I meant to write about this a looong time ago, but then I got busy, and after a while, I wanted to find out if there were any updates about the whole situation before I blogged about it. I don’t have any, but I’ve put a call in and am waiting for a response.
It all started when I was talking to Barb on the phone. She said she went to Best Buy and when it was time to pay for what she came for, she discovered, to her horror, that the PIN pad was a touchscreen! This means that a blind person could not enter their PIN independently because there are no buttons to feel. The only way to get it entered would be to speak it aloud to the clerk and have them enter it, and there’s no way that’s a safe thing to do. That PIN number is supposed to be kept pretty close to you, so announcing it to the world at large is not a good idea. You might as well stick a “mug me” sign on yourself and wait.
I had also heard from Jen that Future Shop was doing the same thing. After hearing from Barb and Jen, I started to worry that this implementing of touchscreen PIN pads is a chain-wide thing, so I decided to go visit our local Future Shop and see it for myself.
I needed to go there anyway, I really wanted an SD card reader. It’s sooo slooow hooking up a Victor Reader Stream to the computer and transferring books onto it that way. I heard it’s uber much faster if you can just take the card out of the stream, throw it in a reader, plug the reader in the computer and zoom zoom. So my plan was to go in there, get the SD card reader, go up to the counter, try to pay for it, and if I couldn’t pay for it, I would take my business elsewhere, and I would tell them why. I would be polite about it, but I would just say I don’t have any cash on me, and don’t want to speak my PIN. I’ll have to go somewhere where I can complete the purchase myself. It didn’t quite work out that way, but I think the message got across.
I did this way back at the beginning of May, so I feel bad that it took me so long to get around to blogging about it. Oh well. Things started to take a turn when I realized how ungodly hard it is to find Future Shop. It’s in the middle of a giant parking lot, and there are designated places where pedestrians should walk, but they are designated by being painted pink! They’re completely flat, there’s nothing that feels like a sidewalk. So, I had to get help to even get in there…which would mean when it came time to make my exit, I would need help back out again. Ug!
The nnice lady who helped me get in there walked me over to an associate, a really nice associate. He showed me a few SD card readers, and even showed me how to put a card in one. All I kept thinking was “This is going to suck if I can’t pay for this. I hope everybody’s wrong.”
I walked up to the counter, and the lady who helped me get in there showed up too. I guess she knew I would need help back out again. The cashier said “You’re going to pay by debit? Ok, here’s the pen.” I looked at her, trying to appear as mystified as I could and said, “Pen?” Then the poor girl suddenly realized I would not be able to use this pad, and got on the phone to the manager. He showed up, and realized that they had no other option, and felt really, really bad about this. I said it looks like I’m going to have to go elsewhere because I can’t do this myself.
At this point, the lady who helped me in there said “I’ll pay for it.” I told her no. I said I don’t even know her, she just happened to be coming here anyway, and helped me get into the store. The lady said “It’s ok.” I said “No it’s not, how would I pay you back?” She said there was a bank close by and she could help me get there. I said that wasn’t the point, and suddenly, she understood. The lights came on and she said “I get it. Because it’s not accessible, you don’t want to shop here.” I said yes. They were really nice, but this is a problem they need to figure out a solution to and they need to see that means loss of business if people can’t complete their purchases on their own. Then she got right in it with me and said “I don’t even know her. Seriously. I just got off the bus and she asked me for directions to Future Shop and I said I was going there anyway so I’d help her get there.” I was relieved because I was kind of at her mercy because as I said, I would need someone’s help to get out of the maze of a parking lot and start heading for the mall where I would try again to get a reader. At this point, the manager said I could have the reader. I was in shock. I felt bad taking it from him, but I was impressed with how much he wanted to make things right, and how much he understood that this was serious. He also gave me their head office number, because he thought this PIN pad system was being implemented across the country. He said he would give them a call too.
The next morning, I tried to call the number he gave me, which was 1-800-663-2275, and boy, what a runaround that was! When I asked if this was the way to send a complaint to head office about a chain-wide practice, the first girl I got told me that all she could do with whatever complaint I had was take it back to the store where I said I shopped. What kind of inefficient system is that? If I had a problem with a store in which I had shopped, wouldn’t it make more sense for *me* to walk back into that store and complain myself? Why would I need some rep to relay my message back?
I continued on anyway. I figured what did I have to lose? I told her the situation, explaining the whole risk of revealing one’s PIN. I said that sure, I could bring cash, but that means I have to call ahead, ask them what the price of my item is, and then get the cash, and who else has to do that? Also, some items you buy at Future Shop are expensive, and it’s just not feasible to bring that large an amount of cash in. I could do Visa, but Visa is moving towards chip and PIN, which means using the same PIN pad. Her first reaction was not to acknowledge that this could be a problem worthy of addressing by the company, but that the CNIB should advocate for me. Excuse me? First off, not every blind person is with the CNIB, and second, aren’t our voices enough on our own? Do we need some entity behind us before a company will move?
Then, she told me she had done some basic googling, and she *thought* that Ingenico was the one that made the pads, so maybe I could contact them. Again, excuse me? Me, the wee tiny consumer, should contact the company with whom *you* did business, to tell them I can’t use their pads? Isn’t that your job? Why should it be mine? And she didn’t even know if Ingenico was the right company! Thanks for sending me on a wild goose chase. You seem to be into wild goose chases, first the CNIB, now Ingenico. I don’t do goose chases without a fight.
She said she would send my complaint on to her supervisor, but I sensed a general lack of enthusiasm or understanding of the problem.
I hung up, feeling defeated. Then I got an idea. I called the Guelph store back, and asked the fellow if he could look around at the PIN pads around him and tell me who made them. He told me that there were 3 units in his immediate line of sight and they were all made by different companies. So I decided to call the number back again and speak to someone else.
This time, I got someone who really seemed to get it. She wrote more thorough notes and said she would send them on. Both reps told me about their company’s email address, so I thought I’d use it.
I got a very nice email back saying that the right people would hear my message. The person also apologized for all the trouble I had to go through to get my issue addressed. Later that day, I got a call from the store manager saying he’d never thought of the flat PIN pad causing a problem, and yes, they’re showing up everywhere. He said he would talk to their technical people to figure out some kind of overlay you could put over it or something. I said I would be willing to test the system, I’m sure I could find a product or 2 that I might want to buy as an excuse to test out their overlay. Just call me.
And I haven’t heard from the fellow since. I called in yesterday, but the guy was in a conference call. I left my name, number and concern, so we shall see. Maybe I will have an update soon.
If you live near a Future Shop or Best Buy, are blind and are concerned about this, I urge you to let them know about the problem. If more of us speak up, there’s a chance they will see it as a real concern.