I recently broke my hand (first broken bone!) and whilst waiting in the doctor's office I picked up a magazine. This magazine uncovered one of the biggest banking/retail mysteries.

(credit/debit)-Card Demagnetization

I work as a salesman at a furniture store, and not a day goes by that I don't swipe a card through a reader only to go "blaark" instead of "bleep." The customer is immediately shocked and appalled...

"It can't be MY card! There must be something wrong with your machine! It's not me! Honest! I'm taking my business elsewhere!"

The problem is, of course, not that the customer is some sort of bankrupt or fraud, but that their card has been demagnetized.

There are a few schools of thinking on the subject. The first, is that cards placed in eelskin wallets will become demagnetized because the skin is made from Electric Eels. This is incorrect, this magazine told me, on two counts. One, electric eels are a handling nightmare (as one might imagine) and using them for wallets is not only dangerous, tedious, and of inferior quality - but it is also more expensive. In most cases, less volatile eels are used. Secondly, electric eel skins wouldn't demagnetize a card in the first place.

Partially deriving from this old-school thought process is the belief that any magnet of any strength at any distance can wipe a card. Some people will walk into a room and put their wallet on top of my stereo speakers while going out of their way to stay as far away from my fridge magnets as possible.

Enough background, on to the meat. After some quick, unpublished, unpopularized research some twenty years ago, it was deterimed that the actual culprit for all of this was one particular wallet manufacturer. It seems that one very popular company pretty much had the eel-skin wallet market cornered. Due to design characteristics, a magnetic clasp was used to keep the wallet closed, instead of the more popular latch style wallets of the day. Note that this small magnet was not strong enough to demagnetize cards. When competition started coming out with rival eel-skin wallets, this company moved it's operations overseas to cut down on manufacturing costs. For some unknown reason, the Asian manufacturers started using magnets of a strength ten times that of the original wallet. These heavy-duty clasps were in the end marketed as being more durable and sold quite a few units before, after poisoning the world with their magnets for 25 years, the company went out of business.

In the time following, almost no company has dared create a wallet of demagnetizing strength, but the occasional dollar store will sport one for a few months before complaints roll them back in.

So next time you swipe someone's card - or you yourself have a demagnetized card... Don't look for electric-eel skins... Instead, look at the clasps on your belongings. Do any of your clasps have super-clasping strength?

In true bad noder form, I have since lost the magazine, and with it all referencial material. Apologies.

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