I have recently returned from the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas. During the scant free time I had available, I took some time out to visit the local Apple store. As in all such stores, you are surrounded by loveliness, and I found myself coveting a
shiny new Macbook Air.
I blame my wife, because just before I left for Las Vegas, she asked me why I didn't upgrade my machine and commented on how tatty it looked. The case was cracked in a number of places, and I had been complaining about running out of horsepower.
After a few quick sums, I worked out the sweet spot in terms of price versus performance and sought out a retail assistant. He placed an order through his handheld device and we got down to payment. Firstly, because it's the US and they don't have chip and
pin, I had to produce photo ID to verify my identity.
Once that formality was over with, he asked me for a credit card. I selected the one that gives me the best rewards and passed it over. He swiped it and quick as a flash, he told me it had been declined. I chose my other credit card and once again it had
Luckily, I was accompanied by a friendly colleague who seeing the disappointment etched all over my face, offered to pay with his credit card. Once again, a quick swipe and the card was declined. He selected another and luckily this time, the transaction
Once I returned to my hotel, I phoned up one of the offending credit card companies, only to recieve a recorded message telling me that the fraud office is only open during UK office hours. Not exactly helpful.
When I spoke to my wife in the morning, she asked me if I had been on a spending spree. I asked why, and she told me that the credit card company had been phoning her every hour trying to get hold of me. They wouldn't take a contact number from her, because
that would be insecure. How is it any less secure than me phoning them from any number I choose?
In this day and age where people are more mobile than ever before, this is appalling customer service. Luckily, I was only buying a new toy, but I could have been stuck in some faraway land where the only way to escape would be to use my credit card.
So - why didn't I phone my bank to tell them I was going to be in Las Vegas? With the benefit of hindsight, I guess I should have done exactly that, but when you travel a lot, having to report in to each and every card company every time is a real drag.
The one time I did take the time to report my whereabouts, my bank was OK with the transaction but my card was blocked by Visa anyway!
How about an app where you can input all your credit card details and when you get to your destination, you fire it up. Using the GPS from the phone it can work out where you are, and you then tap in a PIN. You could even do it whilst you are in the immigration