retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has a story about how “credit card networks are finally ready to concede what has been obvious to shoppers and merchants for years: Signatures are not a useful way to prove someone’s identity. Later this month, four of the largest networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa — will stop requiring them to complete card transactions.”

From now on, it will be up to retailers to decide whether they want signatures. Walmart and Target are two that have decided to no longer require them.

It is, the Times writes, part of a broader societal shift: “The signature, a centuries-old way of verifying identity, is rapidly going extinct. Personal checks are anachronisms. Pen-and-ink letters are scarce. When credit card signatures disappear, handwritten authentications will be relegated to a few special circumstances: sealing a giant transaction like a house purchase, or getting a celebrity to autograph a piece of memorabilia — and even that is being supplanted by the cellphone selfie.”
KC's View:
One of the more interesting observations in the story is how some restaurants are concerned that eliminating the need for a signature will affect waiters’ tips - it is sort of like muscle memory, as patrons get the card receipt, calculate the tip, and then sign it.

There is one other reason for the move away from signatures, not reported by the Times: many young people don’t learn how to write in cursive, so they have no idea how to sign their names.

That’s a shame.