenner with my debit card and I'm not charged extra (usually about 50p).


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:59 AM
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Safeway offers cash back on checks. You have to have a certain number of checks already cleared through the system to establish your credibility before you can get it, though.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:01 AM
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30: I've been in places (normally pubs) where they don't take cards at all for less than, say, £10, but I've never been surcharged for using a debit card in the UK. What sort of shops are surcharging?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:20 AM
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Most of the local corner shops here charge for under 5 or 6 quid. Some only for credit cards, some for credit and debit cards.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:33 AM
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The post office here has an automated machine for packages and the like. I think that you have to pay with a card, but it makes you buy an extra stamp or two if you're below a certain amount.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:37 AM
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New York is provincial in many ways.

This is a favorite trope of conservative-liberal criticisms of the metropolis: e.g., "New York is backward because it doesn't have a Wal-Mart." (Virginia Postrel, as I recall, has written two or three charming little pieces like this for the Atlantic. Is the delay in expansion of Whole Foods in the five boroughs really a crippling moral weakness compared to freaking Dallas, Virginia?)

In Manhattan, I encounter very few places that accept only cash.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:26 AM
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[C]onservative-liberallibertarian.

I am stupid.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:27 AM
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Stanley has already mentioned this, but -- particularly with downtown restaurants -- the "AmEx or cash" thing is real, and real weird, precisely because they're not saving any fees, because AmEx charges more. I imagine that such places must secretly take Visa/MC in extremis, since very often these are fancy enough restaurants at which one can drop a lot of money and there isn't any signage alerting one to this $$/AmEx policy. People must find themselves unable to pay pretty commonly.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:27 AM
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I know that it used to be true that debit was cheaper for merchants than credit, but now that most bank debit cards nonetheless have a CC company logo, I don't know (I think


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:51 AM
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39

WHAT HAVE YOU ALL DONE TO JROTH!!11!ELEVENTY!!


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:13 AM
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I think therefor I am not.


Posted by: CONTRA JROTH | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:16 AM
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I bet the small businesses cut a deal with the junkie/muggers.

"Okay, we'll try to make it so dudes and dudettes walk around with more cash, and you agree not to rob us so much. Win-win!"

I hate carrying money. It's as bad or worse than carrying a handkerchief (I promise you no one has rolled up a handkerchief and snorted coke through it.)


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:23 AM
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Stanley's experience of cash and New York City is certainly mine as well (and somewhat similarly at the Jersey Shore and out on Long Island). I carry significantly more cash there than other places I visit.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:30 AM
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39, &c.: Dammit.

I think that it's cheaper for the merchant if you use your PIN and more expensive if you sign as with a regular CC.

The other lost comment was that Amex or cash seems like a 70s relic to me.

Oh, and I wonder how wispa buys hot dogs and banh mi and the like from street vendors w/o cash.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:33 AM
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AMEX or cash means AMEX gives the merchant soem kind of deal in exchange for exclusivity. It is also a relic from the days when AMEX was a charge card, not a credit card, with a lower risk of default. I think it's limited to NYC in the United States, and it's dwindling there.



Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:09 AM
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Why the hate on cash for small transactions?

Just to be clear, in NYC it's not uncommon, for example, for nice(ish) restaurants to only accept cash. So if you go there with a group of six and the bill ends up in the triple digits, you still have to pay all of that with cash.

And as teo said, this isn't really a "US" thing as it is a "certain large cities in the US" thing.

I've wondered whether it might have something to do with a greater prevalence or at least fear of credit card and check fraud in big cities, so that businesses find it's worth it to only accept cash so they don't have to worry about payments clearing. The tax evasion angle (plus payments to protection rackets) is probably also a contributing factor; also the issue of paying the significant percentage of restaurant workers who are undocumented immigrants.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:23 AM
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So if you go there with a group of six and the bill ends up in the triple digits, you still have to pay all of that with cash.

That is clearly insane and I'm surprised they remain in business. But the other extreme, using a card for individual food items, bus fares, etc seems equally bizarre.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:29 AM
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It's as bad or worse than carrying a handkerchief

But... but... carrying a handkerchief is good.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:32 AM
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I can't imagine a high-end restaurant in DC being cash only. Or is SF or Seattle.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:37 AM
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48 -- me. is s/b in.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:38 AM
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I remember reading in a psych class that credit card companies that allow merchants to charge a higher price for credit insist that the credit card price be listed as *the* price, and cash transactions be offered as a discount. Apparently there's a strong psychological bias against paying fees as opposed to forgoing a discount, and the effect is enough to shift a substantial proportion of transactions one way or the other.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:39 AM
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But... but... carrying a handkerchief is good.

Why? You can just blow your nose on a ten (better yet, a twenty - fuck a bunch of Andrew Jackson).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:39 AM
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50: That's hardly surprising, both in general and in specific. And, given that credit cards are the more convenient option for almost everybody these days, there's a low likelihood of anyone changing their preset paying preference due to the cash "discount."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:41 AM
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which charges for depositing it
Really?
Costco is Amex or cash, or bankcard with PIN (or their own store credit card). No Visa/MC/Discover.
MC has the worst rebate deal of my three cards, when I go places that only take Visa/MC I roll through all of them- "How about this? No? This one? No? Ok, fine." Happened at the movie theater on Sunday.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:41 AM
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I use cash for a larger percentage of my transactions that I did five years ago. I switched so that I would spend less. Also, I'm pissed at my CC company because they cut my limit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:49 AM
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but now that most bank debit cards nonetheless have a CC company logo,

I believe this just means the card can work through either the ATM/debit network, or the CC network branded on the card. This would mean the charges are different.

In most parts of the country going out for dinner with six people to anyplace not fast food is going to end up in the triple digits. So aren't you talking about most restaurants? If it's two people, the "high end" label makes sense. In which case, cash only would surprise me too.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:59 AM
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That is clearly insane and I'm surprised they remain in business.

I was surprised by it, but it's really pretty common in NYC. I'm sure having a critical mass of businesses who all do it provides some protection.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:59 AM
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55: Oh, oops, I meant "high triple digits". And I've never been to any of the really high end restaurants in New York, but quite a few of the sort of mid-range high quality and therefore expensive but not exorbitant places would only take cash.

Of course, there are plenty of restaurants and other places in NYC that do take credit cards, it's just that cash-only establishments are pretty common too, which is unusual for most of the US.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:03 AM
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I have a dual reaction almost every time: (1) what?! that's crazy! everywhere else I just swipe my debit card;

Strangely enough, I have the mirror image reaction: damn, everybody wants fucking debit cards. What's wrong with folding green money?

(2) Yeah! Those fees they charge you are ridiculous! Fuck 'em!

Heh. Back in the day, it was the assertion of Amex that it was as good as cash, and I suspect they had a marketing program (with rebates)(for merchants) built around that. In the case of NYC, well, it has the UN, and those international types like them some black Amex, so I wouldn't be surprised if, in this case, accepting Amex is/was a nod to very well-off clientele. You gutter trash with your Visa and your Mastercard and your {sniff} Diner's Club (do they even have that anymore?)[yes, dumped by Citi onto Discover - feh] can just fuck right on off.

This is a favorite trope of conservative-liberal criticisms of the metropolis: e.g., "New York is backward because it doesn't have a Wal-Mart."

New York can be provincial in a number of respects without being generally backwards, which it isn't. That said, everywhere is backwards in some aspect.

(Virginia Postrel, as I recall, has written two or three charming little pieces like this for the Atlantic.

Well, you know, the Atlantic is headed for the ashcan of history and perhaps with luck, she'll be going down with it.

Is the delay in expansion of Whole Foods in the five boroughs really a crippling moral weakness compared to freaking Dallas, Virginia?)

Why anybody pays attention to the Mark Steyn of dumb fucking cunts is beyond me.

max
['See! I didn't seriously froth like a mad dog at the merest mention.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:04 AM
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47, 51: Seriously, use a kleenex or something. You really want to carry around some cloth (nice high surface area for the bacteria to infest) in your pocket (so it stays warm) into which you've essentially expectorated a bunch of your slimy mucous (carrying germs, dust, and god knows what else)?

What are you doing? Saving it?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:04 AM
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Yeah, that's pretty unusual compared to most cities I've been in. I don't think it's a terrible idea, and if you're used to having cash around (taxicabs?) it's probably no trouble at all, but sure could send a visitor for a loop.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:05 AM
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Handkerchiefs are excellent. Useful for minor cuts, cleaning small spills, wiping soiled fingertips, unfolding and making into a pouch to carry pine cones or blackberries or whatever. A clean one every day or two, wash if used for anything, which most days it isn't. Cities are grimy places that cause sneezing due to particulates; the resulting ejecta are unclean, but basically free of bacteria. But I will cheerfully wear socks with sandals, and don't understand contemporary fashion.

Debit cards, especially for restaurants, are IMO crazy due to risk-- if there's a credit card problem, your bank is on the hook while it is sorted out. If there's a debit card problem, you are on the hook, and your autopayments bounce.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:18 AM
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and if you're used to having cash around (taxicabs?)

You carry three or four hundred dollars around with you for taxi rides?


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:18 AM
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I believe this just means the card can work through either the ATM/debit network, or the CC network branded on the card. This would mean the charges are different.

At least one of the CC-branded debit cards I've had charged me an extra fee when used as a debit card, so there was an incentive to always use it on the CC network. I wonder how widespread this is; it's not true of my current card. It was annoying; debit cards are much more convenient than credit for everyday purchases.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:19 AM
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The crappy convenience store around the corner from my house only takes cash. I have the sense that I've encountered a cash-only place or places elsewhere as well relatively recently, but I can't place it. Can't remember seeing such a thing up in Vermont, though, unless the gas station that advertises its cash discount qualifies. So it's an urban thing IME too.

I use cash often enough, both at that convenience store and for small-to-medium purchases elsewhere, that I almost always have it on hand. The only annoying thing is the accumulation of change. There's nothing to spend it on except for in the mornings when I have the presence of mind to bring some quarters with me to work to pay for coffee with exact change, so it just builds up. I have some rolls of change sleeve thingies waiting to be used, but probably not enough for the change I've got built up...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:25 AM
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64: Don't have you those CoinStar things for change. They give you 100% if you take the pay-out in an Amazon gift certificate.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:27 AM
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YOU SHALL NOT CRUCIFY MANKIND UPON A CROSS OF PLASTIC.


Posted by: OPINIONATED WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:27 AM
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32,33: Yeah, pubs tend to just have a minimum spend, whereas corner shops will surcharge below a threshold.

The restaurant thing seems really bizarre to me, although I have to say I didn't encounter it when I was in NY. I don't think I've ever been to a proper restaurant in the UK (as opposed to a greasy spoon or a fast food outlet) that didn't take cards.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:28 AM
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You carry three or four hundred dollars around with you for taxi rides?

Well, no. What I meant is that if you are used to needing to carry cash always, carrying a bit more doesn't change the logistics. Otoh, if you are used to using plastic for basically everything, you may never have more than a few dollars around habitually.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:32 AM
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CC-branded debit cards I've had charged me an extra fee when used as a debit card,

Interesting. I haven't run into one of those yet.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:33 AM
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67: I don't think I've ever been to a proper restaurant in the UK (as opposed to a greasy spoon or a fast food outlet) that didn't take cards.

Judging from the oeuvre of Martin Scorsese et al, this is probably because approximately 100% of the US restaurant business is being used as a tax avoidance or money laundering front by organised crime.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:33 AM
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A lot of the smaller restaurants in NYC are seriously bootstrapped operations--places without a liquor license that invite you to bring your own won't usually accept cards, but the food is often very good.

There's a real mix of clientele in NYC, such that you'll get rich people with money clips and working-class people who cash out their paychecks overlapping to a much larger extent, I suspect, that in other US cities. (I was really shocked recently to learn that a couple of my coworkers used check-cashing places. Of course, what with the fees banks charge poorer people, it may not be quite so irrational.)

Restaurants are massive fraud machines, as has already been noted above. Waiters prefer cash tips because they don't report the specific amount on their taxes: the government presumes 12% of the tab (or did back in 2000) in the event of an audit, and the waiter cheerfully pockets the difference. Also, in restaurants with a larger staff, the waiters are expected to "tip out" in cash to the bussers and kitchen people according to some arcane and opaque system of percentages. That's just the chicanery I'm familiar with; I'm sure that at the management level there are all sorts of tricks one can play with the cash flow.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:34 AM
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I've recently been puzzling over the high yield checking accounts, which have strange twist - you get 3-4.5% interest on up to $25k or so of deposits, but only if you use a debit card linked to the account a minimum number of times a month (12, 20, 30, depending on the bank). You get something like 0.05% interest otherwise. I assume the bank must be betting that the debit card fees make up for the occasional people who put in the max $25k and the smallest number of small-value transactions, but it's a pretty weird tradeoff.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:36 AM
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The crappy convenience store around the corner from my house only takes cash.

Would that they all were so, if they're busy enough. Or cash+debit. In grad school I used to stand in line behind a long line of undergrads buying a cup of coffee, or an apple, or a pen, everyone of them paying by credit card, waiting for the stupid slow machine to print a receipt, taking their time signing the receipt.... It was not so rare to spend fifteen or twenty minutes in the checkout line at the "convenience" store if I went at the wrong time of day.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:36 AM
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Just think of the blog commenting I could have been doing in that time!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:37 AM
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58: It may be possible to criticize Virginia Postrel without calling her a "dumb fucking cunt." Let's try it and see how it goes.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:37 AM
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I'm sure that at the management level there are all sorts of tricks one can play with the cash flow.

This is true of basically any cash heavy business. I've seen a few dual till systems at work.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:38 AM
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And now the airlines don't accept cash on flight. Or at least Southwest doesn't anymore. Only debit and credit.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:41 AM
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Waiters prefer cash tips because they don't report the specific amount on their taxes:

In Britain the government thought it wise to legislate that tips should be included in minimum wage calculations, so I always tip cash on principle. (I believe they've backtracked on this lately, but fuck them anyway.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:48 AM
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73: I've decided to put a stop to that. I'm going to call it "If you don't have two bucks, you can go to the back of the line day." I forsee only a minimum of violence before everybody comes to their senses. I'm thinking a Monday in late January would have everyone in the proper foul mood for a c store riot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:49 AM
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78: I was a really shitty waiter for a brief period. Because of that, I also always tip cash.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:50 AM
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Coupla thoughts:
1. AmEx and Discover really do charge exorbitant fees. I think they're both up above 3% now, anyone have fresh information? Even Visa & Mastercard (and Paypal, while we're at it) take a significant bite.
2. My experience leads me to believe that tax evasion is pretty far down the list of why merchants would refuse credit cards. Occasionally, and in certain industries perhaps more than occasionally, sure, but I don't think a broad range of small businesses are doing much in the way of serious tax evasion. Or avoision.
3. From the bar/restaurant perspective, there are other costs associated with credit cards. Time the employees spend typing stuff in, fighting with the machine, finding a pen, watching the markvalued customer sign the slip, etc. is time that they could be serving more drinks. Then too, people who start tabs with credit cards at bars are apt to forget their card at an alarming rate. Even if you make a mandatory tip part of the cost of getting the card back (which is probably illegal, but shouldn't be), you're still wasting staff time that wouldn't be spent with a cash patron. I'm guessing other industries have similar issues related to the specifics of how they do business.
4. Paper checks are the worst, which is why they're so discouraged. Frankly, I think paper checks should be outlawed. Do you know how many individual people have to look at the average NSF check? Probably around 10. TEN PEOPLE! Just to look at one bounced check! It's totally inefficient, and proof that capitalism will soon crumble under the weight of its internal contradictions.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:52 AM
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78: Likewise. If the tip's included on the bill and I'm paying by card, I tend to cross it off and pay it in cash.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:53 AM
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71.last: When I worked as a dishwasher the trickle down tips from frontline staff were a very welcome supplement to my wages. On really high volume days I could make $50 in tips (this was ~1983, so that was real money).


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:53 AM
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that tips should be included in minimum wage calculations
If I understand that correctly, that's normal-ish in the US. There's a sub-minimum-wage hourly rate the employer has to pay (around $3/hr), and then the rest is tips, with the employer being on the hook to make up the difference if that $3+tips works out to less than the regular minimum wage (now $7.25/hr).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:53 AM
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72: That is odd. I just read through the details of a few of them and it's hard to see how they're profitable for the bank.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:55 AM
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Does anybody else remember 'counter checks' (I think that was the name)? Instead of having your own person checkbook, the bank just put checkbooks in the stores and you wrote a check that way. I think that you had to know your account number, but I can't recall. They were gone before I had a checking account.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:56 AM
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I don't remember "counter checks", but I remember seeing ads for something called "traveler's checks" until about ten years ago. I never understood how they worked, and now it doesn't seem to matter.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:57 AM
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84: That's exactly how it works here.
86: In the olden days, you could just write all your info on a blank check, and if someone was foolish enough to take it, your bank would honor it. So any check was as good as another. See one of the nightclub scenes in High School Confidential for reference.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:59 AM
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high yield checking

Sketchy banks need deposits now because they will soon need to acknowledge bad loans.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:00 AM
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87: Travelers checks were how you could carry large amounts of money on a trip without worrying too much about being mugged. You pay the full value for the checks at your local bank and then cash them at a bank at your destination. If they were lost or stolen, the checks could be replaced. There were fees, but they were also profitable for banks because purchasing a travelers check amounts to making a deposit at the bank, but not getting any interest. I'm fairly sure you can still get them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:02 AM
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My father used to have an "account" with a local bookstore: i.e., the old-fashioned kind, where he would sign a slip (or, now that I think of it, just ask the cashier to put the books on his account) when he "bought" books and pay a monthly bill. This vestige of the nineteenth century always amused me, for some reason.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:06 AM
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Yeah, I'm pretty sure traveler's checks still exist. My parents use them, because they have some inexplicable aversion to using ATMs or getting a debit card.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:07 AM
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re: 91

I am sure you can still do that here. I'd be very surprised if the more venerable bookshops in this town didn't offer an account system.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:09 AM
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re: 93

Just checked, and yes, they have a Personal Account system.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:10 AM
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I used traveler's checks when I traveled to France in high school, but on the trip last summer we all bought cash with debit or credit cards before leaving the boarding the plane.

Even that doesn't seem worth the trouble when someone could use any cc-affiliated debit card in any ATM and get the local currency. Now that I think of it, though, what kind of a transaction fee is there for that?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:13 AM
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93, 94: Cool. Is it a general bookstore or some sort of specialist? Dad's was a small but general bookstore with what I hope continues to be a lucrative sideline selling textbooks to students at the local college.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:14 AM
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My parents use them, because they have some inexplicable aversion to using ATMs or getting a debit card.

If you're traveling out of country, travelers checks are probably a lot more convenient than ATM or debit cards, and more portable than CC's in many places.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:16 AM
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93, 91: Yes, my parents have an account at the local bookshop in their suburb of London.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:17 AM
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Now that I think of it, though, what kind of a transaction fee is there for that?

Huge. Typically you'll get a transaction fee for the local ATM for being out of network, ajnother transaction fee from your bank for being out of network. Potentially a transaction fee for crossing networks, and a bad exchange rate.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:18 AM
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It's usually a lot easier to find an ATM than it is to find an open bank or other establishment that will cash traveler's checks. You can still get travelers' checks at AmEx offices but credit cards are definitely more accepted, at least in Europe.

The secret to using ATMs abroad is to take a debit card for an account that refunds ATM fees (TD, for example).


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:19 AM
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Even that doesn't seem worth the trouble when someone could use any cc-affiliated debit card in any ATM and get the local currency. Now that I think of it, though, what kind of a transaction fee is there for that?

My last bank charged me a $5 fee for every withdrawal from foreign ATMs. (I haven't been out of the country yet since changing banks, so I don't know what I would currently have to pay.) Plus the ATM itself would usually charge a small fee. So I made a point of always withdrawing at least a couple hundred Euros/pounds/CHF/whatever when making a withdrawal, so that the fee wasn't a huge percentage of the withdrawal.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:20 AM
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My mother has an account at a venerable bookshop in London. In fact, I think I was able to purchase books there once and ask for them to be put on her account.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:21 AM
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The secret to using ATMs abroad is to take a debit card for an account that refunds ATM fees (TD, for example).

That only at best helps you with half the fees. So really the secret is to take out at least a few hundred dollars at a time. You're stuck with the lousy exchange rate if they pin you with that, but I'm not sure how prevalent it is.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:22 AM
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re: 96

It was original an academic booksellers, I think. It's a pretty big company though -- they have about 6 different stores in Oxford, and more nationwide.

http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:22 AM
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That only at best helps you with half the fees.

Depends on the bank.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:24 AM
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You're stuck with the lousy exchange rate if they pin you with that, but I'm not sure how prevalent it is.

At least it's far better than actually changing cash at one of those currency exchange places.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:24 AM
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I was under the impression that one generally got a pretty good exchange rate using an ATM to withdraw foreign currency. Have I been misled?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:25 AM
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No, neb, that is true.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:27 AM
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107: Probably on many, many occasions. But about the ATM exchange rate, I have no idea.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:27 AM
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Depends on the bank.

Really? I've never seen or heard of one that would pay for foreign network fees, let along foreign machine flat fees. Do you know of one? IIRC TD does not do this.

Have I been misled?

I don't know. Historically I have not always got a good exchange rate, but I don't know what is typical now, or how variable it is by country.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:29 AM
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Further to 110, I suspect exchange rates are better now, as it is much easier for people to find out going rates.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:30 AM
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I stand with Amber! Some banks will refund all of the ATM fees, and the exchange rate is pretty decent by comparison to any of the other options available to the traveler. I'm sure there are some places on earth where traveler's checks are accepted more widely than credit cards, and where ATMs are hard to find (is this what soup meant by "more portable"?) but I haven't happened to travel to those places.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:30 AM
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I'm sorry, my bank will refund all ATM fees, including foreign ones, but it does actually charge a small foreign transaction fee of its own.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:33 AM
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75: It may be possible to criticize Virginia Postrel without calling her a "dumb fucking cunt."

Maybe. I got a lot of hate stored up from 2002, '03 and '04 that I haven't worked off yet. Fair's fair.

max
['If they can't take it, they shouldn't have dished it.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:34 AM
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For ATMs, I think the magic words are "unlimited surcharge refunds." That is what my bank promises and my fees from both domestic and foreign banks are refunded monthly (they also charge no ATM fees themselves). I bank with TD. I have traveled abroad using their card. I do not pay ATM fees.

N.B. Visa & MasterCard charge currency conversion fees for purchases made on credit cards abroad. Your card also typically charges an additional percentage for currency conversion. Capital One, I think, is the only card that charges solely the V/MC fee. Of course that assumes that they will let you buy things on the card and not 1) ignore the call you made to them asking for your account to be noted for travel to A for B days, 2) refuse charges made in A, and 3) call your American contact number to check as to whether the charges are valid.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:35 AM
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In the olden days, you could just write all your info on a blank check, and if someone was foolish enough to take it, your bank would honor it. So any check was as good as another.

Well, in the really olden days, you could write a cheque on anything. It's really just a signed instruction to pay such and such an amount to the named person, so there's no need for it to be on a special piece of paper - and as long as the bank was happy that it was really your signature, they would honour it. (Google "The Negotiable Cow").


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:36 AM
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I don't mind cash-only restaurants, but the cash-or-Amex-only ones annoy me. I generally try to have enough cash on me to cover my expected expenditures for the evening, anyway, since I might end up splitting a dinner check with someone who needs to use a card.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:36 AM
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84: There's a sub-minimum-wage hourly rate the employer has to pay (around $3/hr)

It's still 2.13$, and has been since '91. Ridiculous.

81: 2. My experience leads me to believe that tax evasion is pretty far down the list of why merchants would refuse credit cards. Occasionally, and in certain industries perhaps more than occasionally, sure, but I don't think a broad range of small businesses are doing much in the way of serious tax evasion.

But restaurants are well known for going all evasive on tip reporting.

max
['Can't blame them.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:38 AM
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Bank of America has free ATM with certain European banks- no fees on either end, no conversion fee, market exchange rate.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:42 AM
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My father used to have an "account" with a local bookstore: i.e., the old-fashioned kind, where he would sign a slip (or, now that I think of it, just ask the cashier to put the books on his account) when he "bought" books and pay a monthly bill. This vestige of the nineteenth century always amused me, for some reason.

It worked thus at Blackwells's when I worked there. AT that time they had only the one retail outlet - Broad Street, Oxford (they took over a chain called University Bookshops Organisation in the late 1970s, which they rebranded later under their own name), but they had a massive international mail order operation.

If you were in the shop, your purchases were listed on a carbonised flimsy, and you got the top copy, which the middle one went to the accounts department to be entered in the ledger against your name and the bottom one went to file.

If you were elsewhere, you wrote a letter to their offices, and your orders were entered into a computer (gasp!) and printed onto little slips which were sent to the shop to be pulled off the shelves and returned to the office by van. It worked pretty well, really.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:51 AM
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I get cash in Europe by putting books on neb's mother's account, then selling them on the street.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:51 AM
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That's kind of shitty of you, JRoth. Please stop.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:56 AM
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...selling them on the street.

JRoth, book pimp.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:03 AM
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Counter checks still exist at all the banks I've banked at, to be used by customers who want to withdraw money from their checking accounts and don't have their checkbooks with them. And requirements for pre-printed checks elsewhere are merchant-driven anti-fraud measures, not something that's legally necessary. RTFUCC, people.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:14 AM
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anti-fraud measures

Well, anti-fraud and handling issues. Nobody actually reads them anymore in a typical pay-your-bills type transaction, I've been told.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:17 AM
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124: Universal Criminal Code? Usury Criminal Code?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:19 AM
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Uniform Commercial Code.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:21 AM
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Counter checks still exist at all the banks I've banked at, to be used by customers who want to withdraw money from their checking accounts and don't have their checkbooks with them.

Oh, those are counter checks? Somehow I always thought of them as withdrawal slips rather than checks. Or maybe those are yet something else.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:22 AM
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128: Yes, I would call those withdrawal slips also. Counter checks were different, IMO.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:25 AM
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118: But restaurants are well known for going all evasive on tip reporting.

I'm making a distinction between the restaurant and the employees. Based on my conversations with many tipped employees, the reasonableness of the 12% threshhold that the IRS uses varies considerably. Working at a Denny's or Perkin's or someplace like that, you would be very, very lucky to make 12% averaged across all your shifts. If you're a hot guy working a gay bar and you keep forgetting your shirt at home, that 12% is probably a pretty nominal portion of your take-home. It seems like your average neighborhood bar is somewhere in the middle -- i.e. if you're getting some decent shifts and you're fairly competent, then your average of tips is probably approaching 15 or 16%. So the gubmint's not missing out on a whole lot (per waitron).


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:25 AM
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129: They might have looked different, but the necessary elements are the same. You can call them "Aunt Nelly" if you want to, but if they have those elements they're checks.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:27 AM
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129: Everywhere I've banked has withdrawal slips (the exact inverse of deposit slips), as well as "starter" checks -- mostly blank checks that they print your account number on, which are usually only good for paying utility bills, as no one else in their right mind will take them.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:28 AM
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129: They might have looked different, but the necessary elements are the same. You can call them "Aunt Nelly" if you want to, but if they have those elements they're checks.

But you can't use them to buy things, can you? Just to get cash directly from your bank -- a rather limited subset of the uses of a check.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:28 AM
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131: By that stardard, anything with a bank routing number is the same thing. A withdrawal slip is also something you can use on a savings account, which isn't true with a counter check. More to the point, you could give a counter check to anybody, but a withdrawal slip only works at the bank.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:29 AM
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134 is variously pwned.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:30 AM
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Huge. Typically you'll get a transaction fee for the local ATM for being out of network, ajnother transaction fee from your bank for being out of network. Potentially a transaction fee for crossing networks, and a bad exchange rate

Most European banks are all on the same ATM network - Cirrus/Maestro - so that's not an issue for me. And while I can't be certain, the exchange rates don't seem to be any worse than the Forex booths, though it's probably much worse than doing a large volume exchange in a bank branch or through a dealer.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:32 AM
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Working at a Denny's or Perkin's or someplace like that, you would be very, very lucky to make 12% averaged across all your shifts.

Really? Wow. I guess I'm naive; I've known a few people who are assholes about paying tips, but I thought almost everyone paid 15% everywhere.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:34 AM
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At least.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:35 AM
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134: "That standard" is Article 3 of the UCC, specifically section 3-104(f). I'm making a narrow point about legalities, not a broader point about commercial practice or common usage.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:35 AM
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But you can't use them to buy things, can you?

Because merchants won't take them, not because they're not real checks. And yes, that matters: if someone does accept one from you and your bank pays it, you have no gripe.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:38 AM
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139: I'd only gotten to section 2-54 of the UCC. I'm waiting to see if Frank and Joe figure out who is smuggling into Pirates' Cove.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:39 AM
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but I thought almost everyone paid 15% everywhere.

Not even close.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:39 AM
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142: In rural areas of the midwest, you see 10% as sort of a standard. Or did several years ago.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:40 AM
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141: So you're arguing about what a check is because...?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:45 AM
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137 was my impression, too. I think it's crappy that the server gets tipped according to the price of the food they serve, but I'd also tax the wealthy and fund social services if it were up to me, to.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:45 AM
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-t
+s


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:46 AM
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In rural areas of the midwest, you see 10% as sort of a standard. Or did several years ago.

Even at a sort of standard, your average take is going to be less, I'd expect.

For a typical restaurant, I'd guess that if your local "acceptable rate" was 10%, your actual average was closer to 5. Suprising numbers of people don't tip (some of this is cultural by ethnicity). Lot's more chisel away at it, particularly when not with people who might judge them for it.

It's been a long time since I've worked restaurants, but none of the ones I did would manage to keep average actual tips up to local expected values.

There are exceptions, which tend toward young cute servers in situations where lots of alcohol is served, and/or high end.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:58 AM
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I think it's crappy that the server gets tipped according to the price of the food they serve

This is sort of true, heebie, but there is also a confounding factor. Higher end places will serve far fewer people per unit time. Of course this doesn't entirely account for the shift.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:00 AM
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That's probably true. You're covering a lot more tables at a diner than at a ritzy joint.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:15 AM
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Suprising numbers of people don't tip (some of this is cultural by ethnicity).

This is one of the many, many racist stereotypes that I did not know of until quite recently, giving me the perhaps-unreasonable impression that it is something that morning radio "hot talk" hosts came up with because they weren't allowed to do Amos & Andy-esque voices.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:24 AM
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Re Blackwells - I don't remember actually having to do it myself, but the standard way of obtaining cash when one's bank wouldn't extend one's overdraft further, was to buy a book or two on your Blackwells account then take it downstairs and sell it back to them 'secondhand' - you'd get half the cover price for it.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:25 AM
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144: Because, except when necessary, I'm in favor of calling things what most people call them as opposed to what specialists call them.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:44 AM
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This is one of the many, many racist stereotypes that I did not know of until quite recently

Well I don't know about that. I do know that recent wave hong kong immigrants (pre the lease running out) to the west coast in the 90s formed an identifiable ethnicity that was affluent and didn't tip relatively as much. I'm not sure if that has changed. There is also research (done by service industry types) supporting the demographic shift including ethnicity, although interestingly only in restaurants iirc. At any rate I certainly wasn't meaning to suggest that was the major contributor, just that it exists (and for all I know is self reinforcing)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:01 PM
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re 153: or at least, that's what the numbers looked like at the time.

problem with any of this stuff is getting unbiased numbers,though.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:04 PM
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which of course makes me wish I'd avoided that can of worms entirely; the point was few places will actually average out to the (local, accepted) "norm" percentage, in practice.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:16 PM
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I was on vacation in Key West several years ago and one of the restaurants had lovely a tipping policy printed in their menus- if you were a foreign tourist, they automatically added the tip to your bill. Not sure how they determined that- maybe they asked for a passport with your credit card? Presumably they were working by accent, and the Canucks just got off easy.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:31 PM
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My sister waitressed/bartended in a sad little neighborhood Italian restaurant-bar in Boston back in the mid-nineties, and said that she was averaging well under ten percent in tips; I was horrified. But that place was really depressing. The clientele was heavily older alcoholics, who apparently tip poorly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:32 PM
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156: That's almost reasonable -- given that tipping at an American level is pretty rare in Europe, but it's an expected part of waitstaff compensation here, it seems like a legit way to avoid undertipping by people who just don't have the appropriate local habits.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:33 PM
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156.last: Canadians are notorious around here as poor tippers.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:37 PM
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My problem was with how they enforced it- I assume if you're an American with an accent they consider your a furriner.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:38 PM
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Where I worked, the rule was, British accent=10 percent. Surprisingly accurate and consistent.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:39 PM
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given that tipping at an American level is pretty rare in Europe

This is a real issue... I'm sure many visitors would be appalled to learn how little waitstaff are typically paid here.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:41 PM
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The tip is usually already included in Europe- "service compris-" so they should love dumb Americans who try to tip on top of that.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:53 PM
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163: Except this isn't quite true. You do still tip on top of that, just not 20%. Although Americans can't win on this, as I have heard my countrypeople mocked by French folks for both (a) failing to leave something on top of the total and (b) leaving too much.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 12:59 PM
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That's confused the heck out of me in Europe -- a stingy tip feels worse to me than not tipping at all, but without the percentage guide, I don't know what's stingy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:01 PM
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FWICT it's not uncommon for immigrant Chinese to find the concept of automatic, expected tipping faintly ridiculous, especially for restaurants that have far lower service standards than they're used to. I can't say I blame them; I try to tip steadily at 15-20 percent (I have to, I know too many people in the industry and it would get around if I didn't) but there are times I would really rather not. Some people, a lot of people, just absolutely shouldn't be working in the service industry.

There are servers who turn a blind eye to black customers because it's supposed to be the case they don't tip. It never seems to occur to these people that maybe they're not getting the tip because the customers have noticed a specific pattern to who is and isn't getting service in the restaurant. It's not like it's a hard thing to detect.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:04 PM
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In Europe, the best tip is a smile and saying "Without us, you'd be speaking German." In Germany, omit the smile.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:04 PM
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Yeah, how much do you tip in europe?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:07 PM
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"Without us Stalin, you'd be speaking German."

Fixed.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:07 PM
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Getting back to the original topic, another reason for paying in cash is to stop the waiter for upping the tip on their own. Apparently, if that happens to you around here, they put your name on the tubes.

http://www.thepittsburghchannel.com/money/19460076/detail.html


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:07 PM
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163: Indeed they did. One time on a French club trip way back in high school we ate at a medium-to-nice restaurant. We felt a little guilty about being rowdy - not frat-boys-rowdy or stereotypical-ugly-Americans rowdy, just 10-almost-unsupervised-teens rowdy. So we decided to leave a 15 percent tip on top of the service compris. As we left, we saw the waiter almost in tears.

Oddly, I don't even remember how I handled tipping when I was in France just a year ago. I hope I tipped something...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:08 PM
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166: I think I've mentioned this before, but I want a widely understood tipping code. Some exact percentage that's a little cheap, but not wildly so, that signifies: "The service sucked, but not enough that I was going to stiff you or complain to the manager. Nonetheless, if you were a better waiter I would have tipped better." So tipping an exact 13% percent would convey that the waiter had fucked up enough to miss out on a 20% tip.

But I can't see how to introduce this singlehandedly.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:13 PM
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168: I've done 10% for a job very well done. 5-10% I guess. But I'm like LB, it feels really weird leaving that little (for no good reason, but it does).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:14 PM
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We the people, in order to secure domestic tranquility and get our food while it is still hot and our drinks before our food, do hereby enact the following scale of tips.

Article 1: 15% is standard.
Article 2: If you go below 10%, you'd better have also complained to the manager.
Article 3: If you puked or something, your tip should be big.
Article 4: If you want the waitress's phone number, you probably need to go over 20%


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:18 PM
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172: First, subsidize pocket calculators for everyone over the age of 10. Then, make it mandatory to have a calculator with you at all times. And this tipping code would only apply to payment by credit or debit card, because nobody goes around with exact change all the time...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:19 PM
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174: 3.5: The presence of kids under four or five, even if they don't do anything exceptionable, counts as puking for the purposes of mandating a healthy tip. Older than that, it goes by behavior.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:21 PM
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175: So there are weaknesses in the idea. But you get the fundamentals: a big enough tip to convey that it's not about your being cheap, or wanting the waiter not to get paid, but sending some clear signal of dissatisfaction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:22 PM
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176: Sounds reasonable. We are rolling chaos when we dine out and I don't drink as much when we're out with the kid, so the tab is lower.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:24 PM
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Yeah, and even if you hit a night when the kids don't do anything troublesome, there's the emotional stress for the waitstaff of waiting for the disaster to happen.

I didn't go crazy, but my normal tip is 20% rounded down, and when the kids were little I adjusted that to 20% rounded up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:27 PM
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Plus, our son has to tell the waitstaff, in detail, about whatever he did before coming in. (We are deep into the borderline inappropriate conversations with strangers phase of toddlerhood.)


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:30 PM
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sending some clear signal of dissatisfaction.

When I worked as a waiter, an older cow-orker told me of some system where customers would leave two pennies on top of their tip as an indication that they were especially pleased and one penny on top of the tip to indicate displeasure. Or something similar thereto.

In any event, it seemed kind of quaint, and I only saw it once or twice, but perhaps LB can work to bring this system back into style. I predict colored post titles. Maybe green this time?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:35 PM
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"one penny on top of the tip to indicate displeasure"

What ever happened to dumping all of the ketchup out onto the plate?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:39 PM
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Once, after a truly hellish Christmas meal out with work, we (collectively) left a tip of about 75 pence on a 400 quid bill. I felt pretty bad for some of the waiting staff -- they weren't all terrible -- but the meal was easily the worst I've ever had in a restaurant, and also, easily, the biggest rip-off.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:41 PM
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but perhaps LB can work to bring this system back into style.

You can always write them a note on the check.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:42 PM
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or, if paying cash, you could caption the bill so that Grant is complaining about how long it took him to get his soup.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:44 PM
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You can always write them a note on the check.

Like in the memo field? "For shitty food."


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:48 PM
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What is the standard for tips in the UK? Are London standards different from elsewhere? Also, more places seem to be doing a 12% compris thing lately; what do you do at a place that does that? Please advise.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 1:52 PM
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I was raised to think 10 to 15% was standard. When I moved to DC, the expectation was 15 to 20%. Here in New York I always do 20%, which seems to be the general expectation. Except when I'm drunk, when I'm sure I both over- and under-tip. A few of my restaurant-industry friends once were going on about how 20% was okay but really people should tip 25%, and this really annoyed me, although I didn't say anything.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:02 PM
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Growing up in Texas 15% was the rule. That seems a little low in DC. I did have one friend tell me, scandalized, that the prevailing rate is now 20%, not 15, "because of inflation."

I never know how to tip for takeout. A couple of bucks?

If anyone still cares about foreign currency fees, this might be useful.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:06 PM
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189 makes me think of this.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:09 PM
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The presence of kids under four or five, even if they don't do anything exceptionable, counts as puking for the purposes of mandating a healthy tip. Older than that, it goes by behavior.

Not that my kid-centrism will shock anyone, but I totally disagree. I also deduct from the tip I would otherwise give for waitstaff who fail to treat my child like an existing human being deserving of respect. Those who do, however, get a huge bonus. The waitress who burned my kid with a hot plate got stiffed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:13 PM
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Also, I like to think of tipping on an hourly basis -- how much time did our waitperson spend on us, was the service at a $10/hr level? $20? This often comes out pretty close to the 15-20% standard, except in cheap restaurants, where it often comes out significantly higher.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:15 PM
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I just tend to tip 10% or so. Rounding up, sometimes. I'm probably not a very generous tipper [national stereotypes and all that]. If it's a cheap meal I sometimes tip more, as a couple of quid always seems more stingy than a fiver, say.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:18 PM
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191: Burning the little one would irk me to no end, but while my son is "an existing human being deserving of respect", he is also a perpetually moving projectile-tosser and completely unable to understand the concept of 'indoor-voice'.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:19 PM
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I was raised thinking 15 percent was the standard. I tip between 15 and 22 percent, variation based on rounding and whim. Last week I tipped less than that for my share of a fancy dinner, actually - sorry, friend-of-a-friend who put the balance of the bill on her card, and/or sorry waitress. No particular reason for it, even, I just wasn't thinking.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:22 PM
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I used to always do 15% (easy in MA, just 3 times the tax, at least until this Saturday- and tip is on the total pre-tax, dammit!) but since I'm not a poor student any more I do 18-22%- at the kinds of places we eat, it's a difference of a few bucks, which doesn't really affect my cash flow.
And what's the tip on delivery (I do 10% if there's already a delivery charge) and self serve / buffet places?
182- I thought you're supposed to hide the tip under the uneaten food, or, if you have enough change to do just coins, dump them in the bottom of the drinks.
My wife's uncle had a really bad meal one time and didn't tip at all, the manager called him at home- not apologetically- demanding to know where the tip was.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:22 PM
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Thanks, ttaM.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:22 PM
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I tend to do a rough estimate of 15% and then round up to the nearest dollar. Given my typical bill sizes, this often gets me into the 18-20% range.

A friend, when paying with CC, would estimate 15% or 20% or whatever and then adjust the tip upward so that the subtotal + tip would come out to a whole dollar amount. E.g., if the bill was $10.50, and she wanted to leave a 15% tip ($1.58), she would write down $2.50, so that the total would be $13 even. She said she liked having round numbers on her CC statement. I found this a bit goofy.

I ran into the "You don't tip on the price of the food + tax, just on the price of the food" line of thinking for the first time a couple years ago. The argument was that you should only be expected to tip on charges that you had control over. This seemed a bit like excessively fine distinction-drawing to me. But I suppose it could prevent Big Waitstaff from being in league with Big Government to push through enormous food and beverage tax increases.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:29 PM
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She said she liked having round numbers on her CC statement. I found this a bit goofy.

I've heard of people habitually doing something similar so it make it easy to check if your bill has been messed with after you sign it. Probably with out an even number, if you're worried about people padding your bills.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:32 PM
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199: It's called 'check sum'. The Consumerist had a bunch of stuff on it a while back. The math involved is simple, but probably not so simple after six beers.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:34 PM
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199: That's sensible. I think my friend was more just into the aesthetics of it, though.

Another friend had a (to me) unusual algorithm for tipping delivery people. Something like a base rate plus an additional $X per floor walked up in order to deliver the food.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:35 PM
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Just make the total bill end in the number of beers you had, then you can have a reminder of why you don't remember that dinner that cost $71.88.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:36 PM
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I also deduct from the tip I would otherwise give for waitstaff who fail to treat my child like an existing human being deserving of respect. Those who do, however, get a huge bonus.

So there is no way that you will give a normal tip if accompanied by a child. Either much lower or much higher than normal.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:37 PM
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Perhaps if they acknowledge Rory's existence, but not her desert of respect?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:40 PM
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It's called 'check sum'.

No, I don't mean check summing the result (though now I think of it, that would be pretty safe although a bit of pain in the ass. Easy enough if you get in the habit I guess). I just mean habitually making your totals end in the same number, or number of cents.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:54 PM
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198.2: I recently started going that; I don't know why, although I think it might have to do with having enrolled in that thing that auto-rounds debit transactions into your savings account.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:57 PM
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btw, for those who haven't run into it before, check summing is a standard technique to catch computational errors. There are a number of ways you could do this for restaurant/bar tabs.

I suspect the more fun you've been having I suspect the more likely you are to forget to do it or to mess it up.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 2:57 PM
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205: If you wanted to up your tip, why bother altering the cents? You'd screw with the dollar part by turning a '1' into a '4' or '7'.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:02 PM
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A bartender friend told me that rounding credit-card tips to make the total come out a whole dollar creates annoyance at the end of the night when the bartender has to count out her credit-card tips from the cash drawer.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:05 PM
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206: I recently started going that; I don't know why

Marriage changes people, man.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:11 PM
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191: This may be a one kid versus two kid issue -- people I know with one kid seem to view them as a much less likely source of mayhem than those with two or more. And mine, separately, are much more civilized than they are together.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:20 PM
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203: I suppose it is conceivable one could be nice to Rory, but still provide mediocre service overall. That would get a normal tip. My experience, though, is that waitstaff that will concern itself with the dining please of a child tends to provide pretty stellar service overall, and I am pretty generous with people who make me happy. (And making my kid happy makes me happy... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:22 PM
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211: Yeah, I can see that. And I think only-children are more predisposed toward behaving like precocious little adults. (Which, though not always a good thing, is good for dining experiences.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:26 PM
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And I think only-children are more predisposed toward behaving like precocious little adults.

You see this especially with 8-12 year old only children. A lot more of their interaction is with adults, so that's who they copy, and they have the mental wherewithal to pull it off.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:30 PM
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And I think only-children are more predisposed toward behaving like precocious little adults.

For instance, by writing five page, data-driven proposals for purchasing a newt?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:31 PM
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Is this a good thread to ask if anyone has advice on opening a bank account in Canada? That seems the best way to avoid always dealing with exchange rates while I'm up there (which will be for a few years), plus I'm pretty sure there will be situations where I'll need a Canadian account.

(I'll be offline for a while in a few minutes, but I'll check back in on the thread. Sorry to ask and run, but I'm usually not reading comments until most people are asleep, so I figure I'd better ask now.)


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:37 PM
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215: Mmm. That, and B's stories about PK -- I bow to none in my prejudiced assessment of my kids' brilliance and general tendency to glow in the dark, but that sort of precociously adult behavior doesn't happen in Casa Breath, and I do think that it's related to having each other around as an influence competing with the adult influence.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:39 PM
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Cents duplicate the last two digits of the bill after adding the tip is fast and easy, and flags cheats without arithmetic when scanning the CC bill. Figure the approximate tip, and then add change to the tip so the final bill is 143.43

Biggest hassle is split checks with credit card payers; need to carry a fistful of small bills to make that work smoothly; cash is easier.

What if one parent is childish? My kid didn't lean "pull my finger" or how to snatch food from an unwatched plate at school, let me tell you. kid vid


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:45 PM
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If you wanted to up your tip, why bother altering the cents? You'd screw with the dollar part by turning a '1' into a '4' or '7'.

For that case, it would make more sense to do something obvious/easy, like make the pennies be the sum (modular) of all the previous digits.

The case I'd heard of was something different though. Maybe they were always putting the date in as pennies? Something to keep track of false charges, or track when they were swiped, or whatever. I can't remember the details.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:48 PM
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Or maybe it was just 218.first


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:49 PM
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eb: I lived in Canada for years. No special issues opening an account. I had accounts with Bank of Montreal and Royal (now RBC) and prefer Royal (and still have an account with them even though I've been back in the states for 10 years. (Uni pension money goes into it.)


Posted by: jackie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:49 PM
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eb: Canada has big banks and (unlike the US) very few small ones. So you basically have a choice of 5. Very much like the US, though, the large banks mostly suck.

So you can get an account much the same as here (and, like here, probably need a SIN before you can). You'll have the same problems in both directions as far as credit goes, probably (i.e. no credit record). You may have to have an address before they'll open one.

Also like the US, depending what you're needs are, you'll often do better with a small credit union if one is convenient. Where are you going to be?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:55 PM
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I'll be a grad student, so what I probably should do first is check out what the credit union situation is at the university. It might be that everything has to wait until I'm through the study permit process.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 3:58 PM
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You may have to have an address before they'll open one.

Yeah, I need to work on this. I'm a little concerned that I didn't try to go with student housing. I'm hoping it's not too hard to find a reasonable room to rent in Vancouver, though I haven't really done much beyond search some listings so far.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:01 PM
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209: I have considered your point, and (since it's not like I wasn't going to be tipping in whole number amounts anyhow) have decided I don't care.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:05 PM
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223: Right. I'd find out what the local situation is, there might be something very convenient. I suspect you won't be able to open any account until you have an SIN (like an SSN).

As for the large banks, like in the US they are fairly interchangeable. You'll find people who are happy with all of them, and people who have been treated badly by all of them.

Credit is often a problem when moving across borders. Assume some of your utilities etc. may require a deposit.

Vancouver is a bit expensive, but I don't think you'll have too much trouble finding a room. Perhaps easier near SFU than UBC, but either should be ok.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:05 PM
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the good thing about cash is that if you and your friend decide to buy/sell something, you can do it w/o figuring out a barter. like, a distortion pedal or jacket or something. or asking someone to buy an extra fifth when they stop by the liquor store. things that a bit to much to just ask for outright, and w/o trying to run a tab against all the people you ever take stuff from/give stuff to.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:07 PM
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I hadn't considered the credit issue, but as long as there are ways around it while I work on getting a credit record, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. I figure at worst I'll be acting as if I were traveling for a while - with my foreign credit/debit cards* - before I can take advantage of being a quasi-resident (at which point, I'll begin draining the soccial service sector of all of its resources). I'm assuming that nothing can (or will) go so wrong that I won't be able to start my program.

*Bank of America is supposed to have some reciprocal agreements with a couple of the Canadian banks on fees/exchange rates.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:16 PM
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217:That, and B's stories about PK -- I bow to none in my prejudiced assessment of my kids' brilliance and general tendency to glow in the dark, but that sort of precociously adult behavior doesn't happen in Casa Breath

You mean like this sort of behavior?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:19 PM
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228: Yeah, it shouldn't be a problem. I just mention it because a lot of people get surprised --- without a credit record you can end up putting an extra deposit on phone, cable, utilities, etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:22 PM
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229: Don't tell B, but I think PK's been getting his rocket designs from a pr0n site.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:27 PM
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231: When I was PK's age--maybe a little older--I designed a little space fighter for myself. It looked kinda like an x-wing, and kinda like a viper, but no I realize that it mostly looked like a little flying cock. I drew it on everything.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:35 PM
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I (well it started out as my parents, but they've not used it in years)'ve an account with the local used book store. its because they'll give 1/4 the sell value of used books i bring in if i take cash, but 1/2 the value as store credit. and since they're not a chain, they odn't have a 'gift card' thing worked out.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:41 PM
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I was raised to feel that 15% was the standard tip, unless service had been truly abysmal. Given what I know about the service industry, I generally try to tip 20%, rounding up to the nearest dollar, unless the bill is over $50, in which case I'll generally add on another few bucks. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out anywhere nicer than McDonald's. Sometimes I tip more if I'm out with someone who is hard-to-please. But then I try not to eat out with those people more than absolutely necessary.

Church groups meeting at Perkins, Denny's or independent greasy spoons are notoriously the worst tippers. Like $1 on a 7 person, $55 table. Everyone I've talked to whose waited tables at those kinds of restaurants agrees.

Once, working a temp job at the convention center in the little hot-dog-and-popcorn stand, a German businessman tried to tip me $1 on a $3 tab. I threw it back in his face and yelled "This is for Belgium, Hun!"


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:45 PM
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Also, where's the Shearer perspective to liven things up?


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:45 PM
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||
Speaking of money, does anyone have a recommendation on low-volume bill counters? We could really use one at work, it seems the cheapest are around $100, but I don't want to buy one that will just fall apart in a few weeks. Any thoughts?
||>


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:51 PM
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unless the bill is over $50, in which case I'll generally add on another few bucks

This seems backwards to me. I'm more likely to do a straight percentage on the higher checks and add a bit on the small ones.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:54 PM
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168 Yeah, how much do you tip in europe?

173 168: I've done 10% for a job very well done. 5-10% I guess. But I'm like LB, it feels really weird leaving that little (for no good reason, but it does).

It's not that simple, is it? I thought there was a lot of country-to-country variation. In some places I was told 10% is standard and in others that 5% is pretty much the most anyone ever leaves. (I tend to go 10% everywhere in Europe, because I also feel weird leaving less.)

Offhand I'm thinking Switzerland was the place where leaving a 10% tip seemed most alien to people.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 4:55 PM
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237: My rationale is that people who work in places where I'm likely to drop $80 for a meal for two people are not working as many tables, and had better not be hassling me to move along fast either. Part of the condition of their employment is that they expect to make better-than-average tips. I should clarify that I wouldn't necessarily add extra to a large bill if I were just paying my share at the pizza joint with a large party or something like that.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:00 PM
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239: I guess I come at it from something a bit like Di's hourly wage thing, thinking that the people who are working in noodle shops and such are hopping pretty hard and still coming up way short of people working a few tables for an hour or two each and being tipped 18-20% of dinner plus wine.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:13 PM
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Once, working a temp job at the convention center in the little hot-dog-and-popcorn stand, a German businessman tried to tip me $1 on a $3 tab. I threw it back in his face and yelled "This is for Belgium, Hun!"

I'm confused. Is this too little? 33%? Or did you drop a 0? I'll generally leave a dollar on the bar if I'm getting a $4 beer, say. I was under the impression that was OK.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 5:14 PM
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No, no, it was just a totally inappropriate tipping situation, and the German was only tipping because he'd heard that people in America became angry if you didn't tip. It was just weird. I was making like 6.50/hr for that temp gig, and this was back in 1995 or so.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:00 PM
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But you can't use them to buy things, can you?

Because merchants won't take them, not because they're not real checks. And yes, that matters: if someone does accept one from you and your bank pays it, you have no gripe.

I used one at Wal Mart. In 1998. Oh, and at various independent merchants, also 1998. So maybe they've gotten more tense since then.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:11 PM
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235

Also, where's the Shearer perspective to liven things up?

I think restaurants should be required to prominently post the amount they report to the IRS as their average tip percentage so I can tip appropriately.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 6:34 PM
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One of Billmon's last posts on his blog was about almost missing a cruise in Egypt, because he didn't have cash. In the past he would have carried travelers' checks, but he'd gotten used to the ubiquity of ATMs and places taking plastic and was unprepared.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:06 PM
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244 is fantastic.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:32 PM
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43: Oh, and I wonder how wispa buys hot dogs and banh mi and the like from street vendors w/o cash.
Most street vendors take eftpos, too. Why wouldn't they? They'd miss an awful lot of customers.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:39 PM
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Most street vendors have fancy card-scanning machines?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:45 PM
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everyone of them paying by credit card, waiting for the stupid slow machine to print a receipt, taking their time signing the receipt
Another one - my credit card has a PIN on it, the same as the rest. I haven't ever signed for a purchase (it's possible to do so, but I can't think why you would). Australian and American store clerks stare blankly at you like you're nuts when you mention it, which I don't get - Visa is the same company everywhere, why would they leave off a feature that encourages people to spend more?


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:47 PM
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248: Most street vendors have fancy card-scanning machines?
Yes. They may or may not take credit, but virtually all of them will accept everything else. Like I said, they'd pass up a lot of customers otherwise. There is probably a lower concentration of such vendors than in NYC though.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:52 PM
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250: Are they wireless devices? My grandmother (who travels to art shows to sell her wares) uses a credit card machine that connects over cell phone networks, but my impression is that (1) it's very slow, and (2) it's rather expensive.

On a similar note, a smaller band came through town recently and they had an iPhone app they could use to process credit-card purchases for merch. I wondered who was on the hook if someone passed a fraudulent card. Normally, the vendor (in this case, the band) eats it unless they can prove a cardholder's chargeback wrong. But I don't know for the iPhone app.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 7:57 PM
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my credit card has a PIN on it

Genius! If only someone would introduce that idea in this poor benighted country. The mental leap from "debit card with PIN" to "credit card with PIN" is just too great for us, I'm afraid.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:01 PM
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It's pronounced "PIN number".


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:05 PM
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Where the hell does wispa live?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:11 PM
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Complicating matters is that in the US you can use your debit card "as debit" by entering a PIN or "as credit" by signing, and often the choice produces different consequences for both customer and vendor in terms of fees, and for the customer regarding stuff like "reward points" from MasterCard or whatever.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:11 PM
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Visa is the same company everywhere, why would they leave off a feature that encourages people to spend more?

Because - and I know this may come as a shock - financial and banking regulations differ from country to country.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:14 PM
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251: Are they wireless devices?
A more fixed vendor might have a wired one, but mostly I think they're wireless. I don't really know which are which in specific though. It isn't noticeably slower than any other. I guess they may run over cellular data networks now rather than cellphone dialing, which would save time.

252: Genius! If only someone would introduce that idea in this poor benighted country. The mental leap from "debit card with PIN" to "credit card with PIN" is just too great for us, I'm afraid.
The part that puzzles me is that Visa and Mastercard don't introduce it everywhere. It's not like they aren't aware of the idea or the practicalities of implementing it. Why have it in some distant backwater and not in their home market?


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:19 PM
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I just remembered a story: AB's old HS friend has married a Frenchman. They came to visit some years back, and after touring them up and down the Steel Valley (the guy is an industrial historian), we found a place still serving relatively late on a Sunday. We had a great meal, and shut down the place. A couple days later, we got a call from them - they had picked up the tab but, used to Paris, they left no tip - on a $100 bill, when people had to stay late for us. We came by the next day with a $20 and told them which server it had been.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:21 PM
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Where the hell does wispa live?

She's not saying, but she might wispa it in your ear.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:21 PM
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In grad school I used to stand in line behind a long line of undergrads buying a cup of coffee, or an apple, or a pen, everyone of them paying by credit card, waiting for the stupid slow machine to print a receipt, taking their time signing the receipt.... It was not so rare to spend fifteen or twenty minutes in the checkout line at the "convenience" store if I went at the wrong time of day.

Yes, this. I can say definitively that I don't buy a lot of items in general, and my incidental purchases drop even more when the customer base is as you describe.

At present I sometimes get a morning bagel at a busy stop. They take credit cards, but the machine is physically far away from the cash register and they have an [illegal under state law] minimum required purchase, so probably 1 customer in 90 uses it. I've stood there and watched them churn through the customers and there is just no way that an electronic transaction could ever be that fast.

They make money on volume -- I've seen customers stop and give up and go to one of the other nearby coffee/bagel places if the line is "too long" (apparently visually about 6 people in front of the small counter). The owner is always watching like a hawk to make sure the sandwich maker and the cashier are as speedy as they should be.

Cash has other advantages: You can leave exact change on the counter and leave, even if the cashier has no time for you. This happens a lot at the coffee place. Back in the day I used to do it a lot when buying newspapers. You can even jump in line -- nobody cares if you do, because you're not holding them up.

And cash is anonymous. I can't be the only person who sometimes feels sufficiently weirded out at a restaurant or store that I don't want my personal details being handed over to the staff.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:22 PM
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To wit: in the US, merchants are protected against fraud in card-present transaction. In the UK and most of Europe, merchants are not protected in card-present transactions unless they use Chip-and-PIN.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:24 PM
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You can leave exact change on the counter and leave, even if the cashier has no time for you. This happens a lot at the coffee place. Back in the day I used to do it a lot when buying newspapers. You can even jump in line -- nobody cares if you do, because you're not holding them up.

These are not behaviors universally beloved by retail staff, even in cash-only establishments.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:24 PM
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254: Where the hell does wispa live?
A provincial South Pacific backwater.

256: Because - and I know this may come as a shock - financial and banking regulations differ from country to country.
Are American regulations are somehow more restrictive? (Or Australian regulations, which I do know, and they aren't.) I can't really see what reason there could be to prohibit that, or why they couldn't buy themselves a law change for everybody's benefit. They seem to be able to lobby their way to laws suiting them in every other regard, and there's really no reason for the regulations to ban it now.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:25 PM
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there is just no way that an electronic transaction could ever be that fast.

Whoops, to continue that that, I meant "unless that much-touted radio-wave non-swipe card thing ever catches on." Last I looked there were problems with people easily grabbing your details from the air when you were waving the card in front of the 7-Eleven scanner or whatever, so I don't know. Is it that RFID or is that something else? I haven't bothered to keep up with the details at all.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:25 PM
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I guess I understand the benefits of never needing any cash, but I can't see how it's in any way preferable to swipe a card and then enter a PIN at a street vendor, rather than handing over a $5. I don't view it as any kind of hassle to keep $20 in my pocket for small cash transactions, then use a card for everything else.

Also, it's become the norm to sign with an electronic pen at most retailers; again not sure how this is more hassle-rific than a PIN.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:26 PM
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I was surprised by the ubiquity of chip reader type machines when we were in London recently (the last time was six years ago) -- all of my cards are swipe only, and I felt like a real dinosaur.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:26 PM
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These are not behaviors universally beloved by retail staff, even in cash-only establishments.

Fair enough, but I've actually never had anyone be grumpy at me over this. I'm fully prepared to believe that it happens, and probably more so in areas where there's such heavy foot traffic that you're in real danger of having a passerby swipe the cash, but I'm not accustomed to it being a big problem.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:28 PM
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I fear change (not the coin kind) when it comes to money. I'd just about nerved myself to use on-line bill pay for my utilities and then the NYT comes out yesterday with a story about my main worry with that (that the bank won't stop paying), so I'm still writing checks for all bills.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:29 PM
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Are American regulations are somehow more restrictive?

Wispa's situation is intriguing me. I'm starting to wonder if the the costs and benefits are different in the US for some weird extraneous reason, like how our lack of universal healthcare has all these random side effects that seem peculiar to the UKers.

Possible costs/benefits that have been identified in this thread:
-Risk to merchant in case of fraud
-Risk to cardholder in case of fraud
-Advantage to merchant in undereported/nontaxed income on cash transactions

What are the other variables that are subject to regulation or law?

Plus of course there are variables *not* subject to regulation, such as cultural "We've always done it this way" inertia, and logistical reasons (cab drivers here hate getting paid by credit card in part because of the lag time before the money gets deposited in their accounts).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:36 PM
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Oh, here's one backwards thing that really annoys me: I've set up an automatic payment for my rent. But along with the rent, I pay various other costs (water, heating) which vary from month to month. And the company I rent from is incapable of just billing me the appropriate amount each month. Instead I had to choose an amount to auto-pay, which turns out to be too low in some of the winter months and too high in the summer, and then have to work out some arrangement to deal with the difference. It's pretty ridiculous.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:37 PM
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Whoops, to continue that that, I meant "unless that much-touted radio-wave non-swipe card thing ever catches on."
This exists (very) locally too, as a separate system but connected to the eftpos network, or at least to the machines from one provider. Stored-value system only so far, which I guess avoids some of the problems you could have when it's connected directly to a bank account. They were originally introduced by one of the local bus companies to pay fares and seem to be going reasonably well without any security problems to date. The advertising blurbs suggest it's a new and more secure system than others, so perhaps they really have been fixed.

I guess I understand the benefits of never needing any cash, but I can't see how it's in any way preferable to swipe a card and then enter a PIN at a street vendor, rather than handing over a $5.
But I'd have to be carrying the $5, which I don't. They have it because otherwise they'd miss out on customers, not so much because they'd inherently prefer it. I won't carry cash solely to use for impulse purchases, and it's not going to be used for anything else.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:41 PM
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270: I reluctantly agreed to auto-debit with my mortgage because the bank was offering a quarter-percentage-point discount on the rate. But I really don't like how it removes my discretion in deciding how much extra I want to put down toward the principal each month.

I have to either low-ball an amount that I am willing to pay EVERY month, year round, resign myself to writing an extra check (and where do I send it? And how do I know it gets credited properly, without the little coupon book?) on the months when I want to pay extra, and/or call up the bank and change the amount every time I want to make an adjustment.

OK, I'll stop serial commenting now.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:43 PM
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Are American regulations are somehow more restrictive? (Or Australian regulations, which I do know, and they aren't.) I can't really see what reason there could be to prohibit that, or why they couldn't buy themselves a law change for everybody's benefit. They seem to be able to lobby their way to laws suiting them in every other regard, and there's really no reason for the regulations to ban it now.

The other way around. The card issuers like Chip-and-PIN because it reduces fraud, particularly fraud they have to pay for. Customers don't give a shit either way. Merchants don't like it because it means they have to buy new card readers and don't have to pay for fraud from stolen cards anyway.

Hence the efforts by the card issuers elsewhere to get their local governments to require Chip-and-PIN.

It's also worth noting that the US got electronic banking pretty early on, and so didn't have the benefit of hindsight in designing their systems, but now faces a large transition cost to something better. You'd be horrified if you knew how EFT transactions work here.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:45 PM
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I won't carry cash solely to use for impulse purchases, and it's not going to be used for anything else.

Ah, there's the difference. I have no problem carrying cash for impulse purchases; indeed, it's part of my budgeting for such things ("Do I splurge on a slice of pizza for lunch? Why not, it's Friday and I still have $10 left from last week." As opposed to, "Visa always says, 'Yes.'").

Also, I'd rather chew gravel than pay a surcharge for a sub-$5 purchase made with a card.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:47 PM
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But I'd have to be carrying the $5, which I don't. They have it because otherwise they'd miss out on customers, not so much because they'd inherently prefer it. I won't carry cash solely to use for impulse purchases, and it's not going to be used for anything else.

You would if there was a critical mass of merchants that didn't have card-scanning machines. This is a collective action problem.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:47 PM
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One possible reason that has been suggested to me is how disconnected the U.S. banking system is - I gather transferring money from one bank to another often requires sending an actual cheque to the other party, and other such things. I don't think that's really sufficient though, and it doesn't explain Australia.

Merchants don't like it because it means they have to buy new card readers
Do they generally own the machines? That could be a systemic difference - here they are mostly leased from the provider, so a new stock of them can be rolled out within a few years. I am seeing that locally for the contactless smartcard system at the moment; I can't say whether it happened for any other changes that are less noticeable.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 8:52 PM
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Also, I'd rather chew gravel than pay a surcharge for a sub-$5 purchase made with a card.
I can't recall ever paying a surcharge. Some places have minimum amounts for electronic transactions, but they're usually lower than that. Like I said above, I have bought a single stamp electronically before (45c, at the time). If I'd had some change on me I wouldn't have, but I didn't because I really don't encounter cash at all. The last cash-only merchant I used (because it was in a hundred-year-old building with no phone line) switched a year or two ago, and that was it.

You would if there was a critical mass of merchants that didn't have card-scanning machines. This is a collective action problem.
Right. That was my point; why hasn't it happened?

It seems like it's to everybody's advantage almost immediately. Fixed merchants (rather than street vendors) have no downside and plenty of upside, which should tip the balance.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:00 PM
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"It seems like it's to everybody's advantage almost immediately."

I still don't see how a card is to the consumers advantage. It isn't like cash is heavy, hard to get, or difficult to understand. If it isn't causing a problem, why should I change?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:07 PM
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I still don't see how a card is to the consumers advantage.

Fear of being mugged if you're carrying around a good bit of cash (probably far less likely than many fear mongering types would have you believe; but it's a risk, and we're naming risks)? Threat of irrecoverable loss? I don't know if people really think this way but: fewer grimy, germ-y bits of paper and metal to touch?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:20 PM
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279: I guess what I like most about cash it that it doesn't require the power to be working, or anybody's system to keep functioning and that your losses are limited to what you are carrying at that moment.

But, I could see how having been mugged or lost thousands in a fire would change someone's mind quickly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:38 PM
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I guess what I like most about cash it that it doesn't require the power to be working, or anybody's system to keep functioning

It requires these things for you to get your hands on more of it, though.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:41 PM
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281: AU CONTRAIRE!!!


Posted by: OPINIONATE LOOTER | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:43 PM
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You know what's free? Love.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:44 PM
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282: Somebody looted your D. Instant Karma!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:46 PM
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281: I always keep enough to buy food and gas. I've known too many people kept without power for very long periods of time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:47 PM
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I was once eating in a restaurant when the power went off and stayed off for quite some time. Luckily I had cash with me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:50 PM
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"Luckily I had cash with me."

He sang and the comped dinner?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:52 PM
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"they" not "the"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 9:52 PM
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You know what's free? Love.

And Willy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:12 PM
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First comes the love, then comes the willy.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:25 PM
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290: Ur doin it rong.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:35 PM
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Then comes the baby...and you move to Philly?

...and you name it Billy?

...and you get all swilly?

teo, I definitely learned a different version of this one.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:35 PM
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First comes the willy, then the transit cop shows-up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:37 PM
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OT: While the neti pot does provide significant relief on the congestion front, coughing up nasty green salty crud is not necessarily an improvement.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:43 PM
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Maybe some smoked paprika to cut the salt?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:45 PM
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Think markets. Premium artisanally recycled salt.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:47 PM
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294 You may be using too much salt. I do not experience this side effect. But it also sounds like it's going down post-nasal drip style and then being coughed up, whereas all mine tends to drain from the nose about 10 minutes after neti potting.

(Sorry for the detail; I'm trying to help.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:47 PM
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296: You think Big Salt is going to sit by and let that happen? No friggin' way.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:49 PM
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Is there a prize if three threads in a row have 342 comments?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 10:50 PM
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297: I think it's just little too plugged to drain properly, but I dunno for sure. It's certainly better than it was, and the side effects aren't as bad as those of a good oops in a kayak in the surf, so on balance it's a big win.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:02 PM
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Quick, we need 41 more comments!


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:52 PM
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Or we could post negative comments on the other threads to bring them down to 302.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 07-28-09 11:53 PM
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This place seems a little slow tonight to get to 342.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:06 AM
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Besides, no one wants 40 more comments about nasal drainage.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:09 AM
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Anyone have an opinion on True Blood? It was recommended by someone of dubious taste, and now I've watched some episodes and think it seems like sort of trashy soap opera. Which is still potentially enjoyable, but I'm not seeing it as high-quality TV from what I've watched so far.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:11 AM
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Q: What's green and worth millions?
A: George Mucus.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:14 AM
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Q: What's the slimiest video game?
A: Catarrh Hero.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:16 AM
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Q: What's the grossest movie ever made?
A: Pink Phlegmingos.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:18 AM
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Hey, only 33 more to go.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:19 AM
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A provincial South Pacific backwater.

If you're where I think you are, then those bus cards are quite cool.

(Wish we had them here, as opposed to the dumb versions that we got.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:23 AM
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Q: What do you do with slimy credit card charges?
A: Disputum.

I'll go quietly, officer.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:29 AM
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Jason over at TWOP is about ready to marry True Blood, but I'm sure the Mineshaft Consensus will as always be hate hate hate. I'm most of the way through the first season and while it definitely improved from the first episode, it's still filed under "guilty pleasure".


Posted by: HamLove | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:32 AM
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312: Jacob, you mean? I don't think I trust his opinions. He's the one whose recaps involve not so much plot summary or criticism but some weird mysticosexual pseudointellectual haze, right?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:44 AM
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I'll go quietly, officer.

Didn't even make it to Booger Nights.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:49 AM
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Yeah, Jacob, sorry. He's definitely tapping into theme and subtext that would be easy to overlook but at the same time giving a pass to some pretty risible stuff. His poetic read on BSG was breathtaking at times, but I think he got stuck.


Posted by: HamLove | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:53 AM
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Did you hear about the man who lost his job and his savings but couldn't get rid of his cold? He had to hock a loogie just to pay his bills.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:55 AM
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It's better to lower your expectorations than to aim high and fail to hit your mark.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:03 AM
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I like True Blood. But it is a guilty pleasure, not something I push on people.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:11 AM
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I gather transferring money from one bank to another often requires sending an actual cheque to the other party, and other such things.

That really is mediaeval. (well, no actually, it's early 20th century. In the middle ages I think you had to send bags of gold to the other part.)


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:12 AM
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The U.S. had a big clearing house association by the late 19th century. The big banks would get together and figure out which checks canceled each other out so that they'd only have to move whatever amounts were left over. I think smaller banks could get access to the system for some relatively high fee, so long as they hadn't pissed off J.P. Morgan or his friends.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 1:21 AM
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I've seen a bunch of ads in the last couple of days in Canada for the chip and pin cards, and I hear that a lot of places are switching over. I tried to get my BF's Dad to explain why the chip was safer than the strip plus PIN, but he didn't understand the technology.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 2:59 AM
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You don't need to understand technology, surely? If someone finds or steals my card, if all they have to do is sign, they can forge my signature. If they need to know my PIN - well, they're rather more screwed. (In a shop - I know they have those fancy machines for cash dispensers.)

As for mortgages - we pay ours by direct debit. We just finished a fixed rate thing, so now our payments are much lower. C set up a standing order for the difference so we're now overpaying a decent chunk per month, and if I ever want to make an overpayment (e.g. from selling stuff), I do it online, via internet banking. Couldn't be easier - I could overpay 10p a day every day from my armchair and it would only take a couple of minutes.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:10 AM
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Do they still move gold between the vaults of different countries in the basement of the NY Fed?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:29 AM
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You don't need to understand technology, surely? If someone finds or steals my card, if all they have to do is sign, they can forge my signature. If they need to know my PIN - well, they're rather more screwed.

Right, but the question is why chip plus PIN instead of strip plus PIN.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:47 AM
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Oh yes. Note to self: read ALL the words in a sentence.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:56 AM
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324. Seems to be at least partly about conforming to a standard created by VISA and MCharge. It's meant to be more secure, but wiki suggests this may be illusory.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:10 AM
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A surprisingly tricky task, I often find. How long has the chip thing been ubiquitous over there? I'm going to be sad if it becomes the only option for point of sale there and most of our cards remain strip only. I want my technology to be compatible!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:11 AM
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Oh, thanks for the wikipedia link. That's useful. Boy, if things become fully incompatible, that will suck.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:17 AM
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How long has the chip thing been ubiquitous over there?

There are still isolated pockets, but basically about three years. I still can't remember the PIN for either of my CCs because I try not to use them except online.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:18 AM
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My 8 year old knows my PIN, from watching me use it. Quite handy now - he can pay for stuff whilst I pack.

It's taken a while to spread though - in France 6 years ago everywhere was chip & PIN and we'd never seen it before.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:41 AM
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Quite handy now - he can pay for stuff whilst I pack buy himself stuff when I'm not looking.

Fixed.


Posted by: OFE | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 6:53 AM
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Supposedly no American card issuer has Chip & PIN. You would think that one of the big ones would offer it as a travellers' card for business people who spend lots of time overseas. But no. Maybe Canada switching will create that option.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:17 AM
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Chip & PIN sounds delicious. Those Brits with their fried everything.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:20 AM
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I totally associate Chip & PIN with the far far future, bcz the ubiquitous voiceover artist was Star Trek's own Patrick Stewart. Also my sister's boyf now calls Stewart "Chip & Pin" whenever his mugg appears on TV.


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:39 AM
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Witt: I can't be the only person who sometimes feels sufficiently weirded out at a restaurant or store that I don't want my personal details being handed over to the staff.

Nope. That's basically the primary reason for cash - I don't like being tracked. Otherwise, I'd use a debit card, because credit cards are vile and evil and wrong and the work of Satan.

Do they still move gold between the vaults of different countries in the basement of the NY Fed?

Ya know, I don't know; I don't think they do. US gold reserves are in Fort Knox, so if they do, it's in small amounts. Aha. I am wrong. They do continue to store foreign gold.

Anyways, bank interchanges, etc., are all handled on FedWire and some other networks. Nobody writes a check.

max
['Bleh.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 7:46 AM
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332: That would require some US corporate functionary to acknowledge the existence of other countries. Not gonna happen.

This is a bit of a sore point for me, as I am in a never-ending set of skirmishes with banks, credit card companies, and businesses over the fact that while my mom has a bank account in the US, she does not live here. Apparently anyone using a US credit card from Africa is presumptively a scammer, and the only way the CC companies will accommodate them is to pretend they are on vacation for 30 days, which requires a monthly call to the credit card company to let them know that my mom's 45 year African vacation has been extended for yet another 30 days.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 8:09 AM
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Can't she get an African credit card? I don't know whether every country has a robust enough banking system to issue credit cards, but South Africa must, and I'm sure lots of other countries. But if she's been doing this for 45 years, there must be some good reason.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:09 AM
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Tog's mom is so old...


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:18 AM
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337: If memory serves, tog's mentioned before that this particular card is for making purchases from US merchants, as a surprising number of them do not accept foreign-issued credit cards. I presumed she also had different paytypes for use more locally, though I'm not sure he made that explicit.

Of course, I might be misremembering the whole thing!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:42 AM
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Man, if that's it, it really sucks -- US merchants and CC companies have set it up so there's no way to make purchases from Africa that's not presumptively fraudulent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:45 AM
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337, 339: That can't be right. My dad has a credit card issued by an Egyptian bank that he always uses when he visits.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:52 AM
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341: I thought it was more for online purchases rather than card-is-presented transactions, but I'll stop speculating and wait for togolosh to clarify.

Regardless, a lot of US online vendors do not accept foreign-issued cards. (Many do, of course, but certainly not anywhere close to all of them.)


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:56 AM
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332: My newly renewed Chase card has some kind of chip that they were very excited about introducing. I didn't pay much attention to their explanation. But there is a chip! So that I don't have to hand my card to the salesperson! Dunno.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 9:58 AM
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Stanley is correct. Part of it is merchant specific, since she's ordering stuff that isn't widely sold (special fabrics for the most part). It's compounded by the fact that she's trying to pay out of a US bank account in order to avoid silliness with foreign exchange, which Botswana places some strange limits on, so she keeps as much money as possible in US accounts, which also serves as a hedge against an inflationary spiral like the one that destroyed Zimbabwe's currency. I'm sure there's some way around the problem that I haven't found yet, but it's a problem that really ought not exist in the first place.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:09 AM
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I'm sure there's some way around the problem that I haven't found yet

Some banks allow the cardholder to place a foreign address on file, either as the primary billing address or as an alternate billing address, provided that cardholder also switch to paperless biling (because, you know, the bank doesn't want to pay to mail monthly statements abroad).

Varies wildly by bank, but it might be worth inquiring about if it's really a monthly headache.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:15 AM
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341- We'll, that's because Egypt isn't in Africa.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:22 AM
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Don't know where that extra punctuation came from...


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:23 AM
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345: Good suggestion. I'm thinking about switching banks anyway, since mine just got acquired by Citigroup, crown prince of predatory financial sociopaths.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 10:56 AM
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I wonder what percentage of attempted credit card transactions coming from Africa actually ARE fradulent. It has to be pretty high. And when a fraudulent purchase costs the merchant the cost of goods plus the cost of shipping plus a $25 chargeback fee and a non-fraudulent purchase only nets the merchant their profit margin, you can see why they might decide not to take a chance.

This might be a long shot, but it may be easier to convince merchants of your mom's trustworthiness using PayPal.

Also, stripes are much easier to fake or change than chips, from what I understand.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 12:17 PM
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310: If you're where I think you are, then those bus cards are quite cool.
Probably I am, and yeah, they're pretty neat. As a bus fare system it has some failings yours doesn't (integrated ticketing!), but for everything else it's fantastic. And fast.


Posted by: wispa | Link to this comment | 07-29-09 5:34 PM
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In Hong Kong nearly everyone has an "Octupus" card - it started off as a prepaid card for use on the Mass Transit Railway but now can be used in all forms of transprt, many kinds of shops and for all manner of services, vending machines etc etc
By arrangement with a card holder's bank it can then by automatically 'topped up'.
Extraordinarily convenient - and available too to tourists visiting the city.


Posted by: Herr Torquewrench | Link to this comment | 07-30-09 10:18 PM
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