Misc: June 2007 Archives


June 23, 2007

Matthew Yglesias and Tyler Cowen complain about stores which ask you for ID if you haven't signed your credit card:
I usually forget to sign the back of my credit cards. Or, with one of my cards -- the one I use most frequently -- the signature rubs off quickly. Every now and then the card will be rejected because it doesn't have my signature on it. Or they will require ID.

I then offer to sign the card, but they never accept this possibility. Hrrmph.

Could not a thief have signed a previously unsigned card before using it? In fact I would expect precisely that behavior from a thief. Wouldn't a thief take more care to sign than would a lazy, careless card holder? Upon seeing the unsigned credit card, their estimate of my honesty should go up not down (well, that's not quite a stable equilibrium...).

I've often complained about the same thing, though in my experience merchants do accept you signing the cards in front of them—though the clerk tends to look annoyed. However, let's consider for a moment the possibility that this isn't totally pointless and ask what the reason might be. First, we have to assume that the signature is of any use at all, that is that merchants do check signatures against the card and that the attackers aren't good at forging signatures. I'm not sure that either of these is true, but let's assume that they are. If so, Visa has an incentive to force you to sign your card immediately to avoid situations in which your unsigned card falls into the hands of criminals, who then sign it. Since they can't send a CSR out with your card to make you sign, having your card denied if it's not signed is probably the best they can do.

This sort of matches up with Visa's card acceptance policy, which actually requires the customer to sign the card in the merchant's presence (thanks to Tangurena on MR for pointing to this):

While checking card security features, you should also make sure that the card is signed. An unsigned card is considered invalid and should not be accepted. If a customer gives you an unsigned card, the following steps must be taken:
  • Check the cardholder's ID. Ask the cardholder for some form of official government identification, such as a driver's license or passport. Where permissible by law, the ID serial number and expiration date should be written on the sales receipt before you complete the transaction.
  • Ask the customer to sign the card. The card should be signed within your full view, and the signature checked against the customer's signature on the ID. A refusal to sign means the card is still invalid and cannot be accepted. Ask the customer for another signed Visa card.
  • Compare the signature on the card to the signature on the ID.
If the cardholder refuses to sign the card, and you accept it, you may end up with financial liability for the transaction should the cardholder later dispute the charge.

Of course, if this theory is true, then it just makes the question of why they don't make the strips so that the signature doesn't rub off even more puzzling.


June 17, 2007

Saw an iPhone on Friday and got a demo but wasn't allowed to touch it and can't say anything except that it looks pretty sweet. Which I guess makes this post fairly useless.

June 4, 2007

While we're on the topic of vampires... The central plot driver of Blade is Deacon Frost's plan to turn himself into the "blood god" who will somehow turn anyone in his path into vampires. Frankly, this is a pretty stupid plan, since it's kind of unclear why it would be useful to turn everyone into a vampire. What would they eat?

In a deleted scene, Dr. Karen Jenson (the female lead) makes this point and Frost shows her his incubator full of brainless corpses being used as blood production machines. This makes it a much less stupid plan. As I pointed out earlier, once you have a ready source of blood, vampirism becomes a sort of mild inconvenience, consisting of staying indoors at night and avoiding garlic pizza. Obviously it's uncool to turn people into vampires without their consent, but it's somewhere short of killing everyone and feasting on their blood. On the other hand, it's kind of unclear why it's in a vampire's interest for everyone else to be a vampire. Isn't the cool part of being a vampire having an edge over everyone else...


June 1, 2007

Via Matthew Yglesisas, here's this quite entertaining study of douchebaggery:
I'm waiting for a friend at a wine bar and I see that the guy a couple of stools down from me keeps ostentatiously checking the late-model smartphone that lies before him on the granite countertop. He has the all-black Samsung BlackJack, which happens to be the coolest-looking smartphone there is —at least until the iPhone comes out—and he's wearing jeans that look like they cost $400, and his haircut was probably half that. I also notice that he's got an expensive- looking European leather briefcase at his feet that he no doubt calls an attache.

I'm thinking, what a douchebag.

And then I think, wait a second. I'm here, at this wine bar, just as he is. And frankly, when the iPhone does come out, I intend to get it (even though it's slated to cost more than $500) to replace the Treo I'm currently carrying. (Also: I really should check my e-mail right now.) And I'm due for a (quasi-expensive) haircut, in fact. And where's the freaking bartender already? And . . . and . . . and . . . am I a douchebag? I have met the enemy, and he is . . . me?

[Checks self]

OK, I don't drink wine, my "haircut" is courtesy of Mr. Mach 3 and runs about $.50/each time, but I have a Treo and may well buy an iPhone. So far so good...