Plastic? Only For My Cosmetic Surgery!

Posted on: 25/01/2011

This week Grumpy Granny talks about cutting up her cards and the highly topical issue of McDonald's payment methods…

Hello all, I was particularly delighted to be asked to contribute to cash-is-cool because I really love the stuff!

I actually only have one plastic card, my trusty Lloyd's debit card. It's all I need. I use it at my local ATM to get my cash out three times a week ('little and often' is my motto - did you ever meet my hubby?!). And of course I use it when you simply must use a card, for pesky internet shopping and the like.

But it wasn't always thus…

My deep loathing of cards harks back to the early seventies when one otherwise fine morning an envelope popped through the door proclaiming on the front that I had been selected to receive an "Access" card - and the card was inside!

What I didn't at first realise, was that there was no 'selection' involved. Millions of these cards were simply posted out to anyone who had an address and - hey presto - all recipients received a £250 credit limit.

Now, I realise that these days £250 is barely enough for a decent night out (no-one ever accused me of simple tastes), but way back then, those Access cards made everyone feel as rich as Arab Princes.

And, of course, £250 wasn't really the limit. When you hit that metaphorical ceiling, it would easily break, and you'd be given a new, higher limit.

I have to admit that Access went straight to my head. By the time the eighties came along, I had seven credit cards and outstanding balances equal to my annual salary. I spent most of my time moving my debt from one card to another, taking advantage of increasing credit limits to keep myself from sinking into an ever-growing ocean of debt.

Luckily, I eventually realised that I had to stop my use of credit cards or I would crack up. I trotted off to my local Citizens Advice Bureau and through them received debt counselling. It took me a lot longer than accumulating the debt, but within a few years I had paid it all off… and taken great pleasure in cutting all my cards up. That was really, really fun!

So, as you can imagine, with my negative experiences of how cards can get you into trouble, I am always on the lookout for over-promotion of the horrible things.

With last week came the most recent example of such hyping of cards: McDonald's - of Big Mac ill-repute - announced that they will accept 'contactless' cards.

Now, these cards are particularly sneaky. There is no security to protect the public from fraud. You simply wave it at a little box on the counter and, if the flaky technology works, the deal is done; no safe PIN number required.

The card issuers have been flogging (like a dead horse) this 'contactless' concept for years. It hasn't caught the imagination of the consumers, even though the supposed advantage is that using the card will cut down queuing time.
Which neatly brings me back to McDonald's.

Believe it or not, I do visit these 'purveyors of plastic' (plastic is a particularly apt description of the rolls they use). Children's Parties have a lot to answer for!

Anyway, every time I visit McDonald's, there are vast, chaotic queues. It is a complete McMadhouse.
However, the actual payment process takes no time at all. Your order is keyed into the till, which automatically calculates the required payment and you hand over the cash requested. It takes a mere few seconds. What takes time is the McDonald's staff trying to get the food together, bumping and pushing their way around the plethora of equipment they have to use.

So why aren't McDonald's concentrating on speeding up and rationalising there serving operations rather than promoting the use of pointless plastic cards?

Simple - the card issuers are paying them a fortune to use the new technology! The queues will be as long as ever, but we will be one step nearer to the Plastic-Only society the card issuers so crave.

As far as I am concerned, I will still pay for my Granddaughter's Chocolate Shake by cash. And I will do the same at her dentists, when he is attending to the cavities caused by all that sugar!

Do you have any sweet or not-so-sweet comments you'd like to say to Grumpy Granny? She'd love to hear from you, so please comment below!

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