Security fees

What would you do if a supermarket asked you first to make a debit payment on entering the store, and then refunded you the difference when you left the store, or asked you to top up the payment if you went above the deposit? You would probably view this kind of arrangement with some kind of suspicion. After all, it goes against the normal arrangement of things. When you require a product from a store, you pick it out from the store and then take it to the till to pay for it. It is a simple process, one that does not need to be complicated by initial deductions and subsequent resolution.

It might be slightly different if you required a service from someone, such as if you order new windows from your house. You have to give a deposit because while you have ordered a window, you have set someone else on a chain on ordering raw materials and for work to be done, and the deposit that you make is in meeting the person halfway in a binding agreement.

Perhaps binding agreements are what is being sought through this form of pay first, buy later and then get refunded, or top up the difference financial methods. They were trialled at fuel service stations, where car drivers were charged to use the pumps, then paid for their own purchases before getting the initial charge credited back to the them again. And why fuel service stations? It is because fuel theft – driving off the forecourt without paying – costs the economy lost revenues and wastes police time, in having to record, pursue and close investigations which detract from the real job of policing more serious matters.

By another name, this kind of down payment would be known as a security fee. And we do make such payments in our lives. We pay children’s school fees in advance. We pay online for items we have not received. But perhaps this kind of payment method is too radical for the present – but in future, who knows?