Solve The Problem: Access Cards Stop Working

One of your biggest and best customers calls to complain about the last batch of blank cards you sold them.

As their integrator, you order all cards for their system to make sure details like card numbers, facility codes, and credential type are compatible.

When you order cards for them, one of your techs hand-delivers them onsite and spends some time 'pre-enrolling' them into they client's system. Your tech scans each card at a reader in the system to activate it, so then all your client needs to do is assign a name, access schedule, and print them as needed. (They do this part on their own, and have their own printer.)

They are calling because the last batch you sold them do not read at all at any reader in their system. Once they print and hole punch the card, they appear dead to any reader (no beeps or LEDs flash)... even the reader your tech used to enroll them into the system just ignores them.

Your customer thinks you must have ordered the wrong cards, but your tech swears everything worked just fine when he delivered them. You make a drive out to the customer's HQ and ask to look at a card. You immediately spot the problem:

What is the problem?


Hole punched in the incorrect spot.

Wrong spot or the card punch needs to be adjusted.

They broke the antenna in the card by punching a hole in it.

Been through this! They pounched the hole on the wrong side!

You people are pretty sharp!

Many users do not realize an access card is full of sensitive electronics. Indeed, punching a hole must be done on the proper side/end or else the antenna coil card will be destroyed. Check this guide from HID:


Not all cards can be punched, and even those than can typically mark the eligible location with a series of light colored, small dots. (Similar to the same card featuring Derek above.)

Uneducated/Inexperienced end users often do not realize that 'side matters' and will punch them incorrectly. This means the card is destroyed!

Unsolicited feedback on 'Solve the Problem' question layout:

Brian, consider adding an immediate comment after stating the problem so as to push the 'first responders' answers off the same page as the answer box. In this case M. Ridgley's laconic yet 'spot-on' response mocked me as I typed an inferior answer, leading me to ultimately abandon it... But next time...:)

I think you're right. Maybe post answer options in poll form and let people vote on the correct one instead of punching in a response.

Brian, I have reservations about posting answer options. It does not illustrate the thought process that goes into real world troubleshooting. It is implied in multiple choice format that the correct answer is one of the options listed. In the real world, a correct option, while always out there, is not necessarily right in front of you.

I would rather see a limited time period before any answers were posted. Post the question, but withhold posting any responses for a day. Better yet, if your programming permits, a more interesting option would be to offer to withhold other peoples' responses until after a member had posted their own answer.

I agree Tim, since we have quizzes for those type of questions.

Along the same lines I don't even mind if every problem has a 'pat' answer per se, like the one about the sliding glass door didn't. There were certainly some wrong answers, but several feasible ones also. That discussion was more like a group of experienced craftsmen, all looking at it from a different angle, and all possibly learning something.

I only asked for extra space because when I went to reply I saw not one, but three single-line, contractor-level confident, nearly identical responses, capped with the emphatic Clement's lament.

But I would rather Brian lead a more nuanced problem exposition and resolution session than do multiple guess. So next time your the first to answer correctly again, just 'pad' down your answer a little for the rest of us... :)