Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Playin' The Slots

Why do the designers of machines that accept credit cards for whatever service it is that will cost the user deep in t'purse make it so bleeding difficult to actually swipe1 the card to complete or, more often, initiate the transaction?

Consider: The vast majority of the world is right-handed2 and so will pull the credit card from a wallet, purse or little Kevlar™ envelope with the right hand. The natural action would then be to take the card orient it so that it is vertical with respect to its short edges and attempt to insert it in the slot provided.

The MTA machines that sell metrocards for use on the subway require the card be inserted flat, with the magnetic band pointed down, on the left side of the machine. The card must be oriented with the stripe to the right though, so even a lefty will be in trouble here. No doubt there is a sound design principle at work here. If only it were a little more obvious.

The LIRR ticket machines have the slot (again, card goes in flat with the stripe down) on the right, but at such a height that the user must employ an awkward cocked wrist arrangement. Then again, the LIRR has a long history of incompetence and being bloody awkward just for the heck of it, so we shouldn't look for more from them.

Gas pumps often employ a vertical slot. Huzzah! But the card has to go in backwards (lefty-fashion) so on any given day you can see drivers madly revolving their credit cards to get the bloody pump to recognise the bloody card. This is not funny, because these days a five second delay in swiping the card can mean another 5 cents a gallon for regular unleaded. I mean, if we had been put on the Earth to pay exorbitant gas prices we'd have been born in Europe!

Point-of-sale swipes usually require the card be upside-down and back-to-front. No doubt this arrangement won a major design award for someone.

Much more of this and I'll be forced back into using cash. Would do so now, only I haven't got any to speak of.

See, the ATM machine at my bank can only be unlocked by swiping my card and I can't figure out which of the four possible (horizontal) orientations actually unlocks the bulletproof glass door instead of flashing a little red light at me and sounding a buzzer.

  1. in the US sense rather than the UK one
  2. Un-PC but indisputably a fact. Swivel on it, lefty southpaw losers!

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