Walmart's strange credit card demand

Walmart exteriorA frustrated shopper wrote into the blog Consumerist to complain about the runaround he got at a Wisconsin Walmart when he tried to make a relatively small purchase with his MasterCard. The consumer, "Matthew," says he bought around $26 worth of stuff and attempted to pay with a MasterCard. (His full account of the transaction is here.) The cashier told him he'd need a Wisconsin driver's license if he wanted to make the purchase.

Matthew's obviously a sharp shopper; he stood his ground in the face of this peculiar "requirement." WalletPop got in touch with MasterCard, which confirms Matthew's take on the situation. "MasterCard does not have a rule requiring that an in-state driver's license be shown when making a purchase," a spokesperson says in an e-mail. What's more, the rep added, "A merchant must not refuse to complete a MasterCard card transaction solely because a cardholder who has complied with the conditions for presentment of a card refuses to provide additional identification information." In other words, if MasterCard deems you fit to have a card, that should be good enough for the retailer.

WalletPop reached out to Walmart to try and find some answers. A Walmart rep tells WalletPop that there are some legitimate reasons for a cashier to ask for ID - such as if the person's written "see ID" on the back of their card or if it's not signed with the holder's name -- but from Matthew's account, this doesn't seem to be the case. (He says his card was signed.) The rep also tells WalletPop a cashier can ask for an ID if they suspect fraud, which kind of turns the situation back around on Matthew. Maybe he looked shady, but that's a slippery slope; because there's no handy checklist for suspicious behavior, it raises the troubling prospect that a cashier could demand ID from anyone he or she deemed "suspicious."

In Matthew's case, things got even more bizarre because he'd just moved and didn't have a Wisconsin driver's license, which the cashier claimed he needed. Not only is this in violation of MasterCard's merchant agreement, it's just plain ridiculous. What about the millions of Americans who live in close proximity to a Walmart that just happens to be over the state line? We're still befuddled by this demand; Walmart didn't address it when they contacted us.

If you're wondering, the cashier eventually backed down and let Matthew buy his stuff, but made it sound like he was getting a special favor, which annoyed him so much he turned right around and returned the purchase. We can't say we blame him.

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