…yet people are afraid to use a credit card online. August 8, 2004 at 9:47 am

I spent last week in San Francisco attending the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo at the Moscone center. While there, I stayed at a nice hotel, right across the street from Moscone. The hotel is marketed as super “hip” and “cool”… whatever, it was a hotel. Sure, it was decent, though I found it ironic that for a hotel marketed with ipod parties and such that there was a big lack of available electrical sockets, zero near the desk where the internet service’s ethernet hookup was. And $46 a night for parking?!? with no self-parking available (which seems to be the norm in downtown SF IME)… ouch.

On my last night there (Thursday night) I decided to get room service for dinner. I always like to get it at least once when I stay in a hotel, just for kicks. The food was great, made at the restaurant off the lobby from what I understand. The meal was delivered on a wooden tray with a placemat on it. For some reason I turned up the corner of the placemat while eating, and noticed some papers underneath. 2 of them were a printout (and carbon) of the kitchen’s copy of my order (I’m guessing).. the other was a slip of paper that the person who took my order had used to take notes as I ordered. When I flipped this slip of paper over, I was shocked to see that it was the torn off, top of a printout of a past guest’s bill/summary. It was dated from last December, and what really bothered me was that it had the last name of the guest, and the guest’s entire visa card number!! That’s right.. no numbers were blocked out, or just left blank, but it had the entire card’s number.

Talk about careless handling of people’s very important information. If this is how they save paper at this hotel, by reusing such printouts for scraps… they need to take a serious look at what they’re doing. I held onto that paper and made a point to give it to, and let the staff know what I’d found when checking out, and they sounded sincere.. but who knows, they might just continue doing it anyway assuming people won’t notice.

This is just an example of the kind of thing that makes me just laugh when people say they’re afraid to buy things online, for fear of their credit card number getting out there and being used for fraud. Just make sure the site is well known, and definitely that the checkout forms are encrypted (look for the little padlock and make sure it’s closed). People are still scared to use online shops… but they’ll let a waiter/waitress walk away with their card at a restaurant, or a hotel keep their number on file.


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