Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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PIN icebreaker

A bit of help covering those awkward gaps in the credit approval process
  (+17)(+17)
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Almost every shop and restaurant has them now - those little machines that you swipe your card through, then tap in your PIN on a little keypad. They're a very exciting and wonderful invention (ahem), but we at Moomcorp think they could be even better.

The thing I've noticed, particularly when queueing at the supermarket, is that there's an awkward pause while the machine checks your PIN and issues its little Electronic-Hitlerite approval of your demand for socks (doesn't it understand more halfbakers means more socks?). You avoid looking at the teller; the teller avoids looking at you. Both of you wish the flippin' thing would hurry up.

Now for those of us with interpersonal skills this is not a problem - we simply chat with the teller for a while. But all too often, I've observed awkward silences developing. So I think a minor modification to these little machines is in order. This minor modification would take the form of little icebreaking messages which would flash up on the little machine's screen while it's processing your details. Messages might include the following:

"Your assistant today is wearing lady's underwear'. (Not too surprising if your assistant is a lady).
"Your assistant today knows the real location of Elvis."
"Ask your assistant whether (s)he thinks brown really suits you." (A little more controversial, perhaps).

With these conversation-starting gambits, the chilly assistant-shopper ice can be broken, and everyone comes away happier. Unless you look stupid in brown.

moomintroll, Aug 10 2006

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       Quality. It's been interesting, since the chip'n'pin thing became widespread, to see how people adjusted to the shopping 'schema' of events - it think it shows just how much of our lives are lived on autopilot. That pause is the part where we're not sure what to do next, when we have to wake up for a minute. In which case, it might not be such a bad thing - and this idea helps people turn that awkward moment of confusion into a positive expression of community [+]
zen_tom, Aug 10 2006
  

       I use money.
xandram, Aug 10 2006
  

       Really? Is that still possible? Get with the 21st century, man!
moomintroll, Aug 10 2006
  

       I really do. Your idea is still very nice. I, for one, do not experience any awkward silences, but would still get a chuckle from someone else's message. I will hold out from entering the 21st century as long as I can. I'm an old fashion girl!
xandram, Aug 10 2006
  

       //I'm an old fashion girl!// Like Twiggy?
zen_tom, Aug 10 2006
  

       ...um, not that skinny!
xandram, Aug 10 2006
  

       //I use money//
I hadn’t used money in a long time, and then I found a wad of bills and change in the back of a drawer, so I decided to use them at the grocery before rats ate them. Unfortunately, I had forgotten how to count change, and all my fumbling made the cashier suspicious. She took the coins and the ten I gave her, and held the ten up to the light, looking at me, then at the bill. Then took another ten from her drawer and compared the two. People were glancing at me, and I wanted to tell them I wasn’t a counterfeiter, but they didn’t seem too friendly. There's probably nothing worse than to be stuck in a long grocery line behind a counterfeiter, I figured. Eventually, as I didn't confess or try to run away, the cashier shrugged and gave me my receipt. I learned my lesson, though. I will never use money again.
ldischler, Aug 10 2006
  

       Oh dear, I nearly fell off my chair. Brilliant. Thanks, [ld].
moomintroll, Aug 10 2006
  

       yes, very funny, and you are right. They don't look at the tens, but the twenties and fifties are scrutinized. I know people think I'm weird, it's OK. I like real money, that way I can't overspend as I do with my charge card.   

       on the other side of the coin, it's really sad that people are suspected of passing bad money just because they prefer to use it.   

       I don't want a debit card either.
xandram, Aug 10 2006
  

       Yeah, last year I had a pile of crisp, new, $100 bills that I had been issued at a bank in another country. I was suspicious of me, too.   

       I just started using my card, and usually fill those awkward pauses by apologizing for goofing up the procedure.
baconbrain, Aug 10 2006
  

       [Id} the secret is to use the bills, and take the change to the bank... unless you've gotten it rolled up in neat discreet amounts, in which case, you can wait until a busy part of the day, and throw down a couple of those to pay your bills. Either the cashier will be greatly in need of the change, and thank you (if you do it resolutely) or they will get suspicious, and count each coin, holding them up to the light, and biting on them to make sure none are counterfeits.... Either way, it's a great conversation starter.
ye_river_xiv, Aug 11 2006
  

       Maybe there should be a transaction status message board listing all of the steps and highlighting which one you're currently on.   

       Likely, someone will install monitors to allow you to watch advertisements to fill in the awkward silence.
half, Aug 11 2006
  

       //transaction status message//   

       Surely this would be about as much fun as watching the tail of a log file.   

       Instead, I suggest an animated representation of a fictitious process; here is your transaction begin flipped like a pancake, now it's landed on a seesaw and - look! - a little train is coming to carry it to the next stage, where it will be sniffed by suspicious credit dogs...   

       you could think of it as a sort of CGI pachinko experience.
pertinax, Aug 11 2006
  

       //an animated representation of a fictitious process//   

       Very good, [pertinax]. But I want a minimalist machine, with no extras.   

       Some of the ATMs around here have a recorded voice that tells you what is allegedly happening. (Why does a drive-up ATM need a voice attachment . . . for the blind?) The announcements seem to have no connection to the timing of actual events. The voice sounds fake upperclass British, which is really odd for the Missouri Ozarks. I find it very annoying.
baconbrain, Aug 11 2006
  

       What you need to do is pretend that you grew up with the chinese numbering system. That way they won't look at you funny if you can't figure out the PIN system..unless you're in China, then pretend that you thought it was Japanese..
rockyed, Aug 12 2006
  

       I hate to be the party-pooper, but this would quickly turn into advertising. 'Ask your cashier about our $0.99 deals on band-aids!'
RayfordSteele, Aug 12 2006
  
      
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