Sadly, this is my real signature.
Every time you make a credit card purchase, they're supposed to match your signature against the one on the back of your card. Nobody seems to check anymore, so I tried to see how far I could push it with wacky signatures like "Mariah Carey" and "Zeus," which you can read in the original Credit Card Prank.

"The Credit Card Prank" took on a life of its own, vaulting ZUG into the national consciousness. Since then, some thirty million people have read that article -- some of them, it turns out, from the credit card companies themselves. Surely, then, they must have learned their lesson. Right?


EXPERIMENT 1.

I was visiting the New England Aquarium a few months back, where I was angry over the ridiculously steep entrance fees to go check out a bunch of fish. I can check out the fish for free at my local supermarket, where they are conveniently packed on ice, making them much easier to see than when they are hiding behind coral and rocks.

The only way I could think to fight back at the $40 admission charge was to sign my credit card receipt "Shamu."



Now, someone should have caught this. First of all, everyone knows that Shamu works at Sea World. Second, how could Shamu accurately render a scale drawing of himself? That kind of penmanship would be unlikely from a creature using only its vestigal fins.

And that's when I realized that nothing had changed. The credit card companies still didn't care. Maybe I hadn't gone far enough to prove my point. Maybe, just maybe, I could make them care.


EXPERIMENT 2.

Since my original article, the credit card landscape has changed. Everyone accepts credit cards nowadays -- even fast food chains. I ordered breakfast at a local Dunkin Donuts, which I paid by credit card. Thinking about how Shamu easily slipped into a competitor's aquarium, I wondered what would happen if I signed, clearly and legibly, the name of a competitor's franchise.



The college girl working the register didn't even give it a second glance. Her expression, you might say, was glazed. Which leads you to wonder if they deep-fry everything in hot grease, including the employees.

That gave me another idea.


EXPERIMENT 3.

I visited a local Krispy Kreme, where I brought along my digital camera. Surely if I were snapping photos of the receipt on the counter, this would inspire the cashier to at least glance at the receipt.

After I signed it, she grabbed for the receipt, but I asked her to wait as I took a few shots of the receipt...



Then the register itself...



And finally, a batch of hot donuts coming off the line.



All the while, I carried on a friendly conversation. "Busy today?" I asked her, as I snapped another photo. Clearly I was a corporate spy, the fiendish Dunk N. Donuts, on a mission to gain critical intel on the competition. Only I was the least secretive spy ever.

When I was finally done, she whisked away my receipt and stuffed it in her drawer, so she could turn her attention to the drive-thru customer who had been patiently waiting while I photographed every square inch of the restaurant.

Was there anything I could do to get someone to check the signature?


EXPERIMENT 4.

Another recent development in credit card receipts is the helpful "tip reminder." This is a calculation on the bottom of the receipt of how much you should tip, with figures given for 10%, 15%, and 20%. Call me old-fashioned, but this seems a little presumptious. For instance, what if my server sucks? This was the case in Bickford's, a local franchise of family-style restaurants, where they mixed up our orders, kept us waiting, and didn't apologize.

I decided to use the "tip calculator" to reduce the total bill by the amount I felt I should be credited (10%). Then I signed the bill with my reasoning, and snapped a photo of the copy before I left.



When I got my credit card statement a month later, I found they had charged me the original amount of the bill. Oh well. At least I didn't have to leave a tip.


I was amused by all this, until I discovered what the credit card companies did next.


Next: my stolen credit card! >>