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1998-01-05 18:17:04


Credit Card Woes: Local Terminals


After five years of repairs, Visa and Mastercard in late 1997 declared that their systems were 2000-compliant. They began issuing credit cards with 00 expiration dates.

This did not solve the problem of the systems as a whole. The WASHINGTON POST (Jan. 2) ran a story, "`Year 2000' Preview: Computer Flaw Already Bars Some Credit Card Processing." It reported on a local gournet food store in Washinton, D.C., whose card-checking system rejects 00-year cards as "expired."

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For merchants who can't accept the cards, the problem typically isn't with the gray, cigar box-sized terminals that are connected to cash registers. Rather, specialists say, it is found in the computer-like registers that have their own magnetic stripe readers. The register's software, which is supposed to send the card number and expiration date to a bank over a telephone line, won't process the transaction because it thinks the card has expired.

At some stores, employees have come up with ways to trick the register into handling the sale. Godiva Chocolatier Inc., the 150 North American stores of which can't handle the 2000 cards, instructs salespeople to enter card numbers manually and then key in "12/99" for the expiration date, said Peter B. Clarke, director of global retail merchandising for the New York-based chain.

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