Couch Cat: Card swiping is king

16 August 2019
Author   Jackie Wilson Asheeke
Last week, I read a notice by the Payment Association of Namibia (PAN) informing the public that there are vendors out there that are ripping us off by charging and limiting us for card swiping when we buy goods and services. 
This non-profit association said that there are merchants that illegally add a surcharge on card transactions or that set minimum transaction amounts before they accept debit or credit cards.  They warned the public to expose these culprits and not pay such rip-offs.
I was in a café and ordered a cappuccino while I read my newspapers.  I didn’t have cash in my wallet, so I whipped out my debit card.  As the drink was N$25, I was told I could not use my card as it was below the minimum of N$50.  The waitron told me I must order a cake to push the bill over N$50.  I did not want cake, so why should I be forced to buy it?  I said they should either take the card for the payment for what I ordered, or I walk.  They swiped my card for N$25. 
Many times, I have been asked to pay in cash rather than pay “more” for using my credit card.  I will now report and expose every vendor who does this to me in the future.
The PAN notice says that merchants violating this law are doing a disservice to the buying public.  These violations of the payment laws is not an innocent “Oops”, but a calculated action to increase their bottom lines on the backs of their customers.  I think that shop owners pay a bank service charge each time a swiped payment is processed.  As a result, the vendors want to limit the number of swipes and recover those costs by passing them on to their customers directly.  It is so obvious to be pennywise and pound foolish; why antagonize your clients?  Just incorporate a portion of those costs into the product’s retail price and move on.
It is not rocket science to understand that vendors should make it easier for customers to pay, not harder.  They should cheer when I want to buy their goods, not penalize me.  Use of a card is the way payments are made these days.  Carrying cash is heading to extinction.  In two generations, I’d bet that people will rarely see cash money, as payments will only be made by swiping a card or using a smart phone app or something yet to be discovered.
The future is calling – even old fashioned bank cheques are dead in favour of EFTs, e-wallets, and other electronic payment mechanisms. 
With the petty criminals roaming around en masse waiting to pick a pocket or steal a handbag, having an empty wallet takes a target off your back.  Even tourists are encouraged to use their cards on holiday rather than cash. 
Increasingly in many countries, even newspaper kiosks or taxi cabs have swiping machines for very small amounts.  Ironically, with apps for payment using smart phones, swiping may even be obsolete soon! 
Merchants should encourage electronic payments to cut cash deposit fees at the bank and lessen the risk of armed robbery or thwart employees with sticky fingers. 
In urban areas in Namibia, swiping a card is king (for now)!  Vendors and merchants:  make it easier to swipe for all purchases and stop cheating your customers. 

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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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