Customer Encounters #16 – Counterfeits

Now this week you may have heard of the brilliant news that Sir Winston Churchill will replace Emily Fry as the new face of the back of the £5 note (personally I’m surprised that they didn’t ride the Thatcher wave but then again that would be pretty controversial).

Whilst being the face of the £5 carries some cultural significance the main reason why it’s done is so that the Bank of England can update some of the security features of the £5. As they are more widely circulated compared to other notes they have their fair share of battering and bruising. I’ve even received notes that have actually been sellotaped together and some people have even asked to swap notes because the one I’ve just given them was too worn out.

I received my first counterfeit when I was about 15 years old, it was quite late in the evening and the customer in question came in and asked for a can of coke. A perfectly innocent request. He then pulled out a £20. I understand that under some circumstances that can be normal when someone doesn’t have any loose change to hand, but where that happens you have to be cautious, and as I understood at the time this person was coming into the shop for the first time.

I took the note and instantly knew something was wrong, it didn’t feel like a note. I went inside to tell my mum and said that it was a fake, checked it under the light and returned it to the customer and said we couldn’t accept the note because it was fake.

There are two ways in which people can react to this: one is where you will go “really? Oh my goodness I can’t believe I was fooled, it had to be the guys from McDonalds”. The second is where you start to get angry, insist that the note is real and go “I just got it from the cash point just now, why would I lie?” If your reaction comes under the latter, the inclination for me would be to think that someone is intentionally using a counterfeit note to sneakily nab some real money off us.

In this instance the man opted for the latter. What I would’ve done differently was to check the note in front of him as opposed to taking it inside and then coming out with the same note to avoid any suspicions that I may have swapped notes (which I haven’t and never will do).

The previous night (I wasn’t there at the time), a pregnant woman came in and ordered a bag of chips, she paid for it with a £20 and in this case the note was real, and £18.70 or something around that value was paid back as change by my mum. Later that evening however a man came in and brandished a £10 going “my wife just came in and ordered a bag of chips, you gave her a fake £10 note.”

He demanded a refund for the chips (but from my dad’s account actually specifically demanded for the return of the £20 that his wife used to buy the bag of chips), he then accused my mum of being a liar, said that the shop was conning them out of money, demanded to see our CCTV footage and even threatened to call the police. He then left and said that he will bring the bag of chips back for a refund. He never came back.

This is the 21st century, why don’t you take card?

chip_and_pin_040413On a few occasions we have had a few customers come in asking if we accept card only to be met with disappointment that we don’t have a chip and pin system installed.

Fortunately across the road from our takeaway is a cash point and we often direct customers there if they need to withdraw cash, and most if not many do so without uttering a complaint.

Last night a customer came in and the first thing she asked me was if we accepted card. As usual I said no and politely directed her to the cash point across the road. She left the shop and went in the opposite direction, leading me to assume that either (a) she worked nearby and was going to take out some cash, or (b) she decided to find another food outlet that took cash.

A few minutes later she came back and brandished two crisp £10 notes and went into a bit of a huff about the fact she had to take out £20. She also did that thing that people do when they get annoyed, which is to repeat the same thing at least three times as if to prove a point (yes, I get it, you had to go and take out £20).

Whilst I accept the case for installing a chip and pin payment system, I also have to consider the case against and it isn’t simply because of pure laziness (which it isn’t).

Firstly consider the area the takeaway is based in: it’s in a relatively poor area near a council estate school and a couple of other small shops you’d normally find on your road (petrol stations, supermarket, newsagents and other bits and bobs). It’s not exactly in a city or high street and so you wouldn’t expect people to be queuing around the block for lunch. The normal demographic of our customers aren’t exactly the city slickers in a hurry, and even if they were they’d normally want sandwiches instead of a full blown greasy Chinese takeaway.

If we did deliveries we would install a chip and pin system but as we don’t do deliveries there is no reason to install one.

As many are aware a lot of small eateries will state a minimum spend on card payments for food, quite often this will be within the region of around £10, so even if said customer wanted to pay by card she wouldn’t have been able to as it was considerably less than £10.

It is widely known that banks will take two per cent commission from transactions made from card payments. As the business isn’t exactly at the height of its boom years two per cent is a considerable amount for a small business that can’t afford to keep the heating on.

The average spend of customers at our takeaway is quite often around the region of around of £10 and most customers will normally pay with a £20 note. We do occasionally get big orders around the £25 mark, sometimes more, but where that happens those customers will always pay by cash instead of card. In fact we found that customers who pay by cash often spend more, occasionally after giving change they will normally ask for a little bit extra to be added on.

And finally there hasn’t exactly been a huge demand for a cashless system, we hardly ever get complaints about the lack of a cashless system and we rarely get asked if we accept card. Maybe about once a month someone will brandish a card but let’s face it, cash is better.