Garry wrote how the patrons of our local grocery store went into shock when the debit and credit card readers stopped working. The lost, hopeless, dead eyes. Cash? Checks? What? I don’t understand?


Yesterday was even more special because I personally took the machines down. With a lot of help from Bank of America. Our bank. Probably the biggest bank in the country, whose local Uxbridge branch is where we conduct business. It’s across the parking lot from our favorite grocery store.


Hannaford is not the biggest local supermarket. Its selection tends to be a bit whimsical. Just because you could find the Asian Sesame dressing last week does not mean you will ever see it on the shelves again. We have adjusted. I think of it the way I used to think of seasonal vegetables when I lived in Israel. You could get anything — in season. Otherwise, you ate something else. Adjusting ones life and eating habits to the rhythm of the earth and its crops. Or, in this case, to whoever stocks the grocery shelves.

I awoke yesterday to the realization we were out of food and this is Labor Day weekend. If we didn’t shop today, the shelves would be empty. On Monday, the store would be closed.


So, after the clock’s hand had slid past three o’clock when road construction in town ends, we took to the road. It’s just about 3 miles to town. Two lanes. No wider than it has to be.

I have to backtrack briefly. BOA has been “upgrading” debit cards to include a security chip. They notify you they are going to replace your card. When you receive it in the mail, you must activate it, sign it, and cut up the old one because it will no longer work.

I’m as geeky as the next techno-junkie yet I am highly dubious about “security enhancements” by banks. I have seen how very wrong they can go. Regardless, I had no choice. My card arrived a week. I followed instructions.

Garry has been spared this “upgrade.” Overlooked? Whatever the reason, he is happy to do what he has always done. It works, no problems. Bank of America has had its servers hacked several times (it was on the news, everywhere). The bank is more of a security risk than we are. But I digress (again).


Going into town took a long time. Although the road repair guys had gone home, the people building the new fire station had not stopped work. And the school buses are back, too.

Worst of all, a cop was directing traffic. Apparently in cop school, they teach them to let every single car going one way through the construction zone until finally, when not a single car can be seen, they let the other lane start moving. By this time, there’s a mile of backed up cars to clear. When there’s no cop, drivers work it out for themselves and while it may slow down, there is no massive traffic jam.


We finally got to the store. Parked. Went in. Fresh, local corn has arrived. Oh yum. I bought some. Bought stuff for dinner. Got some fresh veggies. Got some swordfish. Frozen shrimp. Did not buy lobster, even though they were on sale. Picked up everything on the list except frozen pizza. And headed for the checkout.

Not bad for a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. And then, it was time to pay. I took out my brand, new chip-enabled secure debit card and pushed it into the reader … which immediately cancelled the transaction and told me I had removed my card too quickly. My card was still IN the machine.


The young woman at the register took a deep breath, reinstated the transaction, and in went my new, secure debit card. Again. This time, it cancelled the transaction, said there’d been an error and I had removed my card (still in the machine) too fast. The register froze. The folks behind me in line were pretty nice about it. No one pulled a gun.

They got other registers working and everyone migrated to other aisles. Except us. Because we were already in this register and they had to reboot it to get it unfrozen.

“It’s not my fault,” I whimpered. “They said I had to get this new card with the chip.” Which was true, so I don’t know why everyone was mad at me.

“Feel free to get mad at Bank of America. They’re just over there,” I said, pointing to the other side of the parking lot. “Tell them!”

When the machines came back up, Garry used his card, the one without the chip.

Finally, we went home. I called the bank and was put on hold. I put the phone on speaker and left it to its own devices expecting I’d eventually hear a “How can we help you.” An hour later, it was still playing drippy muzak.

I tried a different number. Same message, but different muzak. I tried the local bank site. All the chat people were engaged. They suggested I try later. Their email was also down. By now, I was getting a feeling there was more going wrong at Bank of America than a bad chip in my debit card.

Finally … almost three hours after I first called, I got a “live chat” person on line. Bianca. Hello Bianca. My new debit card with the fancy chip technology isn’t working.

72-Park & Traffic-Mumford-GA-082516_083

“We have a note that you entered an incorrect PIN earlier today.”

“I was never asked for my PIN. It cancelled my transaction and told me my card had been removed too fast, but the card was still in the machine.”

“I can send you a PIN reminder.”

“I know my PIN. It’s the  card. It also froze the store register. Everyone on line had to go somewhere else to check out. Take responsibility. This is a bank problem.”

“Chip technology is going to be everywhere. We are no longer issuing debit cards without chips.”

“Then send me a card with a chip that works. Like test it before sending it to me?”

We went back and forth for a while. They are sending me a new card. With a new chip. Which, presumably, will work. Given that not only did the chip fail, but BOA was unavailable for hours, I bet BOA had a system failure. Since they’ll never tell you what’s really going on, all of this was a smokescreen to avoid having to say “the bank is experiencing server problems.”

Their server problems turned this into the day I took down the machines at Hannaford. Just because I live in a small town, doesn’t mean we don’t have adventures.

I’m probably going to become a local legend.

POSTSCRIPT: Bank Of America’s servers were in fact down pretty much all day yesterday. Not the first time, by any means and very likely, not the last time, either. Why do they persist in lying about it? It doesn’t make the problem go away. Would it really make the situation worse to admit the bank’s servers are being “upgraded” (or whatever they are doing) and tell us our cards aren’t working because they are effectively offline?


  1. I always have real money with me when I go shopping for two reasons. The machines might not be working and Mr. Swiss may have forgotton his purse – again, although it is inconvenient. I am also lost without the possibility of my plastic card. It is certainly more embarrassing when everyone else can do it and you cannot. Your feel useless, incapable. The general problem here, when the card does not work, is to wipe it over with the sleeve of your jacket because somehow it is either dirty or wet, both, or a general no go. Our Swiss banks never make mistakes, they are just misunderstood. When I get a new card the pin is usually already on it, but I tremble every time until it is actually accepted by the machine at the till.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In order to have enough real money with me, I’d have to carry hundreds of dollars in my bag and I don’t want to do that. I always have a little money, but when it comes to a big shopping excursion, I have no idea what it will cost … these days with rapidly changing prices, not even in round figures. So that leaves paper checks which I DO have but hate using, especially since they charge a fortune to replace them and we are almost out … Our banks (a few of which actually ARE Swiss if you peek beneath the covers) are never ever at fault for anything. Just ask them. They will tell you.


  2. Wow. I can say I knew you before you were famous!

    We’ve been using chip and PIN for a decade so there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the technology. Though it’s not used as much as it was back in the “olden days” – many people are using contactless payments now. There’s nothing more hackable than something without a hard connection 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This whole thing is giving me a big fat headache. I like technology, but I prefer it work as advertised. And a debit card isn’t an optional extra these days. It’s the keys to the kingdom. For the moment, the kingdom is only mine online. There’s something deeply ironic about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I saw the headline in the newspaper today….. 😀 The sound it makes when you have to remove your card from the ‘chip reader’ sounds just like the noise when your card will not work. Horrible noise. So sorry you screwed up the entire BOA system…..of course, it was not their fault. Never is. Amazing. Good old Garry.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I pray (Hear me, Lord!) to remain Mr. Chipless. I am not forgotten because I remain a legend as that guy who used to be somebody famous.
        The supermarket “card incident” (Marilyn has just shown me an on line article which reports the problems are BOA and wide spread) has all the fodder for a “MidSomer Murders/Uxbridge” episode.
        We are humming the “MidSomer Theme For Murderers”.
        What will be the body count?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. What a fiasco- I love that when Target sent me the new chip card which is supposedly more secure, they also told me I need to enter a PIN, which makes the transaction longer and some some machines have no security shield so it is necessary to use your hand to cover it. Stop wasting my time!!!!!!!


  5. I’ve had my chip card for a few months now (I’m almost used to not swiping it), and the readers for these damned chips are extremely finicky and unpredictable. I don’t think the problem was with the card, but with the store’s reader. The fact that the transaction was actually canceled both times seem to point to the reader as well… or at least the way the grocery store has them set up to operate. I won’t begrudge you tearing into BOA, though, because I was very happy to leave my big corporate bank when they decided getting me a home loan wasn’t that important to them and am happier with the local bank I’ve been with for seven years…


    1. The problem with changing banks is that it is such a huge hassle. ALL our money for SS and pensions not to mention all our bills are all on direct deposit or automatic payment. It’s like changing computers, but much worse.

      The bank says I can pretend there’s no chip and just swipe like always. I guess I will find out soon enough.


  6. I bet everyone in town will now speak of the day that Marilyn brought down Hannaford’s. Single-handedly. Except for a little help from BofA. And just remember, the banks are never responsible. It is always the people they serve who are at fault, who created the crash. And who will create the next one.


    1. I’m pretty sure that I stood out as the one and only culprit. Which wasn’t fair cause I didn’t do nothin’ wrong, dad! I know that this chip technology is not new, but no one told my card or the machines at Hannaford. If I go back, will they turn into an angry mob with torches and hunt me down? Or will they cheer me as a pioneer? There’s such a small difference between hero and goat!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised. They’ve been hacked twice that I know of (because they got in touch and had to tell me to change my password for my account). That’s why it’s so funny they are so worried about OUR security. They should be fixing their OWN security issues.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Maybe the register needs to be upgraded to cope with the cards with chips. We have them all here and have no real problems. I even have a card reader for my phone for when I am at the market. And it works better than the EFTPOS machine that we have there as well. And it only takes cards with chips.


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