The other day I went to a local gas station down the street from my home to get gas as I have done I know not how often. Found the open pump that was on the same side as my gas tank, turned off the ignition, inserted my card to pay at the pump... then got a bit of shock. Instead of the normal question regarding the card I inserted being one of credit or debit, the machine asked if i knew my PIN!
This is a bit of an impudent question coming from a machine that smells of petrol! Of course i know my PIN, but I had no intention of using my card in a debit transaction. I know of the holds placed on bank accounts by some pay the pump processes as well as the fiendish practice of skimming that could procure my PIN and debit card number for some person of ill repute who would drain my accounts for nefarious purposes thusly. However the question took me aback. Why would they ask that question instead of the normal "is this a credit or debit card". Then it came to me... the transaction fees for a debit transaction are much lower than those of credit. The gas station was trying to save money.
The reason the fees differ so much is because of liability. If a debit transaction is disputed it is on the card holder to prove such. However, in a credit transaction it is the bank's responsibility and the benefit of the doubt goes to the account holder leaving the bank holding the bag. Because of this, the transactions where the onus is on the bank have much higher fees to the merchant to offset.
An interesting trait of human beings... if you ask them a question they will answer it. If you ask a question that you know the answer to then you can lead the person you are questioning wherever you want to go. It is what lawyers and salesmen have done with aplomb since time immemorial. So instead of asking a question that they may not like the answer to, one which would cause higher transaction fees, this gas station asks one that will lead the user toward the process that is in their best interest. In other words, if they ask someone if they know their PIN and they do know it then they will answer yes which costs the company less in fees. However, if they ask if you want to use it as debit or credit then you might answer in a way that costs them more money. So why take the risk? If it is a debit card then odds are they will know their PIN.
This one little change has probably saved that company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in transaction fees. Whatever employee made this change should be given a huge bonus because they are absolute genus. Remember this the next time you are working with a customer or a potential one... only ask questions you know the answer to and you will lead them where you want them to go.
Editors note: Sorry for the odd turn of phrase in this post... i have been enjoying of late of the excellent BBC program Ripper Street on Netflix too oft. If you have seen it, you understand... if you have not, you really should. I am sure i shall feel better on the morrow.