Speed Reads

must everything have to change?

Credit card companies are doing away with requiring retailers to collect signatures

Perfecting a distinctive signature — whether it's a scribble that a doctor would envy or a swirling masterpiece refined after writing it over and over again in your high school notebook — will soon be a lost art.

Later this month, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover will stop requiring that merchants in the United States have customers sign their receipts to complete credit card transactions. It's an optional change, so some retailers won't do away with the custom, but Target said signatures will no longer be necessary after this month and a Walmart spokesman bluntly told The New York Times the company views signatures as "worthless" and will get rid of them ASAP. Signatures aren't a surefire way of proving a person's identity and are rarely used as evidence in fraud claims, the credit card companies say, which is why they're going the way of the dodo.

It's quite a change from just a few decades ago, when signatures were closely examined by merchants, and retailers who did not collect them had to cover any losses from disputed transactions. Mikiah Westbrooks, owner of the Brix wine bar in Detroit, told the Times she's worried that if customers don't have to sign a receipt, they won't tip her hard-working employees. She also said that last year, when a customer tried to dispute a charge at her bar, she was able to pull out a signed receipt. "They were lying, and I had proof," she added.