Put your card behind the bar ? in 2014 ??

We went into one of our favourite local watering holes on Tuesday Night; ordered our usual lock_down"round" and normally it is put onto a "tab" for payment at the end of the visit, however on this occasion Jools was asked to "put her card behind the Bar". This apparently was a new policy because the establishment has been having an "unpaid bill" problem and decided this was the best way to solve it.

We were assured that there was no reflection on us, that is a policy and everyone would have to do so if they wanted a tab! (there was only one other table in the place at his time, however, subsequently some ladies came in ordered food and drink, and went and sat at a table without paying, so presumably they got a tab!)
 
Now I remember this being common in wine bars etc. in the 1980's & 90's (yes I am that old!), but hang on, this is a another millennium.  Jool's initial reaction was to simply leave and go elsewhere, but we did reflect that this was a place we frequent and like, (and good places in the "sticks" seem to be getting fewer and further), so after making our feelings known I lodged a card, being mine, it wasn't worth a lot anyway.
 
The more we thought about this policy, the more we considered that it was not so much a bad idea as an appalling one, from our view, but even more so from the viewpoint of the establishment, which was, by taking a payment card off customers, making itself liable not just for anything that happened whilst the card was in their possession, but also for anything that went wrong afterwards. Just think if payments were subsequently wrongly deducted, or if the user suffered identity theft the first reaction would be "the card never leaves my sight.., er wait a minute last week when I went to **** they took the card behind the bar"
 
Our reaction has been that we now pay for stuff here at the point of purchase, meaning that where in the past we might go back and order more, now we don't. It certainly makes us feel a lot less "warm and cuddly" about the place, we are clearly not "valued regulars" but potential "hit and runners"!  (Trade figures suggest that people on a tab spend 30% – 50% more than those "paying as they go along")
 
Discussing this with people since, most have reacted more strongly than we did, one colleague said "nobody other than me gets their hands on my card" and when I consider this I note that, when he is taking card sale from customers he won't handle their card, getting them to put it into the machine themselves. (this is probably overkill but we see his thinking).
 
The staff at our local bank branches were insistent  that you should  "never do this", as it was breaking the terms of your agreement with your card issuer.
barclaycards_view
 
Talking to Barclaycard they state clearly that  you should never part with your card, and this seems to be the view across all the Card issuers.
 
The Independent newspaper did an article about this some time ago entitled " 
So why are they doing this, when it seems so rash?
You can easily understand where they are coming from, this venue has recently extended outside and it is easy to leave without ever coming back into the bar area. In common with many successful establishments they have very busy times when it is simply impossible to "keep an eye on everyone" 
 
 Whilst this measure will undoubtedly cut down on the problem, anyone seriously planning not to pay will still find a way of doing so (leave a stolen card?) and as for those who are simply distracted and forget, the majority would have sheepishly returned later and made payment – indeed over the years I have twice done this from a pub / restaurant myself, and once drove off from a Petrol Station and got home before realising I hadn't paid, so I am not a stranger to returning embarrassed and "paying up".
 
My thoughts though are they should consider the implications and loss of their business this policy means and come up with a better idea, and I am left wondering if technology cannot come up with a better system ? – any suggestions or ideas welcome!
 
We have have found quite a lot of restaurant & bar POS systems that have a variety of methods to enter and control bar tabs, however I can see if your existing system does not have that facility, changing it simply to control this is probably uneconomic
 
Cardsafe is a system of separate visible and lockable drawers into which customers cards can be put at the start of the tab and taken-out at the end of the order re-assuring the customer that "funny-business" is not really possible
 
There are a number of "apps" for iphone and android, most of these are US based and it is unclear how many of these actually apply to this particular issue, (several look to be more "ordering on-line" than keeping an open tab). there is a good US round-up review here: 
 
There are also apps like Clip and Dash, again though these seem to be either Antipodean or American, with much less available in Europe and specifically UK.
 
The one UK based system I found was from ensygnia but again this seems very much based on placing orders, (which I don't think is the issue here) with payment control as a "bolt-on", but it may be modular.
 
Any intrepid developers who want to find a field that is open for useful apps, this might be an idea, indeed why not offer a link-in to one or more of the new on-line payment systems, PAYG / SumUp / iZettle or perhaps the forthcoming Apple Pay?
 
However whatever solution may be best it is certainly NOT sticking card is a wallet behind a busy bar!

 

 

 

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