What’s Worse Than a South Philly Waiter? Restaurants Not Taking Credit Cards.

Enough with the cash-only policy.

Just last week a huge lawsuit was settled: Visa and MasterCard agreed to allow retailers to charge their customers extra for their credit card fees. And now the debate is whether retailers will actually do this or continue to eat the fees. I think the settlement didn’t go far enough. The extra 1.5 percent fee isn’t going to make or break a typical purchase, but not taking a credit card at all will.

My wife and I recently had a great meal at an Italian restaurant in South Philly. A great meal. I had the veal parm and it was excellent. My wife had their lasagna. “Delicious” she told me. We had wine. We laughed. And then I pulled out my credit card to pay the bill. And the waiter said “Yo. We don’t accept credit cards.” I won’t return.

Why? Because there are a lot of great restaurants in South Philly, Center City, North Philly and Manayunk that do take credit cards. So this one’s for the owners of that restaurant.

Not taking a credit card is like saying “F you” to your customers. It’s an inconvenience. It’s old-fashioned. And it’s greedy. Because I know why you’re not taking credit cards, and it has nothing to do with “disclosing” the credit card fees you pay. You just don’t want to pay the credit card fees at all. Oh boo hoo. I guess that means that by not paying the fees you’re passing down these cost savings to us, your customers? No? Really? Oh, you’re pocketing the money and then making me go down the street to try and find an ATM machine. Except in this case where I was told by our friendly waiter (wearing a 1974 Stanley Cup Champions shirt?) that I could just as easily go upstairs and use the restaurant’s own ATM machine and pay the $2.50 fee on top of that. Wow!

Here’s another excuse: Some business owners think that credit cards leave too much of a paper trail. Their logic is the IRS will then know how much money they’re making. They’d prefer cash. Real logical. Like any IRS agent with a sixth-grade education couldn’t spend three days observing your restaurant and extrapolate your revenues from that. I reject that excuse.

This is not the way to run a small business in 2012. Even with the stupid “Yo Philly w’id da South Philly att-ey-tude if you know what I’m saying” waiters, I liked that restaurant. I liked the veal parm. But when will its owners enter into this century?

Don’t have a “minimum charge.” I use a credit card when I buy a chocolate bar at Wawa and a coffee at Starbucks. They don’t have a handwritten sign on the register warning me that there’s a minimum charge of $10 to use the credit card. And if they did, they’d surely know how to spell the word minimum. But they don’t give me the “minimum charge” grief. Suck it up. Bake it into your costs.

Don’t make me sign my name. Why do some stores make me sign the slip yet other stores don’t require a signature? Is there some secret arrangement going on between the credit card companies and these stores that allows them to get away with this? And really, does my signature count for anything? I could sign Maxime Talbot and the 15-year-old pimply kid behind the register would ask me for tickets to the next Flyers game.

Let customers pay with smartphones. Google Wallet will probably win this battle because Google seems to win every battle. This way you can expedite payment and build a list of potential customers to send special offers, and you may even attract a customer or two under the age of 84 who’s not being dragged to your restaurant by her grandparents because that’s where they ate during the depression. Plus, within five years, those plastic cards will be all but extinct anyway. The Europeans pay with credit cards at the table with a portable/wireless credit-card processor. It’s more convenient for the customer. And it’s cool.

You don’t have to accept the Discover card. Does anyone still use that card? Wait … does anyone still shop at Sears? Come to think of it, whatever happened to Diners Club? Man, I’m getting old.

Have some security procedures around the credit cards you’re processing. It amazes me when some people refuse to buy something online, but are more than happy to turn their credit card over to that sketchy tattooed guy w’id de South Philly att-ey-tude who calls himself your “waiter” after dinner, dessert and two bottles of wine. Gee, that seems secure. If your employees steal credit card info, you’ll have headaches.

Don’t ask me what I am tipping. Some restaurants ask me in advance for what I’m tipping because they need to add it to the total before processing my card. I hate that. Tipping is my business (and by the way, I don’t give much to charity, but I’m not a bad tipper). Also, instruct your employee for when there’s a takeout order, and there’s no tip expected, to put a cross through tip box. I always feel like someone unscrupulous could just add a tip amount after I’ve left and put the amount through. I’d never know.

Please, your food is delicious. But you’re taking advantage of your customers by not taking credit cards. And you’re annoying the hell out of them with those stupid South Philly waiters. It’s time to enter the 21st century.