How Do You Handle Customers if the Card Machine Breaks?

Woman swiping credit card
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In a retail business, it’s important that you be able to think on your feet when a problem arises. Stores depend on their customer’s satisfaction for their success. How the employees interface with the customers in every situation, good and bad, affects their reputation. By asking the interview question "The credit card machine is broken, what do you say to the customers?" the interviewer can gain some insight as to how you would handle a problem.

How Do You Handle Customers if the Card Machine Breaks?

The answer can depend on what the individual store policy is, as well as the type of machine. With the variety of card swiping technologies on the market today, some knowledge of how they work may be incorporated into your answer. Some stores have the ability to take the credit card information, and manually authorize it after the machine comes back up. Others will ask customers to pay another way, or be patient and wait for the machine to come back online.

You should prepare an answer that highlights your interest in providing the customer with the most positive shopping experience possible, despite the apparent inconvenience of the card machine being down. The manager will want to know that you are committed to completing the sale, while making sure that the customer leaves with the feeling that their needs were met.

Here are some ideas for how to answer the question, “How do you handle customers if the card machine breaks?”

  • First, I would apologize for the technological failure. While most people understand that sometimes things don’t work the way they are supposed to, it can be frustrating to a customer who has just spent time selecting merchandise to purchase. Then I would offer the customer some options for completing their transaction. They could use an alternate method of payment, such as cash or a personal check, or I could hold the merchandise aside until the machine is fixed, and call them to let them know.


    • I would tell the customer that I'm so sorry that the machine is down, and that usually it's back up in a little while. I’d offer to hold the merchandise while they do some other shopping and ask them come back later for it.


    • When faced with a payment issue, I always try to give the customer some alternatives, so as not to lose the sale. I would say that we also take cash and checks, and give them the location of the nearest ATM. As long as there was no store policy against holding merchandise, I would offer to keep theirs aside until they could return with their payment.


    • As long as the company policy doesn’t prohibit manual entries, I would offer to take the card information and enter it manually when the machine is back in service. I can understand that some people are concerned with having their card info unsecured, so I would assure the customer that the information would be properly destroyed once the transaction was approved. 

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