Issue #157: And if I could get your John Hancock right here

plus Willie Nelson + old books
͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
Money
August 24, 2022 • Issue #157
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

Nerd alert: One of my favorite authors, Maggie Stiefvater, is preparing to release a new book this fall. I’m super excited. Not only is it the conclusion to the Dreamer Trilogy, but also I pre-ordered a signed copy — and Stiefvater is famous for her autograph.

She specifically designed it to stand out. And trust me, it’s badass.

My own signature is nothing special, which is fine, because I only use it when I have to, like, sign a receipt at the bodega. And I'm pretty sure the cashier doesn't care (or even really look at) what I write.

So, why do some places make me sign credit card receipts? Does it matter what my signature looks like? Or does a barely legible JG accomplish the same thing as a perfectly neat J u l i a G l u m?

Karen Sylvester, senior director of compliance education at payments association EPCOR, says merchants ask customers to sign receipts mostly so they have a record of purchases. It’s proof that I actually authorized a transaction.

This used to be important because of credit card disputes, or chargebacks. Sylvester says card issuers wanted merchants to keep receipts because, a lot of the time, they were “the one left holding the bag” when people demanded their money back.

Say I told my card issuer, “Hey, I didn’t buy $50 worth of Reese’s peanut butter cups at the bodega at 2 a.m.” The company could then turn around and ask the corner store to produce a copy of my receipt. If it could — and the signature matched the one they had on file for me — they could come back to me and say, “Uh, yeah, you did. We’re not refunding you.”

This was reasonable because, for decades, physical signatures were the main way of legitimizing a contract. In fact, NPR reports that credit card signatures have roots in the Talmud, an ancient Jewish text.
I sign all my credit card receipts "Stay cool this summer" with my name and my parents land-line phone number.
 
But there have always been holes in this logic. The signature verification method isn't a terribly effective way of preventing fraud, and it's cumbersome. Decades ago, for the sake of speed, fast food restaurants like Wendy’s decided not to make people sign for orders under $25.

Put simply: Times changed.

While signatures on receipts used to be "an important security tool," says Andrew Hopkins, senior vice president of global products and pricing at Discover, they've become "no longer useful."

That’s also why the major card issuers — American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa — stopped requiring signatures for card transactions in 2018. After all, there are more advanced ways to verify my identity and confirm my purchases.

So why do some places still ask for signatures?

Jared Drieling, senior director of market intelligence and insights at payments firm The Strawhecker Group, says that has to do with a method called EMV, which is connected to chip and PIN cards. Migrating to EMV is safer, but it requires merchants to update their point-of-sale terminals (aka card machines). While that’s NBD for big franchises like Target, it can be expensive for smaller businesses like the local gas station. 

“If you’re a merchant and don’t have a terminal that can process a chip card, your alternative would be to go back to the old route,” Drieling says. 

That means making me sign a receipt — and then saving it just in case the transaction comes back to haunt them. But because that's so rare nowadays, the specifics of what my signature looks like don't usually matter.

“Many consumers have adapted to the habit or expectation of signature upon transaction, but fraud technology and commerce have been moving away from this practice for some time,” Hopkins adds.
THE BOTTOM LINE
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)
Merchants have historically used signatures on receipts as a record of transaction to protect against fraud or chargeback. But the industry has since moved away from that standard.

These days, if a place asks me to sign a receipt, it’s probably because they haven’t migrated yet to EMV. I should give them my John Hancock to make the cashier’s life easier, but I don’t need to stress about it.
autograph
VIA GIPHY

RECEIPT OF THE WEEK
check out this wild celebrity purchase
Lopez Affleck
 
VIA INSTAGRAM
When Jennifer Lopez posted a Father’s Day video of Ben Affleck sitting in his office in June, eagle-eyed fans noticed an interesting item in the no-background: an in-home soda fountain. I couldn’t find the exact model, but similar versions go for about $4,000, and that’s not even the best part: Affleck’s machine dispenses both Diet Coke AND Diet Pepsi. The only thing missing is Dunkin’ coffee.

INTERNET GOLD
five things I'm loving online right now
1 I loved this New York Times profile of Willie Nelson. It’s packed with great nuggets like the fact that the legendary singer sometimes sleeps on his tour bus for fun, that he writes songs via text message and that he loves to tour as much as possible, even at age 89. “At the end of every tour, Will talks about retiring,” his wife said. “But then we’ll have a conversation: ‘Well, what would you do if you retired?’ We both know the answer: Just lay down and die. It’s impossible to imagine him not being out there.”
2 Thank you, Lizzo, for the soup ranking.
3 Twitter asks, the internet answers: What’s the oldest book you own?
4 My favorite account these days is @ampol_moment, which surfaces absurd moments in American politics. Among them: Grace Coolidge poses with her pet raccoon, Elvis gives Richard Nixon a gun, and “Pokemon Go to the polls,” of course. Dewey Defeats Truman never had a chance.
5 A baby zebra was born recently at the Utica Zoo in New York, and I implore you to just LOOK at her lil stripes.
 

401(K)9 CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Max and Molly
 
VIA Celina Quiros
Meet Max and Molly, two pups who are happy to give you their pawtograph on a receipt at any time.

See you next week.
 
Julia
 
P.S. How do you sign credit card receipts? What’s your favorite soup? If you had a personal soda fountain, what would you put in it? Send cursive tips to julia@money.com or @SuperJulia on Twitter.
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