Sunday, June 20, 2010

It Pays to Read the Instructions

Minneapolis (and hopefully, soon St. Paul!) has a new bike-sharing service called Nice Ride. Bikes are available in locked kiosks located around town, requiring a credit card to take one out for a spin. Once you return the bike, a small amount of money is charged to your account. While you have the bike, your card is used as a $250 security deposit.

Sounds simple enough, but what about debit cards? Those of us who don't have credit cards, but do have debit cards that generally behave like credit cards, might think we can use our cards.

Not so. The Whistleblower column in the Star Tribune carried this brief notice the other day: "Jim Leinfelder and Steven Morris weren't expecting an eight-day, $250 hold on their checking accounts when they rented bikes at Nice Ride Minnesota. They think people should know, in case their bank balances are low."

By chance, I happened to stop and read one of the Nice Ride kiosks the day before this item ran in the paper. Here's what I saw:

Nice Ride kiosk instructions
If you click to enlarge it, you'll see that step 2 of the clearly designed instructions says "Insert credit card when directed. No debit cards."

So what part of that admonition did Jim and Steven not read? Using the kiosk is not something I could have done without reading the directions, so they must have read them. But they missed that important part, or didn't take it seriously.

To deal with the fact that people don't read even the best-designed instructions, Nice Ride has now added a dayglow sticker to the left of the credit card slot.

Nice Ride added sticker saying a $250 hold will be placed on your account for up to 10 days
It's probably just as well that the new label explains why you can't use debit cards. But it annoys me just a bit that someone complained, when it was their own failure to follow instructions that caused the hold to be put on their bank accounts.


David Steinlicht said...

It's kinda understandable that someone would use a debit card by mistake.

You see the money card slot and put the money card in. Easy!

It seems to me that the problem is that the machines accept a debit card the same way they accept a credit card. The machine should either plain not allow use of debit cards or throw up a big warning on the screen when a debit card is used and explain the consequences.

But, I wonder if these machines are able to see the difference between credit and debit cards? I know at the grocery store I'm asked if it's a credit or debit card that I'm using. Can't the machine tell?

Unemployed Dragon said...

I'm with you DN3. The instructions are there for the reading. These are the same ones who, after riding the buses in SF for years and years, still fail to know how to exit the bus, by way of the rear door. (Step down, per the instruction posted on the door).

Daughter Number Three said...

David, I agree that the cards are ambiguous, and that's the root of the problem. As I understand it, there's no way for the machines to differentiate a PIN-free debit card that works through the Visa/Mastercard system from a credit card. The same thing happens with hotels and debit cards, except the potential to place multiple holds on your card is, in theory, much higher with the Nice Ride bikes.