On a recent golfing trip in the Orlando area, I was in line waiting to pay for groceries. Finally, the young family ahead of me reached the point where they were paying for their food, but there seemed to be some sort of credit card problem. The problem turned out to be of a different sort than I first thought.
I wasn't paying much attention initially, but they seemed to be swiping credit cards multiple times. As I watched more closely, the process of swiping multiple cards and punching in codes continued. I thought that maybe the machine wasn't working. Then I thought that maybe their cards were being refused. But they were successfully charging some money to each card.
I think the true explanation was that they were spreading the cost of the groceries across multiple cards, charging less than $100 to each one. I can't say for certain how many cards they swiped, but it seemed to be at least four.
The best theory some of my friends came up with was that the couple were keeping the charges under the threshold where full authorization is required. Presumably, their cards were over the limit or some other similar type of problem.
I can't imagine what it would be like to be in such bad financial shape that I would have to resort to such tactics just to eat.