Long live the knucklebuster!

by Neil Moncrief on March 31, 2009

Are you old enough to remember knucklebusters? If not, let me explain. Before credit card terminals made instant authorizations possible, merchants used imprinters to make physical imprints of credit cards showing the amount and date of the sale, along with the store’s name and address. The customer would sign the copy, thereby proving the card had been physically present in the store.

The term “knucklebuster” referred to what could happen if a store employee wasn’t careful. Sliding the mechanism from side to side not only imprinted the raised card numbers onto the carbon paper receipt, it was loud and potentially dangerous. But the result was worth the risk, and may still be today. With the raised numbers of the credit card physically imprinted onto the receipt, the cardholder couldn’t dispute that the card had been physically present in that particular store.

Today, imprinters have gone the way of the dinosaur. Modern credit card terminals read the magnetic strip on the back of cards, and that serves as undisputable proof (in the eyes of Visa/MasterCard/Discover) that a card was used at a particular location. But we all know that magnetic strips can lose their magnetism over time. When that happens, you (the merchant) simply hand-key the credit card information into the terminal. But what if the customer denies having ever been in your store? What then? Without proof, you will lose the chargeback every single time! Yes, you read that right. You will lose every chargeback, unless you have a knucklebuster to use as backup. And in case you’re wondering, no, a photocopy of a credit card is not just as good as a physical impression.

It may seem like overkill, but a physical imprint of a credit card can mean the different between losing a chargeback and winning it. And if the charge was a large dollar amount (let’s say you sold a set of dining room furniture or a new riding lawnmower), the knucklebuster will be worth its weight in cash!

Whenever I sign up new retail merchants, I always remind them to use their imprinter as backup for all hand-keyed transactions. Orion Payment Systems, the processor I represent, sends every new merchant a customized imprinter name plate. And if a merchant doesn’t have an imprinter, I can provide one for just a few dollars. Did your current processor take the time to warn you about this topic? If not, why?

If you’re happy with the service you’re currently getting from your credit card processor, that’s great! But if your processor isn’t living up to your expectations, I’d appreciate the opportunity to show you what you’ve been missing. Feel free to give me a call.

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