I had a similar experience when I tried to redeem some Travelers Cheques.
Clerk claimed signatures wouldn't not match, and wanted me to sign again at the back of the Cheques. She handed me slip of paper and asked me to practice before I tried again.
I was baffled but certainly preferred that over being
The only reason this kind of behaviour makes any kind of sense is if she (and the clerk in your example) were just going through the motions and didn't actually care about the security.
If your dad had simply signed the card prior to walking up to the counter, that's all the cashier would have been able to verify. So yes, card security is rather lax if it's not signed by the owner of the card immediately upon receipt.
I know this random information because I was a bit miffed that Walmart rejected my girlfriend's transaction because she did not produce ID with a signed card. The above applies to the Visa merchant agreement, I'm not sure about Mastercard or American Express.
Also -- "SEE ID" is not a valid signature, though you can write that over your signature and the card is valid. However, cashiers are not required to honor it.
> the transaction is considered valid if the
> signature on the card matches the signature
> of the receipt