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.”

“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?


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.


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.

More here.