Gaffe: Obama Visits Gap, Amazed by Credit Card Machine

"Oh wow, so you can sign the machine?"

On Tuesday, President Obama took Air Force One to New York to stop at the Gap in order to flog his case against income inequality. And there, Americans learned he had no idea how to use a credit card machine.

According to the White House press pool, Obama visited Gap because the company recently announced that it would voluntarily increase wages for employees. After telling employees that “the ladies will be impressed by my sense of style,” Obama then picked up a couple of sweaters for his girls, Sasha and Malia.

Upon checking out, however, the problems began. Obama took out his credit card and began handing it to the cashier, who told him that he could swipe his credit card in the automated machine. “Oh, wow,” Obama said, “so you can sign the machine?” He then said he was kidding: “They had these around the last time I shopped.”

The moment was reminiscent of a campaign moment in 1992, when then-President George H.W. Bush signed an electronic pad while grocery shopping. “If some guy came in and spelled George Bush differently, could you catch it?” Bush asked. He was told that fake signatures could be detected. The New York Times reported in typically condescending style (headline: “Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed”):

Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.

"This is for checking out?" asked Mr. Bush. "I just took a tour through the exhibits here," he told the grocers later. "Amazed by some of the technology."

Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the President in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.

Some grocery stores began using electornic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.

That story, it turned out, was false.

And, of course, Mitt Romney was excoriated for being amazed by a Wawa touchscreen machine while ordering a meal during the 2012 campaign. He said during a speech:

"I was at Wawas...I went in to order a sandwich. You press a little touchtone keypad, alright? You just touch that and, you know, the sandwich comes up. You touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier. There’s your sandwich. It’s amazing!”

The media acted as though Romney had never seen a Wawa machine before. That story, too, was false.