This little change could make Black Friday even more miserable this year

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Credit Card Chip Gains Traction


Just when you thought there couldn't be another way to make Black Friday any more miserable for shoppers and retail employees, the credit-card industry came up with one.

Credit-card companies last month began to roll out new technology that uses chips instead of magnetic stripes. It's a change made for a very good reason: card security.

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But the timing of this rollout — the cards came into effect on October 1 — has retail and payments experts warning that this will slow things down at the checkouts on the November 27 shopping day.

"Any time you introduce a major change like this, there's going to be confusion," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst with CreditCards.com."There's no question this is going to cause some slowdown on Black Friday."

The change itself is simple: Instead of swiping the card through the magnetic-strip reader, shoppers now have to insert it — chip side up — into a slot on the bottom of the device.

But here's where the delays come in. People who are unfamiliar with the process will swipe as they always have, then be told it didn't work because they have a new chip-enabled card. Then they've got to be shown how to insert it, and leave it in, so the payment can be processed.

Now multiply that by thousands, and add in the fact that people have been in line since the crack of dawn, elbowed their way to that bargain bin and then had to wait again just to get to the register....and you can see why even a small delay is going to test patience. It's called the "EMV" chip, and it just might wreak havoc on holiday shopping.

Look back at crazy crowds from recent Black Fridays:

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This little change could make Black Friday even more miserable this year
Best Buy #281 - The Night Before 'Black Friday'
Best Buy Manager Asad R. Ali (L) goes over the ground rules of camping out on the sidewalk with Brent Hart, 26 as he camps out with a tent in advance of Black Friday on the sidewalk of the Fair Lakes Best Buy store on November 23, 2011, in Fairfax, Virginia. He is fifth in line and plans on purchasing 'doorbuster' deals that include a 200-dollar 42 ich flat-screen TV and a 299-dollar 15.5 inch laptop at midnight Friday. Hart is a military contractor and leaves in December for Afganistan and wants the laptop to stay in touch with his family. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
apple store fifth avenue black friday
apple store fifth av
TROY, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Customers receive Wal-Mart sales circulars as they wait in line to enter the store Thanksgiving day on November 28, 2013 in Troy, Michigan. Black Friday shopping began early this year with most major retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving day as consumers took advantage of discounted prices to prepare for the holiday season. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Shoppers line up for a Black Friday sale at a Target Corp. store in Mentor, Ohio, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Retailers are pouring on the discounts to attract consumers grappling with 9 percent unemployment and a slower U.S. economic expansion than previously estimated. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Shoppers wait in line to make purchases at a Super Target store in Thornton, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. Shoppers on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, are taking advantage of deals as they face down a slower economic recovery than projected. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tabitha Taormina, 13, lays on the ground while waiting in line for laptop computers at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. Shoppers gathered at Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Toys 'R' Us Inc. stores from New Jersey to Texas well before midnight yesterday to take advantage of Black Friday deals on televisions, laptops and robot hamsters. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
FORT WORTH, TX - NOVEMBER 27: Shopper Trey Hoffman tries to get some rest while waiting in line for the 5 a.m. opening of a Target store on November 27, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas. Many shoppers waited in line for hours for the chance to snatch up limited quantity specials that the store was offering. According to the National Retail Federation, a trade organization, as many as 134 million people, 4.7% more than last year, will shop over the next three days. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WI - NOVEMBER 28: Holiday shoppers race around for gifts after braving the cold temperatures out side of Target as they start the traditional holiday shopping season November 28, 2008 in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The day after Thanksgiving is typically the busiest shopping day of the year and traditionally a indicator of the economy and how the holiday shopping season will go. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
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A 'rude awakening' for retailers

"There is going to be a rude awakening" for retailers, said Jared Drieling, business intelligence manager for The Strawhecker Group, an Omaha, Nebraska-based advisory firm focusing on payments. "The industry is still bickering over how long an EMV transaction takes."

As many as 47% of US merchants will have new technology in place by the end of 2015, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the Payments Security Task Force, an industry-backed group of financial services firms and leading retailers. Already, 40% of Americans have been issued new chip-enabled cards.

Of course the nightmare scenario that Drieling is warning about is dependent on a lot of 'ifs.' Some customers have been using the chip technology for weeks, and some retailers don't have the readers yet which means it won't be an issue. There is a wide disparity in how individual retailers have gotten ready for the switch.

Best Buy, Macy's and Walmart stores have been fully outfitted with new card readers, spokesmen for those companies said. Macy's and Walmart have also re-issued store-branded credit cards with new EMV chips embedded in them. Sears, on the other hand, says it is "continuously working to further enhance the security of our systems," according to a spokesman — but declined to provide specifics for Black Friday.

More on Wal-Mart's Black Friday strategy:

Walmart Reveals Black Friday Strategy

J. Craig Shearman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation said the new card readers will be at "most major retailers and large national chains." But those are typically smaller shops that might not even be open the day after Thanksgiving.

He didn't argue with the notion that things could slow down, but said it's not clear how much longer it'll take to process each transaction.

For retailers, Black Friday and the ensuing weekend is crucial to performance. Americans packed malls and stores last year after Thanksgiving, driving more than $50 billion in revenue to retailers, the National Retail Federation reported in 2014.

Of course there's lots of ways to avoid even having to find out. Stay home. Turkey and stuffing is better on day two anyway.

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