Unconnected credit card machines cause inconvenience

Shari Smith

For three months, Chartwells, the company that manages dining services across campus has not been able to use the credit card machines. Mueen Patankar, director of dining services, said infrastructure is creating a problem.

“Previously when we had the credit card system, it worked on cell towers. It was a system similar to a phone where you would call in, it dials in and accepts the credit card then it hangs up,” Patankar said. “Because the university does not have the infrastructure of credit card machines and fiber optics, when we first got the contract, we figured that would be the best route to go to accommodate people with credit cards.”

Jim Hall, chief information security officer of information technology, said the credit card machines operate on a separate cellular network.

“They use a separate card processing system that operates on a cellular network. We have reached out to help them to obtain new equipment and fiber optics. The network needs to be PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant and includes broad issues that would be difficult to add to our network,” Hall said.

Patankar said they first had problems with the coffee shop in Moffett Library.

“The main reason it happened at Starbucks was that the library is in such a confined space, it is hard to get cell connection over there,” Patankar said. “Secondly, being that it is so hard to get the cell connection, it is more difficult to get the cell tower for the credit card machines. Because of one of those variables, other machines were having the same issues.”

After the machine in the coffee shop went down, it trickled down to the other machines.

“It started with Starbucks two and a half months ago, then Chick-fil-A. Not all of the machines were down at Chick-fil-A, it went down gradually. There were four machines initially, one went down the first week, another the second week then the third week two went down. Afterwards, it was burrito bowl then grill nation,” Patankar said.

The problem was out of their means even though dining services took measures to resolve the issue immediately.

“We have changed our service provider from AT&T to Sprint, but even with that change it did not help us. We did everything we could on our end to help resolve the issue. So that’s when we reached out to the committee here at the university and then they collaborated with us to bring in fiber optics,” Patankar said. “The machines in dining hall and grill nation are working now which is strange. We have changed providers and bought new machines to aid with the problem but that didn’t work.”

Students said the credit card machines being down have been an inconvenience.

Dave Hughes, accounting senior said, “I have not gone grocery shopping in a while and there have been some mornings that I could not focus in class because I am unable to use my card to get a quick bite.”

Jeron Amory, computer science senior, had a similar experience.

“Although I do not buy food from school often, there was one time that the credit card machine was not working at Starbucks and I had to resort to buying coffee from Einstein which was not very appetizing,” Amory said.

Patankar said the credit card machines have discouraged students from coming to the dining locations. Also, he said when the credit card machines were down and the ATM was also down it was a double discouragement but tried to help students who reached out.

“We have traveled within our means to please them at times when someone had a credit card and they were hungry and we saw them outside we would give them free meals,” Patankar said. “We did it to help them and make them understand that we are here for you.”

Shane Matambanadzo, finance senior, expressed his gratitude toward the workers when faced with this issue.

“I went to purchase food from Chcik-fil-A and they told me the credit card machines were not working and I proceeded to go to the Wells Fargo ATM but that was out of order. One of the workers saw my frustration and gave me a meal for free. I was very thankful for the kind gesture” Matambanadzo said.

Marla Buffong, accounting senior and student worker at Burrito Bowl expressed her concern for students.

“The card machine has not been working for weeks and it detours customers,” Buffong said. “I know first hand that Burrito Bowl has lost a lot of student revenue because of this. It is never a good feeling to turn away a hungry customer because of a situation that should have been fixed as soon as possible. I am not sure what management is doing about it but I hope they fix it soon.”

Patankar said it’s a matter of time of getting it done and they have lost a lot of business and gotten a lot of complaints but the issue is very critical.

“It takes a long time as it regards to credit cards because it is something very  critical. We do not want anyone to hack into the system and steal people’s credit card information. We want to ensure that no identity is being stolen and that’s why it is taking such a long time,” Patankar said.

The issue is still being dealt with but may still take a while before the machines are up and running again.

“We are still working on it, all the equipment are here. It is a matter of the local spectrum company coming and determining where to put the equipment,” Patankar said. “Everything has to do with compliance of regular systems for the credit card machines and we have to work with that. If there is no compliance then a lot of people’s personal information are at risk.”

Retail supervisor of Chick-fil-A, Solana Paul, social work senior said it is costly for students especially individuals who live off campus.

“The credit card being down is an inconvenience and costly for students. I say costly because many people don’t carry cash and every time they use the ATM, an additional fee is imposed,” Paul said. “The campus is very diverse and there are a lot of students without meal plans and who live off campus and use the bus for transporting and can’t go back and forth as they please for meals and relay on the outlets for food between classes.”

Patankar was unwilling to discuss the specifics of the cost of repair for this situation but stated it is very expensive. He said once they have the system in place, they would not have any further issues. Also, he suggests an alternative for students to make it easier. He said even if our credit card machines do not work, students can purchase meal memberships.

“I am aware of how uncomfortable someone feels when they are unable to eat. It is not a good feeling. Any student can purchase small meal plans such as the commuter meal plan for $205 for 25 meals which allows you to save more than paying at the door every time. The meal plans encourage students to save 20% and can be used at any food outlet on campus. It can be purchased via the Dine On Campus – Midwestern State website,” Patankar said.