ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Exact amount?
A familiar question for those paying with plastic at Wegmans Food Markets.
But things are changing.
Area shoppers can expect subtle differences during checkout at Rochester-area stores as the grocery begins rolling out enhancements to its payment terminals by Feb. 15.
The Gates-based grocery store chain will allow customers to slide or dip their chip-enabled EMV cards into the terminals, rather than swipe.
The change has been a few years in the making and was spurred by major credit card companies increasing fraud protections and shifting fraud liability to retailers that didn’t jump aboard with those plans.
If all goes well locally, Wegmans will roll out the change to roughly 3,000 terminals at 92 stores in mid-March.
Some of its local stores have already switched to the new system, showing how Wegmans has revamped its entire experience for those using the terminals.
Shoppers now can punch-in cash back amounts, eliminating the need for cashiers to ask: “Exact amount?”
Also, customers won’t have to wait until all their items are scanned to insert their cards. Payment terminals can now begin processing information as items are scanned and bagged to move payments along.
New Quick Chip technology also allows the grocer to cut down on time waiting for the payment to be accepted. The technology wasn’t available when the chip-enabled EMV — Europay, MasterCard and Visa — cards began being accepted in the fall of 2015.
"Those two things together — faster processing time and being able to insert the card earlier — is going to really save time at the checkouts and get customers out of there quicker, and that’s what we are really driving for," said Dave DeLaus, a senior vice president and chief information officer at Wegmans. “We think it is the best possible solution out there now. Hopefully, over time, as technology advances it will get faster and faster."
He said the enhancements of terminals cut the processing of payments using the cards roughly in half, from about 8 to 10 seconds to 4 to 6.
As short as those wait times have been, they’ve been a major frustration for consumers and have forced others to pump the brakes on fully implementing the terminals to accept the newer cards.
Others, including Wegmans, developed systems to accept mobile payments through smartphones.
Early returns show that fraud is down with the cards, which generate a unique code for every transaction and make it more difficult to counterfeit.
Counterfeit fraud at merchants able to process chip transactions dipped 47 percent in May, compared with that same month in 2015, according to Visa. MasterCard found that fraud dropped by 54 percent in April, compared to the same period a year earlier, for merchants in the final stages or had fully implemented the technology.
DeLaus described Wegmans implementation of the chip cards “methodical,” but the National Retail Federation has said it has been a costly and challenging change for many.
"It’s not one we wanted," said Mallory Duncan, general counsel for the NRF. "It’s extraordinarily expensive. It's cumbersome, and worst of all it doesn't really protect our customers to the extent we want."
Many retailers were upset over the change, too.
Some have sued to try block the shifted of liability. A NRF study last summer found that 76 percent of retailers thought implementing the technology was their biggest payment issue of the last year.
The cost to retailers has been somewhere between $30 billion and $35 billion, according to the NRF. Meanwhile, Visa said last month that 39 percent of all merchant locations have chip-enabled terminals.
Spokesperson Jo Natale said Wegmans could wait to accept the chip cards since fraud has never been a big issue at the chain. "I think that is one of the reasons why we weren’t concerned about delaying this until we got it right."
Todd Clausen is the work-life reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle. Email him at TCLAUSEN@Gannett.com, or call (585) 258-9883.