Subhash Varambhia, Snutch News, Leicester, writes: “The arrival of contactless cards is greeted with a lot of superlatives from the providers. On the whole, I consider myself to be adaptable and not stuck in the mud. However, I cannot get my head around the contactless system as it has more pain than gain.
“We find a minimum 3-4 cards a week stolen. That would be followed by the victim and the police weeks later.”
Writing on the last day in August, Subhash had just had a call from the police for an incident dated 17 July. He adds: “Standard CCTV footage retention is 21 days. So it begs the question, is the delay in response from the police deliberate (empty gesture)? Is this how the police work? I will leave that with the readers.”
But the real issue for him is the safety/security for the retailer.
He says when a dodgy customer asks ‘do you take contactless’ on entering, it should start warning bells. They go away as soon as the contactless payment fails. “By contrast, a genuine person would proceed to pay using their PIN number.
“Second, being old school, we bag the goods in good faith in anticipation of money. Via card payments we have to turn our heads to the terminal. Although the contactless only takes seconds, we can see from the corner of our eye the dodgy person psyching up to grab the bag and do an Usain Bolt. Usual body language, rolling eyes, twitched, stepping away from the counter in readiness.”
After their narrow escapes the Varambhias have changed their mindset – ie money first, bag after. “To hell with the good faith,” says Subhash.
A few days later Subhash sent me screen grabs of a known local criminal (she apparently specialises in stealing from cars when not shoplifting) and images of three contactless transactions she made. The first card failed, but the second was used twice to the maximum limit of £30.
The Varambhias sent the images to the police, who phoned and then asked Subhash’s wife Rama a load of questions, such as how she knew the offender’s name.
During a subsequent conversation I had with Subhash he says he has had to shut his eyes to crime. These transactions all took place at 5.30am when there was no one else about except the crook and her two mates, both of whom were capable of cutting up rough.
“At the end of the day,” says Subhash, “you and I will be paying for it as the bank raises its charges. We all foot the bill.”
And, as I was writing this piece he sent me a shot of the front page of the Leicester Mercury which reported on 7 September that Leicester Police failed to record more than 21,000 crimes in a year, one in four of the crimes reported to them.