A payment on a flight story

“Three beers and three chicken sandwiches, thanks” – I said, graciously handing over my VISA card to the flight stewardess to pay for everything for me and my two Haxx friends Björn and Linus. 20 something Euros. Neither of us were carrying any cash.

We were happy that we had seats in the 7th row on the way back to Stockholm since when we flew down to FOSDEM Brussels just two days earlier we were in the 18th row and by then they had ran out of sandwiches. Brussels Airlines on a direct flight.

The lady inserted the card into her handheld card-reader, messed around a while since it wouldn’t “take” at the first attempt and then she handed it to me to enter my PIN. So I did.

credit cardsMs stewardess pressed some buttons or something and then she said, “no it doesn’t work” and continued to try inserting my card in basically every variation you can (especially having the chip side turned out has to be a very clever way) while repeating to me that it doesn’t work. This is the same card I’ve used numerous times during the weekend and I used it several times at the airport less than an hour ago. I know it works.

“OK let’s say you’re right”, I sighed as I really didn’t think I nor my card were to blame but I also didn’t feel like just causing trouble. I handed her my second VISA card. “Here, try this instead then”.

“No it doesn’t work either”. This certainly wasn’t right.

Linus reached over and offered his MasterCard. Perhaps there was a VISA problem with the device but “Sorry sir, it doesn’t work” came back. We’re now at farce level. Björn joins the fun and offers a 4th card, another MasterCard.

By this time we’ve eaten most of the sandwiches and were enjoying the beers.

The lady continued to struggle and it still didn’t work. She was starting to act a bit troubled about this and I asked her if she really insisted that all our cards are broken and she admitted that she suspected the machine wasn’t working quite as it should. Then she leaned towards the male steward who was serving drinks a couple of steps away. They fiddled a bit more and then she came back to us.

“That worked, I swiped it” she said without much further explanation and returned with Björn’s card and the receipt for the purchase. I felt quite done with this by now so I didn’t ask nor pushed her why she didn’t do that earlier. I was glad it finally was fixed. So much for me paying, now Björn did it instead. Oh well, truly fascinating that they would do like this on an airline where people have to do purchases with credit cards all the time.

Then Björn looked at the receipt he got back:

Pringles and a bottle of water, 5 Euro.

It made all three of us burst out in uncontrolled laughter. It was then followed by some contemplation what it actually meant. What exactly did Björn pay for? Did he only get the wrong receipt or did he pay for it? If so, who paid for our food and drinks?

It is 2014 and we haven’t come further than this.

(Update: Björn reminded me that we did verify the last 4 digits of the card number on the receipt and it didn’t match any of our cards…)

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