Select restaurants across the country are testing table-based credit card readers that allow customers to pay for food at the table. Fears from last year’s news regarding waitresses and waiters stealing customer credit card information led to the transformation of a new industry involving products that protect consumer credit card information.

Restaurants participating in the credit card reader beta launch were initially reluctant to participate because they feared diners would feel rushed. Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s allow customers to pay at the counter with their credit card. Pay at the table is different from pay at the counter because diners are actually seated and served by an employee who works primarily on tips. Waitertalk.com, an online forum for waiters and waitresses to vent on topics like ‘bad tipping customers’ and ‘rogue management’ has formed a discussion board against these so-called ‘credit card readers at the table’ . Waiters and waitresses believe credit card readers will deter proper tipping, especially at fast-casual restaurants like Ground Round, which typically attract middle-class customers who have no tipping experience and eat at restaurants that don’t. They belong to chains. Some waiters believe that credit card readers will be the main focus of the dining experience and that the machines will not allow them to upsell the customer because the customer will think more about the bill than the actual dining experience.

In Europe, it is normal to pay at the table; however, the culture of Europe allows payment at the table to be acceptable. Will pay at the table be the new norm for paying in restaurants, or will Americans not accept this because it’s more insurance than convenience? What do you think? Shouldn’t you trust your waiter? The headline-grabbing restaurant skimming scams were part of an isolated incident. However, credit card theft happens every day at restaurants and other small, direct-to-consumer businesses. These incidents generally go unreported because the victim will not realize they have been scammed until months after the incident. The restaurant credit card theft cases occurred at the same restaurant over a one year period and many victims were charged who traced their credit card deductions back to a restaurant employee.

The only difference between these tabletop machines and the restaurant employee processing the transaction is that the restaurant employee will never leave their fingerprints on your plastic. He simply swipes his credit card through the machine and a printer in the waiter’s area prints his receipt. All you have to do is sign and leave a tip. How convenient is this? You don’t have to wait an extra 4 minutes for the waiter to swipe your card and come back with your card and receipt. Is this convenience or privacy of your most sacred information? Should you trust the person who is serving you food? Most waiters and waitresses put up with a lot of customers to earn less than minimum wage.

Manufacturers are betting that restaurants will buy these new Verifone credit card readers. Readers can cost several hundred dollars each. Restaurants benefit because the checkout process turns tables faster, helping the restaurant make more money per table and the waiter earning more as his “rentals” turn quickly.

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