Stupid text choices: “Do not sign with pen”


While making a routine purchase over the weekend, I noticed something rather confusing on the credit card terminal. After swiping my card, it asked me to sign for the purchase. But before I could take the attached stylus and sign in the box, I hit a roadblock. The screen said “Do not sign with pen.” I actually paused for a moment and considered using my finger to mimic a signature, until I thought about how ridiculous that was. A few seconds later, I realized that they were talking about ink pens.

In other words, some customers must have been using a separate pen to sign their name on the terminal, thus leaving ink and scratches all over it. But I think they could make the text much clearer:

– Do not sign with a regular pen
– Use the attached pen, not a regular one
– Please sign with the attached pen
– Don’t use a marker or other ink pen
– Sign your name with the attached stylus (accompanied by a picture of it)

Those options aren’t perfect, but at least they’re less confusing. I bet that any one of them would be more efficient and intuitive for customers than what’s on the system today. After all, getting this language right is important: a few seconds per transaction adds up to a lot of time and money when you’re dealing with millions of transactions each year.