LCSN: Outage unlikely to have lasting effect on economy

December 15, 2010. Retrieved online December 16, 2010 from Steve Ramirez, Las Cruces Sun-News

LAS CRUCES – Frustrations of many southern New Mexicans ran high Tuesday when they found it difficult to make purchases on their credit and debit cards or even access ATMs because fiber-optic data communications lines were cut in three separate incidents near Socorro, Tijeras and Clovis.

But New Mexico State University economist Chris Erickson said Wednesday there shouldn’t be any long-lasting effects to the region’s economy.

“If anything, the outage illustrates the need for high-quality services,” said Erickson, who monitors economic trends and conditions for Las Cruces and New Mexico. “Traditionally, we haven’t had those high-quality services here anyway. We don’t have the high-quality Internet service that other cities have.”

But Erickson said the frustration was understandable when consumers who tried to buy gas, food or other goods and services with a credit card or debit card for more than three hours Tuesday couldn’t do so.

“The frustration, in dollar values, probably felt by people would be significant,” Erickson said. “But in the long term, it’s high unlikely that will have an overall effect on our economy. My guess is that sales that were lost Tuesday will be made up … in the days to come. People will adjust and change their spending habits to accommodate.”

One unidentified resident said they tried to initially purchase gasoline in the unincorporated village of Doña Ana, after telephone and Internet service was interrupted, shortly before 4 p.m. Tuesday.

When electronic pumps at the Doña Ana gas station wouldn’t accept the resident’s credit and debit cards because data lines to complete the transaction were down a decision was made to drive to another station in Las Cruces.

But the credit and debit cards failed there, too, and frustration peaked when the person went to a nearby ATM but discovered that it was also inoperable.

“I don’t carry a lot of cash, so I use my debit card a lot,” said Regina Salgado, a part-time secretary and Doña Ana Community College student. “I know a lot of people who are the same way, so I can understand the frustration if somebody is trying to pay for something but isn’t carrying enough cash to pay for it. I would’ve been ticked off, too.”

But there’s something to be said about small-town business practices. In Mesilla, Jerry Harrell, general manager of the Double Eagle Restaurant, said the outage didn’t create any significant problems.

“It didn’t really affect us at all,” Harrell said. “If it had affected credit card purchases, we would’ve just switched to the old manual method where we would have inputted the card information later.”

In Silver City, owners of several businesses also said the outage didn’t pose much of an inconvenience.

“Small town perks,” said Rob Connoley, of the Curious Kumquat Gastro Pub and Gourmet Grocery. “We just let our customers go home with their food and come back (Wednesday) to pay. Of course everyone did.”

Read the Las Cruces Sun-News article.

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